Blog Entry

Islanders arena vote fails: What now?

Posted on: August 2, 2011 12:11 am

By Brian Stubits

'Tis a sad, sad day not only on Long Island, but in the NHL. With the vote on a new arena for the Islanders being shot down by the people of Nassau County, it seems to be a lock that the team will be looking for greener pastures after 2015 when the lease with Nassau Coliseum runs out.

"I have to tell you I'm disappointed and to put it bluntly, I'm heartbroken," owner Charles Wang said after the votes came in.

We aren't here to rub salt in the wound for the Islanders fans. Losing a franchise is in no way a fun experience and no reason to delight. It can feel like losing a family pet to the die-hard fans. We aren't at that stage yet, and it's still very possible the Isles won't venture too far. The possibilities of playing somewhere else on Long Island certainly exist, let alone staying in Nassau County. But it's also a possibility they desert the Island.

If the team were to move, the first question that would have to be answered is who, exactly, would own the team? Once upon a time, Wang admitted regret to buying the franchise, saying he wouldn't do it again. This could be his chance to sell if he so chooses.

At this point, though, Wang is staying mum about the future of the team, instead saying he wants to focus on next season. That doesn't do much to calm the worries of fearful fans.

Whether he sells or not, though, the team almost certainly won't be playing in Nassau Coliseum after 2015. That much Wang has made pretty clear. But who knows? At this point, there's a long way to go. His tough-line stance certainly could have been a ploy to increase the sense of urgency on the matter. I doubt it, but then again I doubt that the Islanders are content to sit around for four more years, listening to relocation chatter, either.

If they do move -- still a pretty big if -- here's a look at the potential homes.

Brooklyn: Yes, the team might not actually leave the tri-state area. Early this year, it was reported that Nelson Peltz had interest in buying the team and moving it to Brooklyn, to share the not-yet open arena that will serve as the new home of the NBA's Nets. Whether or not Wang sells the team to Peltz (how about Nets owner and Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov?) or keeps it for himself, the borough could be a potential landing spot that keeps everything mostly in tact. It becomes a little bit further of a commute for the majority of the fan base that lives on Long Island, but it beats seeing the team move more than an hour away. Aside from a passing vote tonight or another county on Long Island stepping up to build an arena, this would be the next best solution.

Quebec City: Ever since losing the Nordiques to Colorado in 1996, the fans in Quebec have been dying to see the NHL return, much the same as the fans in Winnipeg. Just check out the wonderful simplicity of Of the out-of-state options, Quebec seems to be in the best shape considering it has a potential owner in Pierre Karl Peladeau, the chairman of media giant Quebecor. The kicker is that, while Quebec City doesn't have an arena right now to hot a team, it plans to by2015, which would work perfectly with a potential Islanders move.

Kansas City: Sure, there is an arena available (the still new Sprint Center doesn't have a primary tenant), but who would own the team if Wang looks to sell? That's the golden question. The fear is growing in Kansas City that it built a new arena on the belief it could land either an NHL or NBA franchise but won't get either. It could soon become a reality.

Houston: There isn't tremendous appeal to Houston other than it being a massive market. But it's a city that continues to get mentioned on the back end of the lists for relocation, mainly because of the market size and that it has an arena. But the hurdles (non-traditional hockey market, no prospective owner) are tough to clear under the assumption that the team would be sold.

Seattle: It doesn't have a clear owner (although a group expressed interest to the league) and it doesn't have a suitable arena. After watching the NBA's SuperSonics fly the coop because of a refusal to publicly build an arena, you wouldn't think there would enough support before a team is even in town to build a new arena. At this moment in time, a very long shot.

Milwaukee: I'll just continue to ask why this city never gets more consideration. It's a good state for hockey and a team could share the Bradley Center with the NBA's Bucks. The Kohl family could probably afford it no problem.

Hamilton: We have to throw it on the list because, quite frankly, the number of markets is drying up fast for the NHL to move in to. You have to wonder if Gary Bettman and the Maple Leafs would be OK with another team in southern Ontario when faced with a possible alternative of contraction. No commissioner wants to have that on their resume. But we know there is an owner who would want it (Jim Balsillie) and who has shown a willingness to build a new arena.

Long Island: Pick the county, any county. The leg work would have to begin now, but it would in the end be great to see the team stay (mostly) put.

