NHL commissioner Gary Bettman toured the renovated Nassau Coliseum Tuesday to assess the improvements needed for the arena to host Islanders games while the team’s new home at Belmont Park is being built.
Nassau County Executive Laura Curran, Islanders co-owner Jon Ledecky, Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment CEO Brett Yormark and Long Island Association CEO Kevin Law also were in attendance.
A source said there was a 30-minute meeting followed by a 90-minute tour of the facility.
The NHL, Islanders, Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment and Curran’s spokesman confirmed the meeting took place but all declined further comment.
In December, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced that a development team led by the Islanders will invest $1 billion in private funds to transform Belmont Park into a state-of-the-art sports and entertainment destination, including construction of an 18,000-seat arena that will bring the hockey club permanently back to Long Island.
The Islanders and Barclays Center are in the process of opting out of their lease agreement. Ledecky has said the Islanders plan to play the 2018-19 season in Brooklyn, as per the team’s arena lease. Sources familiar with the negotiations said the two sides are discussing playing some Islanders games at Nassau Coliseum as early as next season.
In a statement last month, Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment — which operates both Barclays Center and Nassau Coliseum — said the company is “prepared to facilitate any necessary enhancements” to the arena. At issue is what specifically needs to be done and which entity will pay for it.
The Coliseum, now named NYCB Live’s Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum, reopened last March after an 18-month, $165-million renovation.
Last week, NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly told Newsday the league is open to the Islanders playing games at Nassau Coliseum while the team’s arena at Belmont Park is being built. “I wouldn’t rule it out as a possibility,” he said.
Bettman had long maintained the Coliseum was not a suitable place for the team to play, even on a temporary basis. The commissioner softened his stance at the December announcement that the Islanders had won the bid to redevelop the state-owned land around Belmont Park.
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.
Nassau and Suffolk Legislatures held a news conference outside Nassau Coliseum in June to pitch the arena as a suitable home for the Islanders, if only on an interim basis. Law said then that Coliseum management will do “anything that needs to be done to bring this facility into NHL compliance” if the “Islanders commit to a substantial number of games.”
The Coliseum’s current setup includes 13,900 seats for hockey and locker rooms and facilities far below the square footage typically seen in modern NHL arenas.
With Robert Brodsky