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So, Islanders owners want a new arena at Belmont? How do the numbers work?

With the Barclays Center still awkward for hockey, Newsday reported yesterday, Islanders plan to submit bid for arena at Belmont Park, NHL’s Gary Bettman says:
The Islanders plan to submit a bid to the state to build a new hockey arena at Belmont Park, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said Friday, marking the first public confirmation of the team’s stadium strategy.
Saying that the Islanders “are reviewing their options,” Bettman also mentioned the land next to Citi Field in Willets Point as a potential landing spot for the Islanders and added that the renovated Nassau Coliseum is “not a long-term option.”
“Yes, there is an RFP [request for proposal] for Belmont and I know they are going to participate in that,” Bettman said of the Islanders. “I believe that everyone thinks there is a terrific opportunity there, if not at Willets Point, to create a more hockey friendly environment for the Islanders, which is something [Islanders co-owner] Scott [Malkin] is committed to do.”
Neither team owners nor Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment--which runs both the team's current home, Barclays Center, and possible future/interim home, the Nassau Coliseum--would comment. Bettman called the downsized Coliseum a possible short-term option.

Newsday found "lawmakers and area civic leaders... split on the prospects of an Elmont arena," though the addition of a full-time Long Island Rail Road station was seen as helping make an arena work.

On Twitter, Newsday editorial writer Randi Marshall called development at Belmont "important site for region; economic development; jobs; econ activity; nearby communities. #isles arena is 1 piece of big puzzle." She acknowledged it wouldn't be easy to get a project built, given the need to engage the community.

And others can respond to the request for proposals, or RFP. (Remember, there was no RFP for the Atlantic Yards site, just a belated RFP for the 8.5-acre railyard.) But expect a multi-use project, not just an arena.

How do the numbers work?

The bigger question for me is: how do the numbers work? Is there enough demand for events in the region to support the Barclays Center, the Nassau Coliseum, and a new Long Island-based arena? (That's putting aside Madison Square Garden and Prudential Center, as well as the slight overlap with CitiField.)

If the new arena cannibalizes revenue from Nassau and especially New York State-supported (thanks to direct subsidies and the enabling of tax-exempt bonds) Barclays, how can Empire State Development, the state economic development authority, justify it?

What's the justification for direct and indirect subsidies for a new arena? What's the market for naming rights and sponsorships, as well as corporate-funded suite purchases, at such a relatively remote arena?

Even if the Islanders were to draw a more robust crowd, that's only 44 games (plus, potentially, playoffs). If they don't keep the building filled, or if they fill the building but not deliver much profit--as in the Barclays Center's first year--how do they pay off construction?

I'm no Barclays "homer" (duh), but my bet has been that the deal between Barclays and the Islanders gets modified. Team owners don't want to leave New York and a lucrative TV contract. They also don't want to have to pay off both arena construction and operations with revenues.

That said, the potential partners of the Islanders have a lot of juice regarding events, so maybe--just maybe--they can make it work for them. (As Newsday reported, it's "Oak View Group, a sports arena development company backed by Madison Square Garden.")

If so, another arena or two would likely suffer. Maybe that's a wise Madison Square Garden strategy. And if they want to pay for it, well, maybe. But the public shouldn't.

A few comments on Lighthouse Hockey:
  • This deal is far from a slam dunk and still stinks of leverage the press to pressure Barclays ownership to give the isles 30 million to play in Nassau.
  • Who is going to pay for this new arena? Malkin & Ledecky? NY State bonds?
  • its either going to be a new arena at Belmont or the renegotiate and stay in Brooklyn, either one to me is a good option and are about the same for me to travel too (although I do fear traffic on the Cross Island/Belt on a week night, it will have to be 7:30 games).


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