Photo: Getty Images

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Since: Jan 2, 2007
Posted on: August 2, 2011 2:58 pm

Islanders arena vote fails: What now?

2ndamendment, I think it's pretty clear that I am a Sabres fan.  But I think that you're overstated when you write:
the Sabres and Maple Leafs are all twisted in knots on a possible Hamilton-based franchise

I think that all fans are going to have to recognize that any decisions about where to place franchises are going to made by businesspeople, with business being the primary consideration.  The Sabres paid Toronto a territory fee when they came into the league.  The city is literally on the border* with S. Ontario and naturally many fans from St. Cats., NF, etc., are going to think of themselves as being part of the Sabres market.  They are from a logical view; the Sabres "bought" that right.  If a team were to move into your marketing area there are two possible business reactions.
1) Find a way to veto the move.
2) Get compensated by the new competition.  This adds cost to the franchise which mitigates against the team moving to Hamilton versus lower-cost locations.  It's not personal; it's business.

(* One really nice thing about Buffalo is that since it is on the border, it does not take long to get the hell out of there.  You go across a bridge and you're in a whole different country!)

Since the possible relocation of the Islanders will be made as a business decision, I think it's highly unlikely that a franchise moves to Hamilton anytime soon.  Metro Toronto is a much more likely location since obviously Ontario could probably support five teams.

Since Toronto got their money from the Sabres in 1970, I see no reason why they would not expect the same from a team that is even closer to them.  On the other hand, the Leafs are probably not concerned about having another team in the area, (as long as they got paid for it).  If anything, they have such a strong fan base that it has allowed them to be indifferent to the fans.  Leaf fans, on the other hand, no doubt would love to see another franchise in the area so they could get their fix of hockey.

Windsor makes a lot of sense, but they would have to pay the Red Wings in this case.  Detroit, even with its well-chronicled economic problems is a much larger market than Buffalo, so a team there would also draw fans from MI.  I still maintain, that a future owner of the Islanders will pick a city like Quebec, Milw., or KC, since all of these cities make economic sense without these hassles.

Since: Aug 2, 2011
Posted on: August 2, 2011 2:54 pm

Islanders arena vote fails: What now?

A hockey team in Windsor?

If you were to give Canada an enema you would stick the hose in Windsor

Since: May 16, 2007
Posted on: August 2, 2011 2:48 pm

Islanders arena vote fails: What now?

BillSabres-CO, you protest far too mcuh. I get it. You're brilliant. Please stop flexing your internet mucles and showing me how inferior I am. My fragile ego cannot handle it. You're correct about it all. Brooklyn and Queens and their counties ARE part of Long Island. The 2+ million residents there are likely also wrong. Hopefully, you can set up some kind of seminar to educate the masses, and then you can meet with Charles Wang to see if he can go back and include Brooklyn and Queens in the Islanders logo that has been incorrect for the past 40 years.

Can I get off this ride now?

Since: Jan 2, 2007
Posted on: August 2, 2011 2:24 pm

Islanders arena vote fails: What now?

that were never relevant ot any of the comments I made

Here's a correction for you, Skippy, none of your comments were relevant. 

I was not making you out to be a bad guy, I simply pointed out that there was some humor that the writer used that eluded you.  If one insists on a literal interpretation then they should expect to be corrected when they are wrong.  You are wrong to assert that there are two counties on Long Island.

The reference he made to Brooklyn does not obviate my point as that was referring to the specific arena being built for the Nets.  There is a possibility that Wang may continue to own the franchise and be based somewhere in one of the four counties on LI; that could conceivably mean another arena in Brokklyn, (as I wrote, that's not going to happen).  Again, your ability to grasp nuance is underwhelming.

Who the Islanders are marketing themselves to is a vital factor when considering a location.  I am not raising the topic; it is core to understanding the issues.  I would much rather see comments regarding the points I made in the later part of the message.  That is actually worthy of discussion.

Since: Dec 28, 2006
Posted on: August 2, 2011 1:55 pm

Islanders arena vote fails: What now?

How about Windsor, Ontario as a possible destination for the Islanders?
Between Windsor, London, and Sarnia there is a population base in excess of 800,000 plus for those NHL fans from SE Michigan. (Bring your passport!!) The Red Wings should encourage that when the Sabres and Maple Leafs are all twisted in knots on a possible Hamilton-based franchise. 

