Barclays Center does not plan to make any “significant design changes” in order to retain the Islanders long-term, according to Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment CEO Brett Yormark.
Yormark’s comment was in response to a suggestion by NHL commissioner Gary Bettman that the Brooklyn arena could “change the configuration and rebuild Barclays” to make it more conducive to hockey.
Bettman, speaking on the Bloomberg Business of Sports podcast posted online yesterday, quickly acknowledged that a redesigned Barclays Center isn’t likely. “I don’t think that’s the case,” the commissioner said.
Yormark confirmed as much in a statement to Newsday.
“We always welcome constructive dialogue regarding optimizing the player and fan experience at Barclays Center,” Yormark said. “However, we have no appetite to make any significant design changes to Barclays Center.”
Barclays Center and the Islanders, who recently completed their second season together, both can opt out of their 25-year agreement next January and currently are engaged in negotiations.
The Brooklyn arena last month took the first step toward a potential opt-out by informing the Islanders in writing that the window to renegotiate their deal is open.
“It was great they had an opportunity to go to Barclays, which is a state-of-the-art facility and gives fans a much better experience,” Bettman said. “Having said that, [it’s a] little bit harder to get to if you live on Long Island in Nassau and Suffolk County. And the building wasn’t built for hockey. It was built for basketball. And that means there are obstructed seats and things weren’t centered under the roof and the scoreboard and it raised some issues.”
Bettman reiterated to Bloom berg that Islanders principal owner Scott Malkin is committed to keeping the team in New York and is “looking at building a building perhaps significantly closer to people on Long Island in Nassau [or] Suffolk County and to make it hockey-centric.”
Bettman said last month that the Islanders plan to submit a bid to build a new arena at Belmont Park when the state releases a request for proposals, which is expected soon.
Empire State Development, the state’s primary business development agency, said last month that it is “working to finalize” the request for proposals at the state-run property in Elmont.
The Islanders are being advised by Oak View Group, a sports arena development company backed by Madison Square Garden, in their opt-out discussions with Barclays Center.
The Oak View Group, a consortium of arenas nationwide, and the Wilpon family, the majority owners of the Mets, have discussed teaming up with the Islanders on investing in and developing a new arena.
Bettman also told Bloomberg that Malkin frequently says: “ ‘I didn’t buy the Islanders, the New York Islanders, to move them somewhere. I bought a team to have in New York.’ He’s looking at all the options available to him.”
The operators of Barclays Center, who also operate Nassau Coliseum through a lease with Nassau County, are planning to pitch the Islanders on a return to their former home, including a series of modifications to the arena, according to Kevin Law, the president and chief executive of Long Island Association, the region’s largest business group.
But Bettman has consistently said he doesn’t view the renovated arena as a potential long-term home.