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Isles co-owner Jonathan Ledecky: 'We have blinders on for Belmont'

Isles owner Jon Ledecky attended the Islanders golf

Isles owner Jon Ledecky attended the Islanders golf tournament for all the captains in their history on Wednesday, Sept.6, 2017 at Sebonack Golf Club in Southampton. Photo Credit: Randee Daddona

Islanders co-owner Jonathan Ledecky said Tuesday the team’s sole focus is on building a new arena at Belmont Park.

“We are locked and loaded on Belmont,” Ledecky said at a luncheon with reporters in Manhattan. “We have blinders on for Belmont. We are not looking at other places or other opportunities. We want to make Belmont a reality.”

The Islanders last month confirmed that they “submitted a comprehensive proposal to create a world-class sports and entertainment destination at Belmont Park.”

The Islanders’ group, known as New York Arena Partners, LLC, includes Sterling Project Development, which is controlled by the Mets’ Wilpon family and Oak View Group, an arena development company backed by Madison Square Garden.

“The best home and the only home for the New York Islanders moving forward should be the Belmont arena,” Ledecky said.

Ledecky would not discuss the specifics of their bid but said the state-run property in Elmont is “strategically located” with easy access to a Long Island Rail Road spur.

“This is all about the arena,” Ledecky said in his first public comment since the bids were submitted. “It is not a real estate play.”

The Islanders, who are in their third season playing at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center, are engaged in negotiations over modifying their 25-year license agreement. Both sides have the ability to opt out of the agreement in January.

Ledecky said the team will play in Brooklyn next season, as it is contractually obligated to do, but declined to speculate where the team would play if the Belmont arena was not ready to open or if the Islanders’ bid is not chosen.

Ledecky said the Coliseum, which underwent a $165 million renovation and seats 13,900 for hockey, was not in consideration, citing its capacity and lack of luxury boxes and suites. NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said last month that the Coliseum “is not a viable option” for the Islanders, even on a temporary basis.

Nassau and Suffolk lawmakers have urged the team to return to the Coliseum, with many expressing concern that a new Belmont arena could irreparably hurt the Coliseum’s ability to attract shows and drive revenue to the county.

Brooklyn Sports and Entertainment, which manages both the Coliseum and the Barclays Center, declined to comment.

Brett Yormark, chief executive of Brooklyn Sports, told the Sports Business Journal Monday in an interview that the agreement with the Islanders — crafted between Brooklyn developer Bruce Ratner and former Islanders owner Charles Wang — hasn’t panned out.

“The economics just don’t work,” Yormark said. “It’s a Long Island team trying to create a fan base in Brooklyn, and to date it has been met with very modest success and not at the numbers we have hoped.”

Ledecky responded: “I guess he’s saying that perhaps that the people on his side didn’t make a good deal.”

Fans and Islanders officials have been critical of Barclays — from obstructed-view seats and poor ice quality to a financial arrangement that is not considered favorable for the team.

“Unfortunately when the facility was built it was not built with hockey in mind,” Ledecky said.

Two other known bidders submitted plans for Belmont in response to the Empire State Development’s request for proposals to develop the 43-acre vacant land surrounding the horse track.

New York City FC, a soccer club partially owned by the Yankees, is proposing a roughly 26,000-seat, soccer-specific stadium, according to a source familiar with the team’s plans. Syosset-based Blumenfeld Development Group also submitted a proposal.

The Islanders’ bid for Belmont continues their decade-plus search for a long-term home. Ledecky’s hope is that this is where the road ends.

“We don’t want to be nomads,” he said. “We don’t want to be wandering folks. We want to be in our own home in a custom-built arena.”

New York Sports