The Islanders will play 60 games at Nassau Coliseum over the next three seasons as the team waits for its new arena to be built at Belmont Park, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced Monday.
Cuomo also said the state will contribute $6 million to upgrade the Uniondale arena to better meet National Hockey League standards.
The Islanders will play 12 regular-season games at Nassau Coliseum next season. The remaining 29 home games will be played at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, where the team moved in 2015. The team will play a total of 48 preseason and regular-season games during the following two seasons at the Coliseum.
Islanders co-owner Jon Ledecky and Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment CEO Brett Yormark both said they have not yet decided which arena would hold potential playoff games during those three seasons. The NHL will be involved in that decision, Ledecky said.
Cuomo made the announcement at a Nassau Coliseum news conference Monday that was attended by Nassau County Executive Laura Curran, Town of Hempstead Supervisor Laura Gillen, Mets chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon and Islanders captain John Tavares.
Cuomo hailed the agreement as a victory because it brings the Islanders back to Long Island — “where they belong,” Cuomo said.
“For me when the Islanders left, it was sad,” Cuomo said. “You feel like you’re losing part of your character, part of who you are, part of your identity.”
Cuomo confirmed that the new arena at Belmont Park would not be ready until the 2021-22 season.
Cuomo announced in December that a development team led by the Islanders will invest $1 billion in private funds to transform an area of Belmont Park into a state-of-the-art sports and entertainment destination, including construction of an 18,000-seat arena, 435,000 square feet of retail stores, restaurants and a movie theater; a hotel with 200 to 250 rooms and nearly 6 acres of outdoor recreation space, including 10,000 square feet of community space.
New York Arena Partners, the Islanders’ partners in the development — which includes Sterling Project Development, a real estate firm run by the Mets’ Wilpon family, and Oak View Group, an arena development company partially funded by Madison Square Garden — will finance the entire project. The group will sign a 49-year lease with the state and pay a total of $40 million in rent.
The Islanders, who played all of their home games at the Coliseum from 1972 to 2015, have been negotiating an interim arena deal with Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment — which operates both Barclays Center and the county-owned Coliseum — in the month since Cuomo announced the Islanders won the development rights at Belmont.
Now called NYCB Live’s Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum, the county-owned arena underwent an 18-month, $165-million renovation during which the seating capacity was reduced to 13,900 from 16,000.
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman toured the facility earlier this month to assess the upgrades necessary to host Islanders games again. The state’s money will be used to improve the locker rooms, ice-making operations and broadcast wiring.
In a statement, Bettman said Monday “the NHL supports the measures taken to allow the Islanders’ part-time, temporary return to the site of their dynastic glory.”
Assemb. Michaelle Solages (D-Elmont) issued a statement Monday that said the $6 million being spent on the Coliseum could be put to better use.
“These taxpayers’ monies should go towards fixing the inefficient Long Island Railroad system, property tax relief for homeowners or increasing slots for universal Pre-Kindergarten among other projects that the people of Long Island desperately need,” Solages said. “This subsidy is a complete misuse of Long Island taxpayers’ hard earned money.”
Kevin Law, president and CEO of the Long Island Association, the region’s largest business group, said the investment in the Coliseum and bringing the Islanders back “keeps momentum going toward the effort to develop the Nassau HUB.”
Yormark would like the Islanders to play more games at the Coliseum, but the Islanders are reluctant because it doesn’t have the revenue generators that Barclays Center has.
“If you look around here, suite revenues, club seats, food, beverages, they’re not accessible as they are at the Barclays Center,” Ledecky said.
Ledecky said the same fan-experience issues that plagued the old Coliseum remain. “Brett doesn’t like to hear this, but in terms of the arena itself, I think they need to take a look at, how do we improve the bathroom lines and how do we improve the concession lines?” Ledecky said.
Yormark said the Coliseum will be a hit among both Islanders players and their fans. He said the Coliseum’s schedule of open dates will likely give the Islanders and the NHL more weekend nights to choose from than they typically have had in Brooklyn.
“Our goal in the coming seasons is to make all the games on Long Island feel like the playoffs,” Yormark said. “And if the team wanted to play more than half their games here, we encourage it and welcome them back.”
Regular-season games Isles will play at Nassau Coliseum next season
Total preseason and regular-season games during the following two seasons Isles will play at Coliseum