New Islanders arena

Report: Charles Wang exploring options outside of New York for Islanders

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The New York Islanders are busy looking for a way to stay on Long Island with their lease at Nassau Coliseum coming to an end in 2015, but owner Charles Wang may be starting to look elsewhere for a solution to a new arena.

Chris Botta of Islanders Point Blank reports that while Wang has long said he’s dead set on keeping the Islanders in New York, he’s letting his eye stray elsewhere.

Wang does not want to leave Nassau County, and staying put remains his first choice. But when I asked top executives to confirm that Wang will only consider overtures from municipalities within the New York metropolitan area, I could not get a promise on or off the record.

“I can’t guarantee that anymore,” said one source on high. “They are looking at options inside and outside of New York State. It would be misleading to say New York only.”

So there you have it.

After Wang wasn’t allowed to build his Lighthouse Project and after getting his arena referendum shot down this summer, it’s easy to see why Wang is frustrated with the situation. There is the Barclays Center opening in Brooklyn in the fall of this year, and while the Isles will play a preseason game there in October, the building wasn’t constructed with hockey in mind.

While the folks in Brooklyn may want the Islanders to make it their home, with a capacity that’s smaller than what Winnipeg has going on, the team can’t clean up on tickets there and Wang is assuredly tired of losing money.

Only thing for sure out of this, people in Quebec City, Seattle, and Kansas City are suddenly a lot more curious about how the Islanders are doing.

The Islanders could be moving … elsewhere on Long Island

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The biggest issue for Islanders owner Charles Wang when his arena referendum was voted down by Nassau County residents on August 1, was about what he would do to find a way to get a new arena and keep the Islanders on Long Island. After all, Wang has said his dream is to bring the Stanley Cup back to Islanders fans on the Island and bring glory back to the franchise. When his and Nassau County executive Ed Mangano’s referendum was buried by voters, hope to do that seemed all but lost.

Ah, but Long Island is a big chunk of real estate and Nassau County isn’t the be-all, end-all location for the Islanders. Sure, there are rumors of bringing the Islanders to Brooklyn in New York City or to Queens, but there’s another county on Long Island that could work as a potential landing place for the team… You just have to go a bit further to east is all.

With the Islanders lease at the Nassau County Coliseum expiring in 2015 and the Islanders in need of a new venue to play in, a neighboring county is getting Wang’s attention as a place to potentially move the team to.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy says he welcomes the idea of the hockey team moving to the eastern end of the island that he represents, as long as it’s good for the team and for the community.

He said on Saturday he called team owner Charles Wang last week to talk about the idea. Messages to an Islanders spokesman were not immediately returned.

Suffolk County is the other, more eastern half of Long Island as opposed to Nassau County and for fans getting a new arena a bit further out on the Island would mean a bit longer of a drive or train ride to get to games. Of course, fans won’t mind that too much as long as it means keeping the team in the area and not potentially moving to an entirely new location in three to four years.

It’s good that Levy reached out to Wang since Nassau County has been less-than helpful to Wang and the Islanders with any and all of his ideas on building a new arena for the team there. Wang’s privately funded Lighthouse Project plans were routinely shot down by the Town of Hempstead supervisor Kate Murray and now the publicly funded arena project was shot down as well by the voters. How this situation plays out is pretty emblematic of how insane politics are these days where the government officials won’t let a madcap billionaire spend his own money to make a dire situation better but instead try to get the people to pony up their own money on a smaller plan instead.

That said, if Levy and Wang can come to some sort of agreement to build things up in Suffolk County, it’s a huge win for Wang as he gets to keep the team on Long Island and gets to run away from the idiotic politics in Nassau County. While it might be a bit more inconvenient for fans to travel a little bit further east on Long Island to get to games, it’s a small price to pay so long as Wang is staying away from the publicly funded route for any potential arena plans in Suffolk County.

Gary Bettman says NHL will try to keep Islanders from moving

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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.

Devils and Lou Lamoriello throw support behind Islanders arena project

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As the August 1 date approaches for the Islanders referendum on whether or not the taxpayers will help pony up $400 million to build a new arena on Long Island for the team, the one bit of support they can count on is coming from the strangest sources. Who knew that the Isles could bank on getting support from Glen Sather and the Rangers but also from the New Jersey Devils as well.

Devils GM Lou Lamoriello, while busy helping the Islanders on the ice by swapping Brian Rolston for Trent Hunter, is busy helping them off of it by pledging his and the rest of the Devils organization’s support for the Islanders’ arena project. Lamoriello posted a message on the Devils website proclaiming that the Devils wholeheartedly support the Islanders referendum and want to see the team stick around a bit longer than their current lease that expires in 2015 will allow them to.

Much like Lamoriello himself, his message was all business and straight to the point.

“The New York Islanders are a proud organization with a championship history. Monday’s referendum vote on a new Nassau Coliseum is vital to ensuring that tradition lives on.

Since opening Prudential Center in 2007, we have seen first-hand the tremendous impact that a new facility can have for our fans and the surrounding community. A world-class facility is fundamental to success in the modern sports landscape, and a necessity for both the fans and the players.

Owner Charles Wang and General Manager Garth Snow have assembled a core of talented young players whose future depends on a new home on Long Island. We look forward to continuing our Atlantic Division rivalry for years to come.

The Devils support the Islanders in their quest for a new arena, and urge Nassau County residents to vote yes this Monday.”

The Isles getting this kind of support from their rivals and neighbors is encouraging for them to see and, perhaps more importantly, it’s important for the voters to see it as well. After all, if even your rivals don’t want to see you leave town that shows how important they are for the area and for the league.

Of course, if the referendum doesn’t pass, the possibility that the Islanders will relocate following the expiration of their lease on Nassau Coliseum in 2015 increases exponentially. Sadly still, even if the referendum passes there’s the outside possibility that the Nassau County Interim Finance Authority (NIFA) will still shoot down the plan. Of course, passing the referendum shows the commitment of the people to pay for the project, something NIFA would have to take into strong consideration.

August 1 is a huge day for the Islanders and their organization and if Charles Wang’s plans don’t move ahead, we could be talking about the Islanders moving to Quebec City, Seattle, or any other city with interest in having an NHL franchise.

Rangers GM Glen Sather extends support for Islanders’ new arena bid

While the New York Islanders’ run of ineptitude probably sapped some of the venom out of their rivalry over the last few years, the New York Rangers and Islanders still rev up their engines a little more when they face each other. That doesn’t mean that the two sides cannot be civil off the ice, though, as both teams are probably aware that their shared presence provides mutual benefits.

That might explain why Rangers GM Glen Sather issued a statement today to give support to the Islanders’ much-needed new arena. Rangers owner James Dolan also joined Sather in the movement to get people to vote “yes” to the August 1 referendum by appearing in a commercial as Blueshirt Banter points out.

Here is Sather’s statement.

“The rivalry that has existed between the Rangers and Islanders for almost 40 years is one of the best in hockey and in all of sports.   The intense passion and emotion involved in these games is something we cherish and would like to see continue for generations to come.   We urge Rangers fans, Islanders fans and all hockey fans in Nassau County to vote yes for the referendum on Monday, August 1”.   – Glen Sather

Monday will obviously be a big day for the Islanders and the NHL, because even though the team hasn’t been very competitive for quite some time, it would be embarrassing to see a four-time Stanley Cup winner relocate. Stay tuned with PHT for the rest of this and next week as this story continues to develop.