The Empire State Development Corporation officially selected the Islanders bid to develop state land at Belmont Park.
State and local leaders, as well as Islanders officials, gathered at Belmont Park Wednesday morning to make the announcement. Wednesday’s news appears to the be the end of a decades-long search for a permanent home for the Islanders, which left Nassau Coliseum in 2015 following two failed attempts to get a new building on Long Island.
“When the Islanders left Long Island it hurt,” Governor Andrew Cuomo said during the press conference. “It was sad. They were a big part of the identity and culture of Long Island.The Barclays center is great, but they weren’t on Long Island anymore. This is them coming home.”
The development will be a $1 billion investment by New York Arena Partners — made up of the Islanders, Sterling Project Development and the Oak View Group — with a brand new 18,000 seat arena serving as the centrepiece of the project.
The plan also includes a retail and entertainment district, a 200 to 250 room hotel and 10,000-square-foot of community space. The Long Island Rail Road station at Belmont Park would become a year round stop as well.
Bloomberg News and Newsday were first to report that the Islanders bid had been selected on Tuesday.
“The Island as the Governor said is coming back and that’s why the Islanders are coming back,” team co-owner Jon Ledecky said. “Growing up in Queens I can’t be more excited that the New York Islanders will have a new address here in the 11003 zip code, Elmont, New York… For our fans, this day is for you. You’ve been passionate supporters of the team both on and off the ice. Today is a huge day for this franchise and you deserve it more than anyone else.”
The Islanders have been searching for a new permanent home for nearly three decades. Previous ownership groups have tried unsuccessfully to renovate the team’s former home of Nassau Coliseum. Most notable was former majority owner Charles Wang, who proposed the massive mixed-use development at the Nassau Coliseum site, but was rebuffed by local politicians.
A later attempt to build a new arena through a referendum failed at the ballot box in 2011.
The Islanders have played three seasons at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, where the team and arena management have had a rather rocky relationship since the move. Complaints about the quality of the ice, sightlines and lack of atmosphere have plagued the Islanders move to Brooklyn.
The return to Long Island is a welcomed one by current team captain John Tavares, who is in the final year of his contract with the team and was on hand for Wednesday’s announcement.
“The Islanders are called the Islanders for a reason.This is really where the team belongs,” Tavares said. “To have somewhere where it’s written in stone that we’re going to have a home that’s going to be long and permanent and built for the Islanders on Long Island on a very historical place on Long Island I think is pretty special.”
Even for former Islanders, the news was special. Current Detroit Red Wings forward Frans Nielsen is no stranger to the battle the team has gone through to get a new arena.
“It’s good for them,” Nielsen said. “They’re going to go back out there and there’s a lot of great Islander fans that deserve a little shorter travel. I think it’s great.”
There was no timetable released by Ledeky on Wednesday, simply replying “as soon as possible” when reporters asked when construction would begin. Even without a timetable the Islander will need a temporary place to play while the new arena is being constructed
The team is currently in negotiations with Barclays Center over renegotiating its lease with the Brooklyn based venue.