The NHL’s New York Islanders announced on Wednesday, October 24, that they will be leaving their Uniondale, Long Island home stadium to play at the brand new Barclays Center in Brooklyn, NY. Despite the current NHL lockout, team owner Charles Wang and Bruce Ratner, developer of the Barclays Center, struck a 25-year agreement that is set to begin in the fall of 2015.
The NY Islanders have called Long Island home since 1972, playing at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. According to the New York Post, Wang initially wanted to keep the Islanders on Long Island, but “there comes a time when you have to make a decision.” The NHL team proposed a referendum last year that would use public funds in a $400 million overhaul of the aging Long Island stadium, but it was denied by Nassau County voters.
The Islanders will play out their current lease of the Coliseum, making the switch to the Barclays Center in time for the 2015-16 season. Although the team will officially move to Brooklyn, NHL officials have insisted that they remain the NY Islanders. According to the official website for the Barclays Center, Wang said, “it was our goal from day one to keep the Islanders in the local New York area,” and he and his team are “thrilled to have the opportunity to play in Barclays Center, a first class arena.”
According to statistics provided by ESPN, the NY Islanders ranked 29th (second to last) in home season attendance for the 2011-12 NHL season. Wang and the team are hoping that the change in locale to the recently constructed Barclays Center will turn things around. Despite the fact that the Barclays Center has only opened since September, Ratner’s arena has already seen its fair share of action. The center opened on Friday, September 28, will several sold-out performances by rapper Jay-Z to commemorate the grand opening. In addition to hosting the Islanders in 2015, the Barclays Center is also currently the home stadium of the NBA’s newly-christened Brooklyn Nets.
Seating capacity for basketball games in the center is set at 17,732, while capacity for the Islanders’ hockey games will drop to around 14,500 because of the rink’s shape. According to NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, the smaller arena size “is not an issue.” The smallest seating capacity for an NHL team is at the home stadium for the Winnipeg Jets, and Bettman said that “Winnipeg is doing quite well in a building about the same size [as the Barclays Center].”
The NY Islanders were initially scheduled to play a preseason exhibition game against the New Jersey Devils in the Barclays Center, but the matchup was cancelled due to the ongoing lockout between the NHL and its players’ association. The lockout has been in effect for well over a month, threatening the entire 2012-13 season. All games through November 1 have been cancelled, with negotiation battles still underway. According to the New York Post, the Barclays Center is now scheduled to have its hockey debut in mid-January with several games featuring Russia’s Kontinental Hockey League.