Wednesday afternoon, the die-hard fan base of the New York Islanders got the news that will forever change the franchise. The Isles are staying on Long Island…kinda. Technically speaking, the New York City borough of Brooklyn is located on the island of Long Island, with Nassau County bordering it to the east and Queens County to the north. But to many Islanders fans, the move is one thousand times better than a move to say, Kansas City or Quebec.
Islanders owner Charles Wang, along with the Barclays Center owner, Bruce Ratner, held a press conference to announce the Islanders move beginning with the 2015-2016 season. The Islanders have signed a 25-year lease with no out clauses, meaning that the Islanders will stay local and not use the Barclays Center as a temporary home.
As a die-hard fan for almost 25 years, aside from the Isles landing John Tavares with the top pick in the 2009 draft, this is the best possible news for this storied franchise. I was afraid that my team, the team that was in my back yard for the first 28 years of my life, was going to pack up in the middle of the night, and become the next “Indianapolis Colts”.
I won’t go into specifics, but the Islanders have notoriously had the worst arena lease in the history of American professional sports. This lease which gauges the parking and concessions of the Islanders. From newyorksialnderfancentral.com, I found this excerpt from a 2009 article:
Rent at the Coliseum rose to $2.5 million that, based on paying SMG, the landlord, 11 percent of net ticket revenue. The team gets nothing from parking and concessions and pays SMG and the county 40 percent of its advertising income.
ZERO dollars from parking and concessions and 40% of advertising income! HOLY CRAP. No wonder Charles Wang was losing between ten and twenty million dollars every year. With that lease, even playing with a full building, it’s nearly impossible to turn a profit.
With a new arena vote being voted down this past August, that was the last opportunity for the Islanders to stay in Nassau County. Nassau County is essentially bankrupt due to the crook politicians that are in office. According to a NY Post article from 2009, Nassau County residents pay the second highest property taxes in the United States at a median tax of $8,628. There was no way in hell that residents were going to vote yes for anything that was going to raise their taxes even one more dollar.
Now that the Islanders real estate problems are behind them, now Charles Wang and General Manager Garth Snow can focus on the on-ice product. One that seems to be as good as it’s been in the past six or seven years. But until Wang and his cohorts, along with the worst commissioner in sports, Gary Bettman, lift the lockout, we won’t get to see the talent.
The Islanders have been forced to lay down on the salary cap floor since it’s inception due to this stadium lease. Along with not being able to afford top flight talent, that talent simply has not wanted to play here due to the old, decrepit Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. It’s not that Garth Snow and Charles Wang haven’t tried their hardest to sell Nassau County as a fantastic place for an athlete to move their family to, it’s just not Madison Square Garden.
But that is about to change. With a state of the art building, the Islanders will now open the eyes of potential free agents to see what Brooklyn has to offer. Being only a 10 minute subway ride from Manhattan, players now have an alternative to the New York Rangers or even the New Jersey Devils, if they want to play in this market. As far as the talent on this team, there is no question that the young core is one of the best in the league. In their most recent publication, HockeyProspectus.com has ranked the Islanders with the second best minor league system in all of hockey. With that being said, the Isles have four of their top players under long-term contracts who will be on the roster aside from being traded. John Tavares, Kyle Okposo, Michael Grabner and Frans Nielsen will all be here and under 31 years of age. Tavares, the youngest, will still only be 25 at the time of the move.
Hopefully for this once storied franchise, taking the LIRR trains or the MTA subways wont stop new and old Islander fans from making their way out to the best building around. With a seating capacity of only around 14,500 for hockey, Wang and Rattner will be working closely together to improve sight lines and seating for hockey without compromising the overall experience.
If one subway series wasn’t enough, here’s the second one. Just hop on the red line (2 or 3) and take the ride between 34th street or Atlantic Avenue.
BROOKLYN IN DA HOUSE!!