New Islanders co-owner Jon Ledecky on Wednesday pledged his support to Brooklyn as the team’s long-term home, but he would not do the same about potentially playing games at the renovated Nassau Coliseum.
The 2013 lease between Nassau County and Nassau Events Center, the entity formed by developer Bruce Ratner to renovate the Coliseum, included a clause that called for the Islanders to play six games per season at their former home.
But since then Mikhail Prokhorov, owner of the Brooklyn Nets, purchased an 85-percent stake in Nassau Events Center and Ledecky and childhood friend Scott Malkin bought a controlling interest in the Islanders from Charles Wang.
“I think the key is neither party’s principal [representative] was there when that deal was made,” Ledecky said at a meet-and-greet luncheon with reporters at 21 Club in Manhattan. “In other words, that deal was between Bruce Ratner and Charles Wang at the time and now we’re the owners of the Islanders.”
Ledecky, who took over control of the Islanders on July 1, stressed that a decision about scheduling games away from Barclays Center would have to be made by the National Hockey League with support from his fellow owners.
“I would never sit here and think I could influence the decision,” Ledecky said. “That’s for the NHL.”
But deputy commissioner Bill Daly said it’s up to the Islanders to initiate the conversation, and that hasn’t happened yet.
“We have had no conversations with the Islanders [either under old ownership or new] about scheduling games anywhere other than the Barclays Center in Brooklyn,” he said. “Unless or until that happens, it’s a total non-issue.”
In a statement, Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano said: “It’s our understanding that NEC intends to fulfill all of its contractual obligations. I look forward to meeting with the new team owners.”
And Nassau Events Center spokesman Barry Baum said the company “will engage in meaningful discussions” with the Islanders regarding the six games.
“Given the Islanders’ deep-rooted fan base on Long Island, and the fact that the team has a new state-of-the-art training center located there, it’s natural to want to put six games in a newly renovated Coliseum,” Baum said. “In fact, we have planned for this in our renovation. We are hopeful that new Islanders ownership and the NHL will see it the way Charles did.”
The six-game package of Islanders games — four regular season and two preseason — is stipulated in Forest City Ratner’s contract with the county. If the Islanders do not play the six games, NEC would owe the county an additional $1 million in annual rent, according to the lease.
The Coliseum lease also states that an AHL team will play its home games at the Coliseum, and Ratner has previously raised the possibility of the Islanders’ minor-league affiliate, the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, moving to Nassau.
But Ledecky, who also owns a controlling interest in the Sound Tigers along with Malkin, said, “We are happy in Bridgeport and we have a deal that goes another five or six years.”
Baum said minor-league sports “will have a home” at the renovated Coliseum, including the Long Island Nets’ D-League basketball team. He declined to comment specifically about an AHL team moving to Nassau.
Mangano, who has suggested that the Islanders could one day return home permanently to play at the renovated arena, has said the team would also hold practice and autograph sessions at the new Coliseum.
Ledecky said Wednesday he was committed to Barclays Center as the Islanders’ long-term home.
“Obviously we’ll never be able to replicate the home feeling of Nassau Coliseum and I think in the first year people longed for that,” he said. “I know I did. Bluntly, I missed the Coliseum.”
But Ledecky was encouraged by the atmosphere in the playoffs, saying he thought it was even louder than the Coliseum got, and he believes Barclays Center is willing to work with the team to make necessary improvements.
“There were challenges last year,” he said. “I would be lying to you if I said there wasn’t. Does that mean you blow up Barclays Center and leave? No. You try to improve the home you have.”