The Islanders’ proposed new arena at Belmont Park remains “on track for the 2021-22 season,” co-owner Jon Ledecky told Newsday on Sunday.
“We’re keenly focused on making sure the project stays on track, and I’ve been assured by many parties that is the case,” Ledecky said. “I’m very confident that’s where we will be playing our games in the 2021-22 season.”
The Islanders’ arena project, which also includes a hotel and entertainment center, is going through a lengthy environmental review stage. Empire State Development, the state agency coordinating the project, says the review will be completed by the end of June.
Ledecky previously said the arena’s groundbreaking could occur as early as May. Asked for an updated construction timeline, he said the development team is mindful to not interrupt the Belmont Stakes on June 8.
The Islanders are teaming with the Wilpon family’s Sterling Equities and the arena development company Oak View Group on the project.
“I can tell you that the developers have taken a lot of steps ahead of time to make sure this project is fast-tracked,” Ledecky said, noting that recent new arenas have been built in a 20-to-24-month window.
“I think had the developers not started and been so far ahead of the game in terms of working on the project, we might be in a different situation,” he said. “But to the developers’ credit, working with the hockey team, they’ve stayed on path.
“They know how important it is for us to be in there for the 2021-22 season.”
Residents of neighboring communities have expressed concern about the traffic that will be created by the arena and a lack of public transportation options. The Long Island Rail Road says it will provide two trains before arena events and two trains afterward.
Ledecky said representatives from Empire State Development are working with politicians and the developers “to solve that.”
“The fact of the matter is it’s been flagged, and correctly flagged, by the various constituents, and they’re talking about it, which is terrific,” he said. “That’s the way it should proceed.”
ESD spokesman Jack Sterne said, “The Belmont Project is on track for final public approval in the second quarter of 2019, the same timeline we’ve had since day one. We look forward to continuing to work with local leaders, the Islanders, and the developer to make this project — which will generate millions in tax revenue for Nassau County and Elmont Schools, upgrade Elmont Road Park, create thousands of jobs, and bring The Islanders back to Long Island — a reality.”
The team won the development rights to Belmont in December 2017 and a month later agreed to an unusual deal in which they are splitting their games between NYCB Live’s Nassau Coliseum and Barclays Center in Brooklyn until the Belmont arena opens.
BSE Global chief executive officer Brett Yormark reiterated to Newsday last week, as he has said for the last year, that he’s in favor of moving “as many games as possible” to the Coliseum.
But Yormark also acknowledges that the ultimate decision is up to the Islanders and the National Hockey League. And neither the team nor the league is in a rush to do that.
The NHL recently signed off on a plan that has the Islanders — if they reach the postseason — playing the first round of the playoffs at the Coliseum and all subsequent rounds in Brooklyn. That decision, according to the team’s news release, reflects “that the Nassau Coliseum does not qualify as an NHL major league facility.”
Ledecky added Sunday, “I think when the NHL made the comment a few weeks ago, they were referring to not just pure attendance numbers but the lack of amenities, the lack of suites, the lack of club seats, the fact that bathroom lines are still historically long.”
Ledecky said the Belmont arena development team has taken note of what fans have enjoyed about the Coliseum — namely the environment — and said they will work to replicate that and “pay homage” to their history they created at the Coliseum.
“There are limitations that will never enable it to be a 21st century arena, which is what our fans deserve,” Ledecky said.
He said they will give the fans that at Belmont.
As Ledecky walked with a reporter from the Marriott to the Coliseum doors, he stopped to take pictures with fans in the parking lot.
Peter Conner, 28, of West Islip, said to him, “Let’s get that arena built.”
Ledecky laughed, patting him enthusiastically on the shoulder.
He added, “The arena is on target.”