The Islanders’ return to NYCB Live’s Nassau Coliseum depends on Nassau County eliminating a $1 million penalty that would be imposed if the team does not play six games per year at the Coliseum through 2027, operators and county officials said.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced last month that the Islanders had agreed to play 60 games — 54 regular season and six preseason — over the next three seasons at the Coliseum during construction of their new arena at Belmont Park.
But Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment, which operates both the Coliseum and the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, where the Islanders play their home games, said the deal depends on the county revising the Coliseum lease.
The 2013 lease with developer Bruce Ratner says if the Islanders “are unable or unwilling” to play four regular season and two preseason games at the Coliseum each year, Brooklyn Sports must pay Nassau $1 million a year for five years. The penalty escalates to $1.1 million in years six to 10.
A contract amendment proposed by County Executive Laura Curran eliminates the penalty, as long as the team remains on Long Island through 2027. The measure also would waive a requirement that Brooklyn Sports bring an American Hockey League team to play at the Coliseum.
“This amendment fulfills a promise Nassau County Executive Curran made, and that is to guarantee that there will be hockey at the Coliseum,” said county spokesman Mike Martino.
GOP legislative spokesman Frank Moroney said “the amendment is under consideration by the majority’s counsel.”
William Biamonte, chief of staff to the Democratic minority, said “everyone wants the Islanders back. We are reviewing the amendment to make sure that it accomplishes that goal while protecting Nassau County taxpayers.”
The six games were a major selling point with the county as Ratner bid against Madison Square Garden to renovate and manage the Coliseum.
Brooklyn Sports said the proposed slate of Islanders games at the Coliseum over the next three seasons effectively satisfies the original lease agreement.
The deadline for the Islanders to opt-out of their 25-year deal to play at Barclays has been extended until next Wednesday, Brett Yormark, chief executive of Brooklyn Sports, wrote in a letter to the county.
“The parties have made great progress in the negotiations,” Yormark wrote. But he said the deal “is conditioned upon the passage of the requested amendment to Coliseum lease.”
Former County Executive Edward Mangano began imposing the $1 million penalty last year when the team conceded it would not play at the Coliseum during the 2017-18 season. Monthly payments of $83,333 would cease as of July 1, 2018, according to the amendment.
The Islanders and the NHL declined to comment.
In a letter to Democratic Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams (D-Freeport) last week, Yormark said it was “virtually unprecedented” for an AHL minor team to play its home games so close to an NHL venue such as Belmont Park.
“It is highly unlikely that an AHL team owner would pay any more than de minimis rent to have its home games played proximate to an NHL venue in market already saturated with professional hockey,” he wrote.
But AHL spokesman Jason Chaimovitch said minor league teams in San Jose and Winnipeg play in the same arena as their NHL counterpart.
On several occasions Ratner has said the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, the Islanders’ minor league affiliate, would likely move to Nassau. But Newsday reported in 2016 that Ratner had shelved those plans.
Mangano said at the time he would not enforce the AHL contract clause because it would lock the county into a long-term deal with a minor league franchise, and could complicate an effort to bring the Islanders back to the Coliseum.
Islanders co-owner Jon Ledecky has said they are committed to keeping the Sound Tigers in Bridgeport.