The Islanders are experiencing a lull in their ongoing struggle to build a new arena, but according to NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, action is required soon.
“With the lease expiring in four years, with the change in administration, I think [team owner] Charles Wang is in a bit of a quiet period. He’s tried everything and been unsuccessful at getting [Nassau] county and Town of Hempstead on the same page,” Bettman said at a roundtable discussion with APSE editors in Manhattan Friday morning. “With four years to go on the lease - and Wang has said repeatedly he intends to honor the lease - then we probably need to get more serious and focus on this in about a year.”
The Lighthouse Project - Wang’s massive redevelopment plan that included a new arena for the Islanders - is all but dead, but Bettman said the owner remains committed to remaining on Long Island.
“His options start and his focus will be - at least at the outset - Long Island and the [New York] metropolitan area,” Bettman said. “He is not looking to move this club to Kansas City or anywhere else. He wants a new building on Long Island. His desire for a new building hasn’t changed. His efforts just haven’t been able to yield the results that I think everyone would like to see.”
With what Bettman describes as a “well-documented lack” of progress on Wang’s pursuit of a new venue to replace the antiquated Nassau Coliseum and a lease that expires in 2015, relocation might eventually become the Islanders’ best, and only, option. But Bettman hopes that is a last resort.
“Relocation doesn’t become a viable option until you have no other choice. Whether that’s a year in advance or two years in advance, part of that goes to how long it might take to build the building on Long Island or renovate the existing one. I think the answer is you’ve got to see how it goes based on what’s developing.” Bettman said.
“If we’re sitting here three years from now and there’s no plan for a building anywhere, he’s going have to start exploring his options because they obviously aren’t building one any time soon,” Bettman continued “And if there’s a proposal in six months and [Wang] is working with the architects, then this becomes real easy. Maybe someone from Suffolk County will step up or someone from Queens will step up. That’s why we’re in a quiet period.”
“Charles has pushed as hard as he could with the existing site; I think everyone’s preference is still the existing site. It’s really incumbent now on the Town of Hempstead and Nassau County that, if they are interested in pursuing it for the long term, to focus on it. They have a little bit of time to do that.”