Rift Widens Between Islanders, Barclays Center

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The New York Post


It is not news to anyone who has been around the Islanders during their tenuous first year and a half as residents of Barclays Center that landlord and tenant aren't exactly best of friends.

What has become clear over the past few days is that their rift is growing deeper.

As reported Monday, Barclays Center put together a proposal for prospective investors with projections of revenues for years to come, and starting in 2019, that report didn't include the Islanders.

The team can opt out of the 25-year lease as early as next season. The Barclays Center has an opt-out clause after the 2018-19 season, and though neither has declared an intention to use the opt-out - and at this stage, why would they? - it seems that is becoming the most likely eventual scenario.

It also makes clear Barclays thinks they can make more money without housing the Islanders, this being their second season in Brooklyn after the first 43 of their existence were spent at Long Island's Nassau Coliseum. It is a little surprising, considering the team won a playoff series for the firts time in 23 years this past season.

But it turns out that the $53.5 million the Islanders were set to receive from Barclays every year was just a ceiling. Due to numerous factors in the contract, in the first year, the Islanders received significantly less, The Post has learned.

Amid all this, the Islanders are playing their best hockey of the season, beating the first-place Capitals 3-2 Tuesday night at Barclays.

"They're reports," captain John Tavares said before the game.

The Islanders captain's current contract ends after next season and Tavares' possible free agency looms large over everything done by first-year majority owners Jon Ledecky and Scott Malkin.

"I haven't heard anything set in stone," Tavares said. "Obviously, whatever happens will happen. At least I feel from the top down, the goal is obviously to support the New York Islanders and keep building the great tradition here. They have a great sense of the pride and support the fans have for the Islanders so, it is what it is."

Yet if this rift is creating a divide too wide to bridge, then where do the Islanders go?

Reports of this have been scattered, and the idea that Ledecky's meeting with Nassau County executive Ed Mangano in November was anything more than polite would be overstating the facts - which is exactly what Mangano did. The old Coliseum went through a $130 million renovation by Bruce Ratner (who used to own a large part of Barclays Center) and his company, and Mangano recently issued a statement that read, in part, "There is a path for the Islanders to return." Mangano said they can add 2,000 more seats to the 13,000 currently planned for hockey, but a stadium of 15,000 with a smaller number of suites is likely to be shot down by the league.

Creating a new building would take at least three years, and if they were approved to break ground immediately - which everyone knows is the biggest pipe dream of all - that still would put the Islanders out of a home for at least a year should Barclays excercise the opt-out following the 2019 season. To think the Isles would accept the dregs of a schedule from the always-busy Garden might also be far-fetched.

A possible stadium in Willets Point, Queens, seems unlikely, as City Hall sources believe a more likely scenario is that a soccer stadium would go there should anything sports-related get built. There also has been speculation about new buildings near Belmont Park on Long Island, or next to Citi Field. There also has been talk of a move to Quebec City, where an NHL-ready building just hosted the CHL Prospects game.

But at this point, it all is speculation. And it is fueled by the deepening divide between the Islanders and Barclays Center, which is becoming clearer by the day.

Additional reporting by Rich Calder, Josh Kosman and Dan Martin.

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February 1, 2017


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