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Barclays Center could be a good fit for Isles

View from upper seating area looking to main

View from upper seating area looking to main arena under construction inside the Barclays Center. (Feb. 22, 2012) Photo Credit: Patrick E. McCarthy

Barclays Center was built primarily by and for the Nets, but as the arena takes its final shape, another potential use has become clearer than ever.

Evident around the perimeter of the arena floor in the heart of Brooklyn is the outline of a hockey rink, the one that on Oct. 2 will host the first sports event in the building -- an Islanders preseason game against the Devils.

That game inevitably has prompted speculation the site could be a landing place for the Islanders after their lease at Nassau Coliseum expires in 2015. It is too soon to assess the likelihood of such a move; it is not too soon to assess the arena's ability to accommodate it.

"That, physically, is easy to accomplish,'' said Bob Sanna, an executive vice president of Forest City Ratner who is in charge of construction. He said the building always was designed with a regulation rink in mind and has plenty of locker room space to house a home team.

The complications are above the playing surface, where an emphasis on the most intimate, symmetrical seating bowl for basketball means some seats on one end would not be suitable for hockey because of obstructed sightlines.

That will limit the capacity for hockey to about 14,500, smaller than any current NHL arena. The basketball capacity is about 18,000.

Barclays Center's CEO Brett Yormark called Islanders owner Charles Wang "a friend,'' and added, "We have an open line of communication with him.'' But for now Yormark positioned the October game primarily as a "sampling opportunity'' for all concerned. "We'll see where it goes,'' he said.

Even if the Islanders do someday move to Brooklyn, that day is at least three years in the future. The arena project is moving forward regardless, aided by an unusually warm, snow-free winter.

"This is like a gift,'' Sanna said as dozens of workers swarmed the site.

The arena is scheduled to open with a concert by Nets' part-owner Jay-Z Sept. 28, the first of more than 220 events planned for the first year, including concerts, college basketball and the circus.

The Nets are the centerpiece, though, and team officials hope returning to the island they used to call home will spark greater interest in Nassau and Suffolk. Before moving to New Jersey in 1977, the New York Nets played at three Long Island venues from 1968-76, the last being Nassau Coliseum.

"Long Island for us is a core market and one we're going to be very aggressive going after, not just for the Nets but in general,'' Yormark said. "There are a tremendous amount of possibilities in that marketplace.''

One key selling point: In addition to the nine subway lines that converge near the corner of Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues, the arena is directly across the street from the Long Island Rail Road's Atlantic Terminal stop.

Arena officials hope most people use mass transit; parking in the vicinity is limited. But many Long Islanders comfortable with taking a train to Penn Station and Madison Square Garden will require education about reaching Brooklyn.

Said Yormark: "Our communication plan with respect to the path of travel, the ease of travel will be critical and something that obviously we're going to be very aggressive about.''

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