The Islanders are closing in on a deal to play a mix of the team’s regular-season games at Barclays Center and Nassau Coliseum in the years leading up to the opening of the new arena at Belmont Park, according to sources familiar with the situation.
The Islanders are expected to play 12 games at the renovated Coliseum next season and — if all goes well with those games — they expect to play about half of their regular season schedules in the other remaining years prior to moving to Belmont, the sources said.
The earliest the Islanders’ new Belmont arena will likely be ready is 2021-22 season, meaning they need an interim arena for three more seasons.
While the sources said no deal has been finalized, they expect one to be completed within days.
The Islanders have been negotiating with Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment, which operates both arenas, in the weeks since Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced the Islanders’ bid to develop an arena at Belmont was selected as the winner. The Islanders and Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment have until Jan. 30 to complete the opt-out process.
NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly deferred questions to the Islanders, who declined to comment, as did Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment.
Sources said Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment’s preference is for the Islanders to play all their games in future seasons at the Coliseum, but the Islanders and the NHL have long resisted that idea.
Islanders co-owner Jon Ledecky said on WFAN Jan. 10 that he was “confident something would be worked out” regarding some games being played at the Coliseum.
That came a day after NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and other league officials toured the renovated arena with Ledecky and Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment CEO Brett Yormark to assess its viability in the short-term.
Bettman had previously said the Coliseum wasn’t a viable option for the Islanders even on a short-term basis. But he expressed a willingness to change that stance after some playful pressuring by Cuomo at the Islanders’ Belmont Park news conference last month.
The Islanders played their home games at the Coliseum from the franchise’s birth in 1972 until 2015, when they moved to Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
The Coliseum, now named NYCB Live’s Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum, reopened in March 2017 after an 18-month, $165-million renovation. Its capacity for hockey games is 13,900, down from around 17,000 before the renovation.
The Islanders’ average home attendance of 12,059 at Barclays Center this season is last in the NHL, according to ESPN. The team directly ahead of them, the Carolina Hurricanes, averages 12,936 per game.
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