Developers of the Nassau Coliseum have shelved plans to have a minor league hockey team play its home games at the renovated arena when it reopens in April, despite agreeing to do so in their contract with Nassau County.As Newsday editorial board member Randi Marshall tweeted, "The AHL team clause was linked to the start of construction - they didn't have it in place then, they don't have one now. Not b/c of #isles."
Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano’s 2013 lease with Brooklyn developer Bruce Ratner, approved unanimously by the county legislature, stipulates that an American Hockey League team would play “substantially all of their regular and postseason home games at the Coliseum for a period of at least 15 years.”
However, Nassau officials say they will not enforce the AHL contract clause because it would lock the county into a long-term deal with a minor league franchise, and could complicate a new effort to bring the NHL New York Islanders back to the Coliseum.
She further tweeted, "April 2015: Forest City Ratner SVP told me AHL team would sign before construction began.Then Ratner said it'd be a year. Neither true."
What's going on?
That's either a game of chicken, or a squeeze play, or maybe both.
Nassau's playing a game of chicken with the Islanders owners, who, if they get booted by the Barclays Center--as has been reported but by no means confirmed--have nowhere else to go in the New York area, at least in the short term, and likely for the long term.
They'd get an undersized arena with few luxury suites and less opportunity for major sponsorships, but they'd be near their historic fan base. And they might fill it up. (And--see below--it might be expanded.)
If they leave New York for well-appointed arenas in Quebec City, Kansas City, or even (to-be-improved) Hartford, they leave their TV contract.
And its a squeeze play for the Islanders from the Barclays Center operators, Mikhail Prokhorov's Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment, who also own the Coliseum. If they eject the Isles, they better be sure that the Islanders move back to Long Island. Because if they don't, they don't have an anchor tenant.
As Marshall tweeted, "No AHL team is all-in bet by Nassau on #isles return They're opening an arena in April with NO anchor tenant. Coli won't survive w/o one."
As Newsday reported, "At a 2013 news conference, Ratner said the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, the Islanders’ minor league affiliate, would likely relocate to play 40 games per year at the Coliseum."
Yeah, but as I wrote in a May 2015 Newsday op-ed, Ratner can't always be trusted: "Ratner revised the Brooklyn deal several times. Expect more in Nassau."
More public help for Coliseum?
Remember that privately funded renovation? Newsday reported 2/2/17, in LI Association asks NY to help Islanders return to Coliseum:
The head of Long Island’s largest business organization is asking Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s economic development czar for assistance in helping lure the New York Islanders back to the renovated Nassau Coliseum.
In a letter Thursday to Howard Zemsky, head of the Empire State Development, Kevin Law, president of the Long Island Association, said the state could help make the Coliseum, more “attractive” to Islanders ownership.
For example, the state could fund a bus rapid transit system to connect the Coliseum to the Mineola and Hempstead Long Island Rail Road stations, or provide grants and tax credits to expand the size of the arena. The state is already investing in a parking garage and a bio-tech park around the Coliseum.
Let's look at the answers to this ESPN roundtable, What's the best arena solution for the New York Islanders and Arizona Coyotes? and then my comments.
Scott Burnside: How many weeks do we have to answer this? Short-term it seems the Islanders need to retreat to Long Island as soon as humanly possible. Like, tomorrow. Who cares if the retrofit Nassau County Memorial Coliseum holds only 12,000 people, that's still more than show up at the Barclays Center on most nights, and the ice won't be mush and the scoreboard will actually be over center ice.Except luxury suites and sponsorships won't be the same.
Pierre LeBrun: The Islanders need to build their own rink in the New York area and the Citi Field area makes the most sense, if they can ever figure out all the logistics and hurdles associated with that. The NHL doesn't want that franchise anywhere else than in that market.Another participant also endorses Queens, but building an arena isn't cheap.
Corey Pronman: I just got back a week ago from a hockey game in Quebec City's new rink. It's a beautiful, NHL-quality facility. I defer to my ESPN colleagues who are more well-versed on the technical, business and political details of those teams' situations, but Quebec City has the big piece the NHL is looking for.He's not saying Islanders, though, and others think Quebec City is the best destination for Arizona.