Since: May 16, 2007
Posted on: August 2, 2011 1:54 pm

Islanders arena vote fails: What now?

BillSabres-CO, responding to you any further is pointless as you seem so in love with how smart you think you are, that you miss rather rudimentary points of discussion and bring up topics such as  who the Islanders are marketing themselves to, that were never relevant ot any of the comments I made. This isn turn makes you look like a fool with thesaurus. 

Either that or you're so impressed by Stubits writing that you consider him some sort of Rhodes scholar.? Nuance? Please Stubits is about as deep  and nuanced as a rain puddle.

 Either way this has become beyond foolish.

Since: Aug 3, 2009
Posted on: August 2, 2011 1:37 pm

Islanders arena vote fails: What now?

The situation with the Nassau Coliseum is so much more than the public paying for a new arena for a spoiled sports team owner.  The County owns the land, when the owner agreed to develop it privately the County wouldn't let him and invoked all this zoning garbage on a plan that would have had 10 times the economic impact of this one.  Then when they regroup and come together on a new plan that is funded by the taxpayers, but has guaranteed revenue streams back to the county built in no one wants to pay for it.  Folks this is not NYC where you can argue that you will fill a building like this 250 times a year because acts wont skip the venue just because the building is bad.  The state of this arena is already having an affect on the local economy, event dates are down, Isles attendence is down, and the economy sufferes further as a result.  You don't just need the arena for the Isles, you need it for the community, and the events that it will help bring to town.  Its unfortunate that this vote happened when everyone is still reeling and pissed about the Fed budget because citizens are afraid of everything right now.  You have to spend money to make money in business.  This isn't borrowing to repave the roads, this is borrowing to revitalize a major part of Nassau County.  Unfortunately the voters were lost on this one, and the citizens of the county will lose in the long run if another plan does not materialize soon. 

Since: May 27, 2009
Posted on: August 2, 2011 1:05 pm

Islanders arena vote fails: What now?

I used to live on Long Island and couldn't wait to gert out. It is an absolute hellhole of ridiculous taxes and traffic. But what these voters don't realize is that their taxes will rise more now than they would have had they approved the plan. In 3 1/2 years they will lose hundreds of jobs, millions of dollars in tax revenues and will be left with a 77-acre wasteland that holds a building that must be demolished at the  taxpayers' cost. This all comes back to Mike Milbury, who singlehandedly ruined the franchise. Every single move he made in 10 years was wrong, and the franchise has never recovered. When John Tavares wins a Cup with this franchise, it will be hundreds of miles away from the pithole that is Long Island.

Since: Jan 2, 2007
Posted on: August 2, 2011 12:28 pm

Islanders arena vote fails: What now?

Well, I lived in Astoria, Queens for years, and even though I could see the "city" from my living room, I knew that I was geographically on Long Island.  Of course, I never minded mucking it up with 'slander fans; they are not well-schooled in the art of rhetoric.  Within the context of talking about a sports team, and their market, geography matters more than petulant opinion.

Since: Sep 2, 2008
Posted on: August 2, 2011 12:24 pm

Islanders arena vote fails: What now?

You are ignoring a few facts. The voters who rejected this plan, for the most part, are retirees who - while some enjoyed the successes of the early 80s - are now on fixed retirement incomes. The one thing they ALL have in common? They dont care what Nassau looks like in 30+ years. They need to pay their current bills and not worry about footing the bill for decades of prosperity. (I dont blame them for taking this stance on the issue)  They are NOT responding with ", the franchise does"

I am 33 years old. My generation, who has never really seen the glory days, does believe that this franchise can turn things around and become a winner. The reason for poor attendance is a poor team, as your bottom line states. It is not because of a bad business model or bad ownership. The wings pack JLA because the team wins. Period. If the Isles were a winning team that 11,500 turns into 15-16k+ attendance in a heartbeat.

One of my favorite things is to take my 6 yr old daughter to the afternoon MLK and President Day games, which we've been doing 3 years running. I probably attend another 8-10 games thru the year. Would be a real shame if this team abandoned Long Island (altho i wouldnt blame the owners) and this bacame 77 acres of weeds growing thru concrete. 

Too bad the young voters who would get decades of employment, entertainment, dining and other memories from this project didnt show up enough to make themselves heard. 


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