The Islanders unveiled their newly completed renovations at Northwell Health Ice Center at Eisenhower Park on Tuesday and co-owner Jon Ledecky said he wants the state-of-the-art training facility to be a template for what the team hopes will be a new arena at Belmont. The state is considering three bids.
Ledecky, general manager Garth Snow and head coach Doug Weight attended the unveiling. The Islanders said the upgrades at Northwell cost $3 million.
“The quality here is the same kind of quality of excellence that we want to bring to the Belmont Park project,’’ Ledecky said. “It’s a recruitment process. You bring a free agent in and he sees this facility and his family sees the facility, the agent for the player sees what we’ve done. It provides them with a completely different view of the Islanders . . . It’s part of the recruitment process to provide the best facility you can.’’
Ledecky said the renovations were also an effort to change the perception of the franchise. “We’re not your father’s Islanders anymore,” Ledecky said of the updated practice facility.
The Islanders used to train at IceWorks in Syosset, a smaller facility with fewer amenities. “You go from the (old) Coliseum to IceWorks, and then you come here, this is like heaven,’’ Snow said. “I think it’s a small glimpse of what can be done at Belmont.’’
The Northwell Health Ice Center has two NHL-sized rinks, a weight room with iPad-assisted programs for each player, a nutritionist, players dining room with a full-time chef for meals, a new trainer’s room, three hot tubs, a therapeutic massage station, on-call chiropractic service, a video room and an NHL-quality dressing room.
The practice facility is owned by Nassau County and leased by the Islanders. The Islanders purchased the 30-year, county-issued license two years ago out of bankruptcy proceedings involving former facility operator Twin Rinks Ice Center.
Ledecky said the state has not provided a timetable on the team’s request for proposal (RFP) at Belmont, which was submitted to the Empire State Development on Sept. 28. New York City FC, a soccer club partially owned by the Yankees, and Syosset-based Blumenfeld Development Group are the others bidders.
“Obviously, we want to be in position to be ready to put the shovel in the ground and we have very carefully and thoughtfully spent the resources just to be ready to do that,” Ledecky said. “If we win the RFP, we’re ready to go, and that’s the most important thing we can communicate to the players and the fans that this is an organization that is thinking ahead and trying to be ready for good results . . . ’’
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 discussions with Barclays “have been extremely positive.’’
Asked if winning the RFP for Belmont is tied to retaining potential free agent John Tavares, Ledecky deferred to Snow, who said: “We want him to retire an Islander. The conversations I’ve had with John and [agent Pat Brisson] will remain private. I know John feels very strongly about this team, this organization and we feel the same back.’’
Ledecky reiterated that he has no Plan B if Belmont does not come to fruition. Would he guarantee that the Islanders would not leave New York?
“I think that you have to look at everything from a business perspective and a fan perspective and you have to balance that and again as we’ve said we believe that we are the stewards of a community trust called the New York Islanders,” said Ledecky. “We own the New York Islanders and it’s the greatest sports town in the world and we have the most passionate fans in the NHL. Obviously, we are focused as a laser on Belmont and we’re waiting for the decision respectfully. We’re just hopeful that they will reach a decision that’s affirmative for the New York Islanders organization.’’
With Jim Baumbach