The rumors of the Isles and Belmont have heated up a lot lately. According to Jim Baumbach yesterday, “The Islanders’ proposal to build a new arena at Belmont Park was selected as the winning bid, according to people familiar with the situation.” Isles social media exploded in a bevy of excitement, “what ifs” and “finallys.” After a news conference was scheduled, an announcement was set at the race track around 11 a.m. on Wednesday, it definitely got the attention of Islanders Country. Even N.Y Governor, Andrew Cuomo was slated to be in attendance. The hard work and commitment of John Ledecky, Scott Malkin continued the efforts of Charles Wang and the Isles are finally on the road to stability and true free agent lure. Even more so than their then, life preserving move to Brooklyn. Billy Joel, John Tavares and Cal Clutterbuck are expected to attend as well.
It’s now official with the official press conference scheduled for 11 am today. So Jim Baumbach tweeted the letter of approval from the Empire State Development to ‘NYAP’ or the New York Arena Partners to redevelop the 43 acres detailed in the proposal. “NYAP proposes to build a mixed-use entertainment complex that will include an approximately 60,000-square foot, 18,000-seat multi-use arena that will be home to the New York Islanders; a 435,000-square foot retail, dining and entertainment village; a 193,000-square foot hotel; and 10,000 square feet of offices and parking (see Proposed Site Plan attached). The proposed project and any contractual documentation remain subject to all public approval processes as required by law, including but not limited to review by the ESD Directors.” It should also be noted that there is a group of residents trying to file a lawsuit to challenge the project.
Per Jim Baumbach, “State Sen. Todd Kaminsky (D-Long Beach), who co-hosted a hearing on the dueling proposals last week, said the development would benefit Elmont, Floral Park and the communities surrounding Belmont Park … Governor Cuomo, my colleagues in government, and I have worked very hard to make the best use out of Belmont,” Kaminsky said in a statement. “I believe that tomorrow’s announcement will benefit Long Island and the surrounding communities.”
“Nassau County Executive-elect Laura Curran, a Democrat who takes office Jan. 1, said she was “excited to finally welcome the Islanders home to Nassau County, and I’d like to thank Governor Cuomo for helping make that possible.”
We Know John Ledecky has said the Isles will finish their obligation at the Barclays Center next season, but with the time crunch necessary to build a new facility, would that be enough time? Probably not. Per Baumbach, “The team is currently negotiating with Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment, which operates Barclays Center and Nassau Coliseum, on amending their lease. The window for those negotiations, according to their lease, closes on Jan. 1 and both sides have until Jan. 30 to formally deliver “opt-out” notices, a formality at this point.” But wait, that’s not all. Russ Cohen (@sportsology) told NHL radio the Islanders would be allowed to play at the 13,900 seat, $160M renovated NVMC as a bridge deal for a year while the new arena is constructed. What are your thoughts?
But in order for this whole endeavor to be a true success, the complete destination package needs to exist around the new $1 Billion dollar Islanders-centric complex. More infrastructure around roadways and railways will need to be tweaked to make the transition more seamless. A new rail station was said to be in the plans, but the costs could cause a problem. In a Newsday editorial, the possibilities for profit are there, but it won’t be easy.
“…Belmont’s little-used LIRR station is on a short spur off the Main Line — one track in each direction. The station got an upgrade two years ago, after it couldn’t handle the prior year’s crowds, but it likely will need work, too. And it’s at a congested spot between Queens Village and Bellerose. Although there are four Main Line tracks, the spur only feeds into the southernmost, eastbound track. For trains to head west, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority will have to find slots between existing Main Line train traffic and likely build new track infrastructure. Even then, managing the train traffic will be complicated.
A full-time station is on the state’s radar screen and the MTA is willing to try, but it likely will be expensive. Public improvements such as these can be paid for through future property tax revenue from the development. And it’s possible that Genting New York LLC, which operates Aqueduct’s Resorts World and wants to use the expanse of land there to expand its casino and amenities, could play a role in funding Belmont’s needs.”
Failure at the new “Stable” (Thanks Brian Nystrom of Real Islanders Fans) is not an option and there is more at stake than just a new building for the Islanders. The extension of John Tavares was said to partly based on the move and we all know what a key piece of the future Tavares is to the Islanders. Will it be enough for Tavares? Andy Graziano sums it up well. “Pretty simple as it stands currently re: Tavares. Organizational ownership secure, practice rink five minutes away, new building approved 15 miles away, cap space no issue, contract length no issue...becomes all about how he feels about team's chances to win.”
New York State and the Empire State Development group needed to buy into this process and despite politics and lobbying, the success of the project is something many in local and state government are counting on. “It’s a chance to add economic vitality to what’s now asphalt, and to boost that entire Queens-Nassau border area with a new Long Island Rail Road station that can become a public transit hub.” That hub should bring business to the race track, shopping, restaurants and public facilities for a long time to come. And best of all, it means the Islanders are officially back on the Island and their hard work and results in the win column are sure to help them gain status on the ice. Now all we need is for the defense and especially the goaltending (Greiss, 2nd to last in 5v5 sv%) to get back on line. Last night’s let down against Detroit is proof positive of that. The Isles are now last in gaa with dismal 3.50 goals per game surrendered, last on the normally solid PK at 72.3% and have gone 3-6-1 in their last 10 games. I am pretty confident in Weight’s leadership and the staff will have to figure out what components need changing and what systems need reorganizing.
Per Chris Botta, “Congrats to #Isles and their fans. Biggest day for the team in a generation. Ledecky and Malkin’s wisest step was knowing they couldn’t do it alone. A collaboration with Wilpon, Dolan, Leiweke, Azoff, Luukko and others - and deep connections to Cuomo - got it done.” John Ledecky has been an approachable and visible man of the people since taking over his part of the majority team ownership. Carol Schram of Forbes magazine recalls when the shot was fired across the bow. “Islanders owners Scott Malkin and Jon Ledecky called Belmont their “singular focus” at a media luncheon in October, signaling their strong commitment to bring their team back to a location less than 15 miles from its old home at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Uniondale.”
He has made the rounds on the political side, the organizational side, made the trips to the newest state-of-the-art arenas in the hockey world as part of his homework and made himself available to Islanders fans on the train and around the concourse to hear what they had to say and share his own story as a fan. I am sure all of Isles Country feel as I do when I feel so fortunate to have a champion of the cause push this organization to the next level and give it a serious chance to become an elite franchise in the NHL. The pieces are almost all in place. Let’s hope the organization can honor Al Arbour in the naming of the new Arena.
John Tavares had this to say on the Belmont news “Great for organization, players, our families but mostly our fans and fan-base. Much deserved, where identity is. Won't determine or change anything at this point regarding my personal situation.” Tavares is having a huge year with Lee and Bailey and the team looks good, but do they look good enough for Tavares?
With Arena future in hand, the all-important John Tavares watch continues, but one thing is certain. We as fans once again deserve to celebrate the long enduring and hard fought coming of age. The Islanders have a legitimate and permanent place to build in their image and call home.
Thank you for being among the faithful and keep that snarl. We are going to need it.
Per NHL Player Safety, “Detroit’s Justin Abdelkader fined $5,000, the maximum allowable under the CBA, for spearing NY Islanders’ Scott Mayfield.”