MINEOLA, N.Y. (AP) — The New York Islanders may be returning to the New York suburbs after a move to Brooklyn floundered.
Several news organizations including Newsday reported Tuesday that the hockey team won a bid to build a new arena on the grounds of the Belmont Park racetrack, home to the third leg of horse racing’s Triple Crown each June. An announcement by Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo was expected Wednesday.
The Islanders submitted a development bid for a portion of the Belmont complex in September with several partners, including owners of the New York Mets and Madison Square Garden. A spokesman for the partners declined comment on Tuesday.
The state-run Empire State Development Corp. announced in July a request for proposals to develop 36 acres (15 hectares) of vacant and underutilized parking lots at the site of the racetrack. The state also solicited bids to develop the land in 2012 but wound up scrapping all proposals a year ago.
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Also bidding was the New York City FC soccer team, which envisioned building a stadium on the site in Elmont, just east of New York City. The soccer team is partially owned by the New York Yankees.
In October, Islanders owner Jon Ledecky said the team will play at Barclays Center in Brooklyn through the end of next season and the “singular focus” beyond that was for a new arena at Belmont Park.
The team played at the Nassau Coliseum from its inception in 1972 until 2015, winning the Stanley Cup every year from 1980 to 1983. The move to the Brooklyn arena was greeted with displeasure by fans, who always considered the team to be a Long Island staple.
Not surprisingly, they applauded the reports the team would be headed back across the city limits to Nassau County.
“It’s long overdue,” Matt Herbert said during the Islanders’ 5-3 loss to Detroit on Tuesday night.
The Massapequa resident said he attends two or three games a season in Brooklyn, compared to 10 or 12 when the team played at the Coliseum. He expected to return to that number in the new arena.
“It’ll be good for (the team) to come back home,” he added. “(Barclays Center) is not ours, it feels like we’re renting this. But that place will be ours. It’ll be great.”
Mario Cammariato, a season-ticket holder for most of the years since 1985 by his recollection, echoed Herbert’s sentiment.
“I’m hoping we get a good barn, we get a good hockey arena,” the resident of the New York City borough of Queens said. “A good place that we could get back to rocking and having a championship again.”
The Islanders are in their third season at Barclays Center. The team’s move to the Brooklyn arena was announced as a 25-year deal and appeared to secure its future in New York amid talk it could move to another city.
The team has an opt-out clause on its lease in January and can leave as early as after this season. Either side can terminate the deal effective at the end of the 2018-19 season.
Islanders captain John Tavares also welcomed the news.
“I haven’t had much time to think about it,” he said. “But obviously believing it’s going to be official tomorrow it’s great news for the franchise, I think for us as players and our families, and mostly our fans and our fan base. Really much deserved and it’s where the team has come from and really where the identity is.”
Tavares is in the final year of six-year, $33 million contract, and the speculation has been that the team’s uncertain arena situation was factoring into the decision about his own future. However, he downplayed that.
“There will obviously be time as things progress, but whatever news today or whatever is made of tomorrow it’s not going to determine or change anything at this point,” he said.
The Islanders played a preseason game at the refurbished Coliseum, now called NYCB Live. The arena now has a capacity of about 13,000 for hockey, less than the 16,170 it had previously and the 15,795 currently at Barclays Center.
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman has said playing games there on a regular basis was not viable.
“We are locked and loaded on Belmont,” Ledecky told the team’s beat writers two months ago. “We have the blinders on for Belmont. We’re not looking at other places, other things, other opportunities. We want to make Belmont a reality.”
Newsday reported the Islanders’ bid included an 18,000-seat, year-round arena that would host 150 events annually plus 435,000 square feet (40,400 square meters) of space for retail, a hotel with 200 to 250 rooms and a 10,000-square-foot (929-square-meter) innovation center that would be developed with resident input.
The team is last in average attendance this year in the league.