Lou Lamoriello never has been one to make bold predictions, but the Islanders’ president and general manager hinted Friday that the team’s proposed arena at Belmont Park might be completed sooner than expected.
“I think you’ll know better in the first of the year of an exact date,” Lamoriello said on Sirius XM NHL Network Radio. “But it’s not as long as people might think. I think a lot will be surprised and I think that’s just great news.”
The expectation has been that the project could be completed in time for the 2021-22 NHL season.
The Islanders will split their home games between Barclays Center in Brooklyn and the refurbished NYCB Live’s Nassau Coliseum in 2018-19. They are scheduled to play 20 games at their former home rink in Uniondale this season and 68 in the next three seasons, though that number could increase.
“There’s no question it will be built,” Lamoriello said of the Belmont Park arena. “I was recently in a meeting and I felt so excited because of not only the plans I’d seen before I went in there but all the participants in all the different areas that are working together with it to get it accomplished. There’s no question this will be something extraordinary for the fans and the players.”
The project currently is in the environmental review stage and construction is expected to begin in the spring of 2019, a timeline presented by Empire State Development in April.
In January, a Newsday analysis of the state approval and construction process indicated that it will take at least 38 months for the 18,000-seat arena to be ready.
As for the team itself, when asked about former captain John Tavares — who signed a seven-year, $77-million deal with his hometown Toronto Maple Leafs on July 1 — Lamoriello said, “He’s no longer a New York Islander. That’s exactly where it’s at. I don’t think any more has to be said.”
Left wing Kieffer Bellows, who was the 19th overall pick in 2016 and will have a chance to make the Islanders’ roster out of training camp, is one of 26 prospects scheduled to participate in the NHL Players Association Rookie Showcase in Toronto on Aug. 26.