Islanders co-owner Jon Ledecky says no backup scenario exists to the Belmont Park arena proposal, adding that he and his partners are “ready to go and all in.”
“We have no Plan B,” he said, “and we haven’t even thought about one.”
For Islanders fans all too familiar with the franchise’s past botched arena attempts, that may seem like a questionable strategy. But in a wide-ranging interview this past week, Ledecky stressed that fans should not let the past arena hiccups cloud their view of the road to Belmont.
“The past is the past, and we’re all about the future,” he said. “And we think we have something that really will galvanize the community in a very positive way. It will galvanize the fan base and we think it’s a tremendous opportunity for the Long Island area to have a world-class, really state-of-the-art arena.”
Hurdles remain, starting with the fact that Empire State Development — New York State’s primary business development agency — has provided no timeline for its decision on picking a winner to develop the land at Belmont Park.
Proposals were submitted Sept. 28, and the Islanders are among a group of bidders that includes New York City FC, a professional soccer team partially owned by the Yankees, and Syosset-based developer Blumenfeld Development Group.
While the Islanders await ESD’s decision, deadlines loom pertaining to the potential premature ending of the Islanders’ 25-year agreement to play games at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center, which has been their home arena since 2015.
The window to negotiate a modification to their Barclays Center deal ends Jan. 1. Then the Islanders and the arena have until Jan. 30 to officially opt out. Whatever happens, the Islanders are contractually obligated to play there through next season.
Asked how he sees the opt-out scenario playing out if ESD hasn’t reached a decision, Ledecky said: “I don’t think that’s in our thinking. Instead of dealing in the hypothetical, we wake up every day optimistic that the state agency will reach a decision on a timely basis.”
A spokeswoman for Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment, which manages Barclays Center and Nassau Coliseum, declined to comment.
Ledecky said Barclays Center management has been “extremely professional” during a potentially awkward scenario in which the Islanders, its tenant, are in Ledecky’s words “focused like a laser on Belmont and we are doing everything in our grasp to be ready.”
Ledecky also said Islanders fans often stop him in the Barclays Center corridor, asking him about the status of the Belmont Park proposal. Sometimes fans also ask if the Islanders might end up leaving New York altogether. Ledecky’s typical response is that he and his partners bought “the New York Islanders,” emphasizing the “New York’’ part.
“We want to be crystal-clear that we love New York and we love the metro New York area,” he said. “We want to stay in the New York area and Belmont Park is the place for us.”
Ledecky added that if the Islanders are awarded Belmont, the owners plan to invest in the facilities that house the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, the AHL affiliate that they own. He wants to replicate the improvements they made at the Northwell Health Ice Center at Eisenhower Park and stressed that they have no intention of moving the Sound Tigers.
“If I’m a fan of the team, I’d want to know that the owners of the team are focused on excellence up and down the organization,” Ledecky said.
But the first priority is Belmont, and Ledecky believes their proposal is strengthened by the experience of their partners. The Wilpon family’s Sterling Project Development will build the arena and Madison Square Garden-backed Oak View Group will operate it.
“We are in position to proceed immediately,” Ledecky said, “if the ESD makes the decision to give us the opportunity to do so . . .
“We are ready and poised and focused, hoping for good news.”