Just as the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets thought they were going to be the primary tenant of the brand new Barclays Center, the team struck a deal with New York Islanders owner Charles Wang to have the hockey team move to Brooklyn in 2015 when their lease with the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum expires. Today’s press conference was attended by Wang, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, New York City mayor Michal Bloomberg, and Barclays Center majority owner Bruce Ratner. The lease agreement is for 25 years, and the meetings between Wang and Ratner began over a year ago when voters shot down a referendum to help build a new arena for the team.
The Nets previously shared arena shared with the New Jersey Devils when the franchise was known as the New Jersey Nets and played at the Izod Center at the Meadowlands and last season at the Devils-owned Prudential Center in Newark. This is a reunion of sorts, because the basketball team started as the New York Nets and were co-tenants with the Islanders at the Coliseum from 1972-77.
The franchise will retain the name New York Islanders, not the Brooklyn Islanders as some speculated. This was the best option for Wang, as he’s been looking for a new arena to replace the depleting Coliseum. Instead of moving to a new city (like Hamilton, Ont., Kansas City or Seattle), the team has the chance to remain on Long Island. This is an advantageous move, as it will only heat up the rivalry with the New York Rangers and could start to attract better free agents as they are closer to the city than the outpost where they currently are located.
The current hockey configuration at Barclays Center lists capacity at 14,500. This would be the smallest arena in the NHL, and the team and the arena are considering adding seats to push capacity to 15,000. The team cited Winnipeg’s MTS Centre and their 15,004-seat capacity arena as a model where a team can be successful in a smaller building.
Among Wang’s reasons to move the club to Brooklyn is the convenience Barclays Center presents to the Islanders’ fan base. The Long Island Railroad runs right under Barclays Center to the Atlantic Avenue station, which is located next to the arena. There are also 11 subway lines and 11 bus lines that run to the arena.
“Our goal from the outset was to have the Islanders play in a local, world-class facility that possesses the amenities our fans deserve,” Wang said.
There are some issues with the arena. The arena was constructed to host basketball games and concerts, not hockey games. The Islanders were supposed to play a game at the arena in the preseason but wasn’t held because of the current lockout. If you look at the seating chart to the left, the scoreboard will be closer to the blue line instead of the center circle. There will be two KHL games played there in January, so we should reserve configuration judgement until then.