Long Island politicians were back at it on Friday.
Holding a joint press conference in front of Nassau Coliseum, politicians from Nassau and Suffolk County urged the Islanders to return to the renovated Nassau Coliseum. It was a rare show of unity between the two counties, where elected officials have expressed hope the team would return to its longtime home.
“We feel very strongly that the time to bring (the Islanders) back is now,” Suffolk County legislator William J. Lindsay III said. “This is a newly renovated building. There has been some information that’s been put out that they cannot accommodate the Islanders at this location. We feel that that’s not correct. There can be corrections and alterations that would be made by the facility if the Islanders were to commit to play here.”
The Islanders have been playing home games at Barclays Center after leaving the Coliseum after 43 years following the 2014-15 season. Since the team’s departure to Brooklyn local politicians have continued to hold out hope for the team’s return.
That was the message of Friday’s press conference outside the renovated building, which reopened in April, but few specifics were offered as to how Nassau County planned to lure the Islanders back.
When pressed by a reporter about what plan was in place to make a move back to the Coliseum Long Island Association President Kevin Law was sent to answer the question, rather than a legislator.
“(The Islanders) could be looking at other places,” Law said, referring to the teams reported plan to bid to develop an arena at Belmont Park. “As smart business people it’s in their interest to look at options, but this is a very viable option. For those that don’t believe the Coliseum is a viable option, they’re wrong. That doesn’t mean there aren’t other options, but this is an option.”
Law did say that the “discussions” he’s had covered building more suits, upgrading the locker room and adding a team store. “Anything that needs to be done to bring the facility up to NHL compliance can and would be done if the Islanders commit to a substantial number of games here,” Law added.
Where the Islanders will play home games has become a hot topic over the course of the 2016-17 season. Discontent between ownership and the Barclays has been ongoing since the move and there is a clause in the team’s 25-yearlease that gives either side an out clause.
The rocky relationship between Barclays and the Islanders has emboldened local politicians in their hopes to return the team to Nassau Coliseum.
A team spokesperson said the Islanders did not have a comment on Friday’s press conference. Barclays Center CEO Brett Yormark said in a statement that he appreciated the support from both counties for the Nassau Coliseum.
“Our goal is to continue delivering world-class programming to the Coliseum that reflects the interests of the community,” Yormark said. “As has been widely reported, Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment is presently in negotiations with the Islanders and as such cannot comment on anything specifically related to the team’s future home. We can, however, say that tickets for the Islanders pre-season game at the Coliseum are selling great, demonstrating Long Islander’s continued passion for the team and its legacy.”
While Barclays and the Islander remain quiet on the situation, NHL Commissioner has been openly opposed to the possibility of the Islander returning to the Coliseum. Bettman told Newsday that Nassau Coliseum was not viewed as a “viable option for the Islanders.”
That did not sit well with Nassau Legislator Arnold Drucker, who criticized Bettman during the press conference.
“Gary Bettman is one person and he works for all the owners of the franchises in the NHL, and they have the vote,” Drucker said. “And Gary Bettman doesn’t know or understand or have any clue on what three million people on this Island want. For him to say it’s inappropriate or that it doesn’t fulfill their needs, he’s wrong…
“Gary Bettman is totally wrong. He doesn’t know what it’s like here. What’ happening here today with the unanimity.”