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: Aug 19, 2006
Posted on: August 2, 2011 3:40 am

Islanders arena vote fails: What now?

 Move the team to Hamilton, it is only option that is a sure-thing. The market in Southern Ontario is not being served (with the Maple Leafs being sold out indefinitely) Fans shouldn't have to go to another country to follow a team either (cough cough Buffalo Sabres... find a market in your own country) Hamilton should be an easy choice, unfortunately the Leafs have wayyyy too much sway with the league that it'll never become a reality, which is a shame.

Since: Mar 26, 2011
Posted on: August 2, 2011 3:35 am

Islanders arena vote fails: What now?

Waterwilly (I like the shorthand BTW): I lived in the NYC area for years and understand their politics and financing pretty good. Where I suspect we part ways is whether or not municipalities should be putting up $$$ for sports franchise operation. Having lived here in L.A. and in Houston, both cities where we lost NFL franchises; I can tell you that I stood behind the local government's opposition to funding these things. I miss the Oilers, but it was the right decision. Now, if the voters choose to do this, then I'm fine with it. But it's the tax base that should be making the decision, not a bunch of crazed special interest fans like you and me (unless we are also a voter).

Since: Sep 14, 2006
Posted on: August 2, 2011 2:23 am

Islanders arena vote fails: What now?

I love people who give advice from 1000 miles away and probably have never set foot in the coliseum.  For my long distance friend, the place is a complete dump.  It is 42 years old and was originally designed to handle about 13000 people and on a great night, 17000 people can fit inside. The food stinks, everything is tight, the roof leaks and the seats a broken. Add to the fact that about 5 owners ago in 1985, they signed a BRUTAL 30 year lease which ends in 2015, it is the WORST lease in the history of the free world.   The owner Wang, bought the team about 12 years ago , right after the previous owner, was a complete fraud who landed in jail because he truly was a fraud.  Wang knew nothing about hockey and let the same GM Mike Milbury explain everything to him. Wang trusted the wrong person, and with his bad trades and signings, set the franchise back 5 years.  The team can only build through the draft, we cant get any good free agents to come because of the building.  The Islanders are on the cusp of being a factor on the ice these days and the playoffs is a strong possiblity this year. Wang has lost 240 million over the last 12 years on the team, and even a few years ago tried to build a new stadium, as well as developing the surrounding areas at a cost of 3.8 BILLION dollars.  If you dont live here, you cant even begin to understand the politics of the county.  It makes the debt package debate in washington look like a pillow fight.

Since: Mar 26, 2011
Posted on: August 2, 2011 1:44 am

Islanders arena vote fails: What now?

Thank goodness that the voters, and not us fans decided this issue. I'm not so sure there are many buyers of hockey franchises outside of Canada right now, so the Isles may be staying put anyway. Let's not forget that a new CBA needs to negotiated at the end of this upcoming season. While the 2005 Agreement helped, it did not cure the economic problem with the league- and that is that payroll (not just player salaries) are too high. When franchises (eg PHX) are going down the tubes with 70% of the tickets accounted for- there is still a fundamental problem with the business model. Islander fans, you are not out of the game by any means simply b/c a new CBA will be coming.

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