NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said his “gut reaction” is that the renovated Nassau Coliseum is not a realistic option for the Islanders, even on a temporary basis.
“I don’t view the Nassau Coliseum as a viable option,” Bettman said Friday at a news conference at Citi Field to announce the Winter Classic outdoor game between the Rangers and Buffalo Sabres on Jan. 1, 2018.
Nassau and Suffolk legislators held a news conference at the renovated arena in July to drum up support for the Islanders to return to the Coliseum, even as a temporary home while a new arena for the team is built.
If either the Islanders or Barclay’s Center, want to opt out of their 25-year license agreement, they are contractually obligated to do so by Jan. 30. Neither seem anxious to continue the lease.
“Ultimately, whether or not the Islanders want to consider that and bring it to the league or something, you’ve had to ask them about it,” he said. “But my gut reaction is it’s not a viable option.”
The Islanders, Nassau Events Center and Nassau County declined to comment.
In June, Bettman explained why the Isles might want to leave Brooklyn’s Barclay’s Center, saying it was a “little bit harder to get to if you live on Long Island in Nassau and Suffolk County. And the building wasn’t built for hockey. It was built for basketball. And that means there are obstructed seats and things weren’t centered under the roof and the scoreboard and it raised some issues.”
Barclay’s could book more lucrative events, such as concerts, if the Islanders left.
The Islanders are preparing to submit a proposal to build an arena at Belmont Racetrack in conjunction with Oak View Group, a sports arena development company backed by Madison Square Garden, and Sterling Project Development, a group run by the owners of the Mets.
Bettman was tight-lipped about the Islanders’ bid, saying only that “the Islanders have very good options and they’re in the process of evaluating what makes the most sense for the franchise and their fans.”
Mets chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon added, “It’s their call, and like the commissioner said, they have a bunch of good options and they’re going to play them all out, we’ll see what happens.”
When Bettman was asked if the metropolitan area could support an additional arena, the commissioner said, “My own belief is, yes.”
The state in July sent a request for proposals at Belmont Racetrack, which is state run, and the deadline to submit proposals is Sept. 28. Officials from Oak View and Sterling Project Development toured the facility last month along with other potential developers.
The state says it has no timeline for a decision.
Barclays Center, which also operates the county-owned Coliseum, is contractually obligated to provide four regular-season Islanders home games and two preseason games at the Coliseum or pay Nassau County an additional $1 million in rent.
Because the Islanders are only scheduled to play one preseason game at the Coliseum this season, Nassau Events Center — the subsidiary of Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment, which operates Barclays Center — is paying the $1 million penalty. That game is scheduled for Sunday, Sept. 17, against the Philadelphia Flyers.
When Bettman was asked about the Islanders potentially playing a handful of games at the Coliseum, he said, “I don’t think that makes a lot of sense.”
With Paul LaRocco
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