The Islanders have agreed to a deal that calls for them to split their regular-season home games between Nassau Coliseum and Brooklyn’s Barclays Center in the years leading up to the opening of their new arena at Belmont Park, sources said.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo is expected to attend a news conference Monday at the team’s former home arena in Uniondale to announce the unusual setup effectively giving the NHL team two home arenas for at least three seasons.
Sources said the Islanders will play 12 regular-season home games at Nassau Coliseum next season and — if all goes well with that experience — they will play at least half of their home schedule in the remaining years there before their Belmont arena opens.
The earliest the Islanders’ new arena at Belmont is expected to be ready is for the 2021-22 season, meaning the team needs a home for three seasons.
Islanders captain John Tavares, at NHL All-Star Game festivities in Tampa on Saturday, called the Coliseum “a special place.”
The Islanders and Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment, which operates both Barclays Center and the county-owned Nassau Coliseum, have been negotiating about an interim arena plan in the weeks since Cuomo announced the Islanders won the Belmont development.
The Islanders and BSE have until Tuesday to complete the contractually obligated opt-out process from their existing 25-year arena deal, which began in 2015.
The Islanders and Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment declined to comment. A spokesman for Cuomo did not respond to a request for comment.
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, who has long been outspoken against the notion of the Islanders playing at the Coliseum even on a short-term basis, toured the renovated arena Jan. 9 alongside Islanders co-owner Jon Ledecky and BSE CEO Brett Yormark to assess the upgrades needed to host a slate of Islanders games. The Coliseum reopened in March after an 18-month, $165 million renovation.
“The locker rooms, the training facilities and the like, that’s something we’re in touch with the Islanders on,” Bettman said Saturday in Tampa. “The Nassau Coliseum has been given a nice refresh in terms of the way it looks, but it’s still the Nassau Coliseum. So, anything that may or may not take place there certainly would have to be on a temporary basis.”
It is not known yet what upgrades Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment agreed to make to the arena to account for the Islanders and who is paying for it. Among the issues discussed have been closed luxury boxes, wiring for media broadcasts and the hockey dressing room size.
NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly, who was the first to publicly raise the possibility of the Islanders playing some games at the Coliseum earlier this month, said Saturday in Tampa that “we had a Playing Environment Subcommittee meeting today and both Kris King [NHL senior vice president of hockey operations] and Dan Craig [the NHL’s expert on ice surfaces] were there and they briefed the group on some of the things that need to be done, not major fixes but . . . it’s not a long-term facility.”
The Islanders played their home games at the Coliseum from 1972 to 2015. The Coliseum, now named NYCB Live’s Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum, has a capacity of 13,900 for hockey games, down from just more than 16,000 before the renovation.
The Islanders’ average home attendance of 12,059 at Barclays Center this season is last in the NHL; the team ahead of them, the Carolina Hurricanes, averages 12,936.
This agreement also means BSE will — for three seasons, at least — get a reprieve from paying the $1 million penalty to Nassau County for not providing the two preseason and four regular-season Islanders games they promised in their Coliseum lease agreement.
With Mark Herrmann