The negative results from Monday’s failed referendum to build a new arena for the New York Islanders was depressing in more ways than one. It wasn’t enough that the referendum reached a “No” verdict by an estimated 14 percent margin; the extra insult was the perceived malaise of indifference.
An estimated 100,000 voters cast their ballots, which is about one third of the typical turnout for November elections in that area, according to The Associated Press. There’s talk that the referendum was designed to take advantage of low voter turnouts, but it still didn’t work, which underscores the team’s dismal situation that much more.
However you slice it, the only question that really matters now is “what’s next?” While his support was a bit vague, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said that the league will do its best to keep the Islanders from relocating once their arena deal expires in 2015.
Bettman said in a statement Tuesday that the league would work with the Islanders “to explore whatever options still may be available in light of what obviously is not a positive development. Our goal is for the team to remain on Long Island and we still hope that objective can be realized.”
There have been all kinds of ideas thrown around, from owner Charles Wang taking even more money out of his pocket to get the arena built, to funding through other private venues and the much-feared idea of relocating the team. However fans might feel about Wang, if his claims that he already lost $240 million running the team are accurate, it’s reasonable to expect him to have a breaking point. It might just be a matter of time before these setbacks force him to find some other way to stay in Long Island, make a smaller move to somewhere close like Queens or Brooklyn or maybe even make a more dramatic move to Kansas City, Quebec or some other locale that wants an NHL team.
As Joe points out in his in-depth look at the bigger picture options, this isn’t the end of the road just yet. It’s just unclear if there’s a Lighthouse at the end of the tunnel anymore.