Sources: Islanders won't leave a year early
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The Islanders will honor their lease with Nassau County and remain at the Nassau Coliseum through the end of the 2014-15 hockey season before moving to Barclays Center in Brooklyn, sources with knowledge of the decision said.
The Islanders had preliminary discussions in recent months about the team leaving the Uniondale arena at the end of this season, the sources said, but the conversations never advanced and the idea was scrapped.
Islanders owner Charles Wang announced in October 2012 that after repeated attempts to build a new arena for his club in Nassau, the team would move to Brooklyn beginning with the 2015-16 season.
Developer Bruce Ratner, who built the Barclays Center and won the rights last year to redevelop the Coliseum, said in August that it was "highly likely" the Islanders would complete their lease and remain in Nassau through 2015.
But Ratner, executive chairman of Forest City Ratner Cos., and Islanders officials had declined to slam the door on an early departure, leading to speculation on social media by fans that Long Island's only major league sports franchise could exit earlier than expected.
In a statement Wednesday, Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano said he was "looking forward to a successful 2015 Islanders hockey season."
The Islanders have leases with Nassau County and SMG, the Coliseum's Pennsylvania-based property manager. All three parties would have had to sign off on a deal allowing the Islanders to leave a year early.
Islanders senior vice president Michael Picker and SMG officials did not return calls for comment.
A formal plan to break the lease was never presented to the county, said Deputy County Executive Rob Walker. "No one came to us," Walker said.
Forest City Ratner spokeswoman Ashley Cotton declined to comment.
Wang, who bought the Islanders in 2000, spent nearly a decade trying to build a new arena at the Coliseum site. His $3.8 billion Lighthouse Project failed after the Town of Hempstead said it was too dense.
A 2011 proposal by Mangano to authorize spending $400 million in public funds to construct a new arena was voted down by taxpayers.
Mangano selected Ratner last year to redevelop the Coliseum.
Ratner will spend $229 million in private funds to renovate the 41-year-old arena and construct an adjacent plaza with attractions including restaurants, shopping, a movie theater and an outdoor amphitheater.
Work on the project is expected to begin in August 2015 after the Islanders vacate the arena. It is likely to take 15 to 18 months to complete the work, Ratner said.