UNIONDALE, N.Y. — The Islanders part-time return to Nassau Coliseum is official.
During a late morning press conference at the Coliseum, it was announced that the team would return to their former home for 60 games over the next three seasons while the Islanders new home at Belmont Park is being constructed. The news was announced by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, who announced the Islanders bid as the winning bid at Belmont Park in December.
The Islanders will play a total of 60 games at the Nassau Coliseum, beginning next season with 12 games back on Long Island. The following two seasons after that will see the Islanders split their home games evenly between the Coliseum and the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
The earliest the team could play at Nassau Coliseum is this upcoming September or October, according to Cuomo. The Coliseum will undergo “basic structural modifications” to meet NHL standards before the Islanders begin to play there.
“It will give us an opportunity to welcome back the Islanders to a place where they belong,” Cuomo said. “Which is Long Island. Start to get that fan base up and running because we’re going to fill all 18,000 seats when we open the Belmont arena… The Islanders coming back to the Island is like the cherry on the cake.”
The governor also confirmed that it would take three years for the new arena at Belmont to be completed and that the Islanders wouldn’t be able to start playing there until the 2021-22 season.
The NHL will maintain control over signing off each year on the Islanders playing at Nassau Coliseum to “make sure the league standards are continued to be met by the arena,” Islanders co-owner Jon Ledecky said. He added that scheduling of games at the two arenas will be completely up to the NHL.
“It’s really looking at the whole metropolitan area and determining the best schedule for everybody,” Ledecky said.
Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment, which operates the Barclays Center as well as the Nassau Coliseum, said they are prepared to expedite any improvements needed for the Islanders at the Long Island venue. The renovated Coliseum will need to upgrade the locker room facilities, install a dehumidification system for the ice, and address some broadcasting and technology issues.
“There will be games here starting with the 18-19 season and we are prepared to fast-track renovations to be ready for next season,” Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment CEO Brett Yormark said. “We are committed to providing the team with amenities that players never enjoyed previously here at the Coliseum. You have our commitment. It will be a best in class interim move for the Islanders.”
New York state will assist Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment financially with the needed renovations for the building by investing $6 million in the arena.
The Islanders and Brooklyn Sport & Entertainment had been renegotiating the Islanders lease at Barclays Center and the two sides have until Tuesday to complete the opt-out process of the current 25-year lease. The marriage between the two sides had been rocky from the start, but Yormark said that the current situation didn’t make things awkward.
“You never know how long Belmont is going to take,” Yormark said. “For as long as it takes (the Islanders will) spend a good portion of their schedule right here, which is terrific.”
The Islanders spent 43 years at the Nassau Coliseum before moving to Barclays Center following the 2014-15 season. The outdated arena underwent a $165 million renovation after the team’s departure and reopened in March 2017. The arena seats 13,900 for hockey and only renovated a small number of luxury boxes.
The limited amenities that the Nassau Coliseum has is why the Islanders’ interim return to Uniondale is only part-time.
“People are going to ask, why are we doing a split season?” Ledecky said. “It comes down to the fact that we want to maintain a cap max team. To do that you have to maximize your revenues. If you look around here suite revenues, club seats, food, beverage, etc they’re not as accessible as they are at Barclays Center. From a financial standpoint, I think we’ve reached an accommodation that works for everybody.”
The Coliseum has hosted two hockey games since it reopened, an Islanders preseason game last September and a college hockey game earlier this month. September’s preseason game at Nassau Coliseum against the Philadelphia Flyers was sold out.
Nassau Coliseum had been previously ruled out as a temporary home for the Islanders by NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, however, he has softened his stance the Islanders won the bid to develop an arena at Belmont Park. There has been mounting pressure by local and state leaders for the Islanders to play temporarily at Nassau Coliseum, which included Cuomo.
Islanders ownership, Bettman, arena officials and local leaders toured the venue earlier this month to assess what needed to be upgraded in the building for the NHL team.