Saturday, April 09, 2016

Newsday: unlikely Islanders/arena will use opt-out clause, no NHL signoff yet for Coliseum games, Barclays attendance rises (but could be better)

Three Newsday reporters today have an interesting report, headlined Islanders and Barclays Center have an opt-out clause, but no plans to use it, sources say.

This updates the New York Post report from February that said "the relationship with Barclays Center has been on such thin ice during the club’s first season in Brooklyn that both sides are secretly exploring ways to cut ties or modify the existing terms of their lease."

Newsday said, though, the opt-out would come after the fourth season, it's unclear when the decision would be made. Newsday reminds us that, at an "October 2012, news conference at Barclays Center, [then-Islanders owner Charles] Wang described the 25-year agreement as 'ironclad.'"

But the status quo is most likely, given that Islanders' attendance has risen after a very slow start, the renovated Nassau Coliseum will still be too small (with 13,000 seats), and there's no viable arena in the metro area.

Newsday also confirmed that the promise to have the Islanders to play two exhibition games and four regular-season games a year at the Coliseum still needs a National Hockey League signoff.

The average attendance is 13,580, or 28 of 30 teams in the NHL, and better than the team's average of 13,327 in Nassau over the final 10 years. And, of course, there are far more luxury suites. The team drew only 12,157 in the first 11 games, and since 11/20/15 averaged 14,140.

That said, the full expected bump in attendance--the arena is only 86 percent full--has not arrived, and that's partly because the new arena, however more smooth the fan experience, lacks the Coliseum's atmosphere.

Some 4,000 people travel on the Long Island Rail Road to the Barclays Center for games, which is good for some, but frustrating for others, in part because of logistics and, as Newsday paraphrased one fan, "the ride home often involves people using language not suitable for kids."

From the Wall Street Journal

A more optimistic 4/8/16 Wall Street Journal article, A Year After Their Move, Islanders and Fans Starting to Feel at Home, pointed out that the team's playoff games will help broaden the fan base, but "An Islanders spokesman deferred to the Barclays Center’s staff for comment."

The WSJ did not find as much frustration with the commute:
“Early on it was a transition—some people taking the train, others not as into it—but I personally love the convenience of the train,” said Ryan Costigan, 29, a season-ticket holder from Oceanside on Long Island. “It drops me off right at the front door. No worries about anything. It brings you right home.”
...Among the dozen or so season-ticket holders asked by The Wall Street Journal, only one said she wouldn’t be renewing for next season.
And the loudest fans are happy:
For some of the more vocal fans, such as the members of the Blue and Orange Army, which occupies Section 229 at the arena, the move to Brooklyn has been liberating.
“The Barclays Center has definitely been very welcoming to us,” said Tom LoFaso, 25, of Levittown. “They’re kind of letting us do a lot of things that we weren’t able to do at the Coliseum. We have a drum. We can hang up banners on the wall. They’ve been super accommodating, everyone has been super nice.”
Yeah, but the problem is when they bring the drum to the residential neighborhood around the arena.

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