The New York Islanders will have a new home in a few years after their bid to build an arena on the site of Belmont Park was selected by Empire State Development, Newsday reports. An official announcement is expected Wednesday morning.
The Islanders teamed up with Sterling Project Development, a real estate firm run by the Wilpon family, who own Major League Baseball’s New York Mets, and Oak View Group, who are also behind the KeyArena renovation in Seattle. The winning bid includes an 18,000-seat arena, 435,000 square feet of retail space and a hotel.
Major League Soccer side New York City FC, who currently play at Yankee Stadium, was the other bidder. While the soccer team was also exploring other options in regards to a stadium location, Islanders ownership only had eyes for Belmont.
“We are locked and loaded on Belmont,” co-owner Jon Ledecky said at a luncheon with reporters in October. “We have blinders on for Belmont. We are not looking at other places or other opportunities. We want to make Belmont a reality.”
The Islanders have played at Barclays Center in Brooklyn since 2015 and will continue to do so through next season; but issues popped up over time, like poor ice conditions and those pesky obstructed view seats.
The team was looking to amend their lease at the arena, which offered both sides an opt-out by Jan. 30. According to Newsday’s Jim Baumbach, the Islanders will now be opting out but have until Jan. 1 to either complete a new short-term lease or extend the negotiating window. Ledecky has said building the arena should take about 20 months once shovels go into the ground.
This is all very big news for Islanders fans for more than one reason. Besides having a home of their own for the first time since the Nassau Coliseum days, this also increases the odds that captain John Tavares, who’s set to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1 and has stated numerous times he wants to remain with the franchise, signs an extension.
After former Islanders majority owner Charles Wang saw multiple attemps to renovate the Coliseum fail before he sold to Ledecky and Scott Malkin in 2014, the team uprooted for Brooklyn, announcing their plans in Oct. 2012. A little over five years later, the franchise is officially going back to Nassau County.