Gary Bettman: Barclays Center size doesn't matter

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman speaks during a press

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman speaks during a press conference announcing that the Islanders will move from Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Uniondale, N.Y., to play at Brooklyn's Barclays Center starting in 2015. (Oct. 24, 2012) (Credit: AP)

The Islanders have not averaged more than 14,500 fans at Nassau Coliseum since 2002-03, so on the surface it should not be a concern that Brooklyn's Barclays Center currently seats only that many for hockey.

But that figure would represent the smallest capacity in the NHL, a distinction now held by the 15,004-seat MTS Centre in Winnipeg, home of the Jets.

Commissioner Gary Bettman insisted yesterday the size of the new arena is "not an issue."

For one thing, he said, there are tentative plans in place to boost the seating for hockey to 15,000 or slightly more than that.

For another, he said the size of the arena would create a superior viewing experience for fans.

"If you walk the concourses and see the bowl we think the intimacy of this building is going to make watching hockey a terrific experience," Bettman said.

The Nassau Coliseum seats about 16,200 for hockey. Bettman said "the extra thousand seats aren't going to make that much of a difference."

The Islanders averaged 13,191 in paid attendance in 2011-12, next to last in the NHL. The Winnipeg Jets averaged 15,004, 100 percent of capacity.

Brett Yormark, Barclays CEO, said the added seats probably would be squeezed into the west end of the rink, perhaps as part of a high-end hospitality area.

With indications the Islanders planned to stay in Nassau County, the Barclays Center was built to create the best possible sight lines for basketball.

Rather than center the hockey rink on the arena floor, it is shifted toward one end, so it is not possible to see the near-side goal from that side of the building, rendering many seats unusable because of obstructed sight lines.

During a tour of the Barclays construction site in February, the outlines of a hockey rink already were taking shape.

That day Bob Sanna, an executive vice president of Forest City Ratner in charge of construction, said getting the arena ready for a hockey game would not be difficult.

"That, physically, is easy to accomplish," he told Newsday. He added the building always was designed with a regulation rink in mind and with plenty of locker room space to house a home team.

The Islanders' scheduled preseason game against the Devils Oct. 2, which would have been the first sports event at the arena, was to be a test run for hockey there. It was canceled because of the ongoing NHL lockout.

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