Ratner's Islanders plan unprecedented for NHL

Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano pushed back the Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano pushed back the deadline for a final decision on Nassau Coliseum until mid-August from July 15, giving the firms time to negotiate and execute contracts that will contain their final offers for the project. (Oct. 25, 2011) Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac

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Developer Bruce Ratner's proposal for the Islanders to play six games at Nassau Coliseum after the team moves to the Barclays Center in Brooklyn is unprecedented in the National Hockey League, a source familiar with the situation said.

"No one has ever requested a team to be allowed to play regular-season games in a second arena in a market where another team has clear territorial rights," the source said. The Rangers have those rights.

The plan for a combination of six regular and preseason games is a key component of Ratner's $229 million bid to redevelop the Coliseum, in Uniondale, as a sports and entertainment complex. He is competing with Madison Square Garden Co., which owns the Rangers; Syosset developer Edward Blumenfeld; and Bayville-based New York Sports LLC.

Brett Yormark, chief executive of Ratner's Barclays Center, where the Islanders are scheduled to move after the team's lease expires in 2015, said in an interview that the proposal was subject only to NHL approval. A formal request to the league would come only if Ratner is selected to renovate the Coliseum into a 13,000-seat arena, Yormark said.

"We know the NHL is a fan-friendly league and I am confident they will do what's best for the fans on Long Island," Yormark said.

However, another source with knowledge of the matter said the Rangers, as well as the NHL, would have to approve the locale of the six games.

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An NHL spokesman declined to discuss the issue and cited the league constitution in response to questions. The constitution states: "Home territory, with respect to any member, means: Each Member Club shall have exclusive territorial rights in the city in which it is located and within 50 miles of that city's corporate limits."

The Rangers own exclusive territorial rights for New York City -- and for a 50-mile radius from their Manhattan home base -- as they were settled in New York before the Islanders were created, according to a second source. The Rangers did not block the Islanders from moving to Nassau in 1972, nor did they exercise their territorial rights when the Islanders announced last year that they would move to Brooklyn beginning in 2015.

Islanders senior vice president Michael Picker did not return calls for comment. Neither MSG nor Brian Nevin, spokesman for Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano, who will select the winning bidder, would comment.

No NHL team plays regular-season home games in two arenas, but the league has allowed teams to play preseason games in markets where there are no league teams, such as Kansas City.

The original owner of the Islanders, Roy Boe, along with his partners, paid the Rangers $4 million in 1972 for the right to play in the metropolitan area.

Mangano is expected to make a decision on the proposals prior to July 15. His selection must be approved by the county legislature and meet Town of Hempstead zoning requirements.

One potential roadblock could be seating capacity. Ratner has proposed downsizing the Coliseum to 13,000 seats, making it the league's smallest venue. Barclays can host 14,500 hockey fans.

But Yormark said keeping a handful of games at the Coliseum will allow Long Island fans to stay connected to the team and potentially purchase a smaller package of games -- for example, six at the Coliseum and six at the Barclays Center.

"It's a great opportunity for our fan base," he said.

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