NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said he is anticipating construction beginning this summer on the Islanders’ planned new arena at Belmont Park.
“I’m expecting to be at a groundbreaking sometime in the next few months,” Bettman said at the Associated Press Sports Editors meeting in Manhattan on Friday.
Bettman said in February that he expected the arena’s groundbreaking to occur in May or June. When the commissioner was reminded of those comments, Bettman said on Friday, “May, June, July — we’re somewhere in that range.
“It’s still coming. I have no reason to believe it’s not.”
The Islanders’ arena project, which also includes a 250-room hotel and 435,000 square feet of retail, is going through a lengthy environmental review stage.
Empire State Development, the state agency coordinating the project, has said the review and all of the necessary approvals will be completed by the end of June.
Newsday reported last month that ESD has expanded the review to study the possibility of a full-time LIRR station on the mainline. That would allow for people traveling to games from the east to avoid transferring at Jamaica before arriving at Belmont.
ESD has said the majority of the thousands of public comments the agency has received focus on transportation, with residents concerned about the potential for greater congestion caused by arena traffic in rush hour.
The arena, which will hold 18,000 for hockey games, is scheduled to be open for the 2021-22 season. Islanders co-owner Jon Ledecky told Newsday last month the plans remain on track for that to occur, citing how recent new arenas were built in 20 to 24 months.
Bettman also said on Friday that he’s “anticipating” the Islanders will once again split their regular-season games between NYCB Live’s Nassau Coliseum and Barclays Center in Brooklyn next season.
The Islanders have an agreement to split the games between both arenas for two more seasons during the buildup to Belmont. Both arenas are operated by BSE Global, whose chief executive Brett Yormark has told Newsday repeatedly that he’s in favor of moving as many Islanders games as possible to the Coliseum.
Bettman said that’s “not something we’re envisioning or focused on.”
“You know, Nassau Coliseum isn’t exactly a major-league, state-of-the-art facility,” Bettman said. “We tried to be accommodating. But we need to be somewhat realistic as to what that facility is.”