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Yormark: Islanders owners have been given "optionality": Barclays + Nassau (plus potential new pipes)

Despite saying (unsurprisingly) earlier this month that Barclays Center managers don't plan to make design changes to the arena--after all, it would be tough to add seats or change sightlines--the arena's top official is hardly ready to give up the New York Islanders hockey team.

In an interview yesterday with WFAN's Boomer Esiason and Craig Carton (who have a food stand at the arena!) Barclays Center CEO Brett Yormark indicated that Barclays is very much in play for the Islanders, despite (overstated) reporting that the arena was dumping the hockey team.

At about 6:58 of the interview, Carton stated he believes the Islanders will go to a new arena at the Belmont racetrack. (A new arena is tough to justify in this market, and would be expensive, so I have my doubts.)

Giving owners "optionality"

"Is there any way," Carton asked Yormark, "that the wealthy men that are your bosses, and that own the building and make these ultimate decisions, including the owners of the Islanders, can sit in a room and figure out a way to not go to Belmont, and play in Nassau? Or do you think that ship sailed?"

"Well, I think it's fair to say we've been in front of Islander ownership for the last 45 days, we've given them things to consider, and have given them in fact optionality, whether it's Nassau, whether its Barclays, whether it's a combination of both, and it's up to them now to decide what they want to do with their franchise," Yormark responded. "So we've made it known that we'd like to continue the partnership. It might differ than what it looks like today. But we're very interested in maintaining the partnership. But it's up to them, and we're waiting to hear from them, and we're willing to respond to their wants and needs accordingly."

That's very interesting.

It signals that a lot is in play--including a publicly unmentioned (as far as I know) option of a season split between Barclays, which has an odd layout but luxury suites, and the downsized, suite-lacking Nassau Coliseum, closer to the team's traditional fan base.

Neither is ideal for the team, but the Islanders do want to stay in New York to keep their TV contract. So the key question might be the financial arrangements between team and arena.

New pipes?

Referring to complaints about the Barclays ice, Esiason asked if it could be improved: "I was told they have PVC piping underneath, as opposed to the copper piping which most buildings have; is that true?" (Actually, it's steel, not copper, according to reports.)

"Well, that's a part of it," Yormark responded. "We think the ice is very adequate if not better than adequate. From what I understand, the NHL is going to put out a ranking of ice across the league, and we're going to fare much better than people anticipate. That being said, we're constantly working on it. We're listening to the needs of the Islanders and their players, and obviously we want the best possible ice we can have, and we're working towards that."

"Your point about PVC versus copper is true, but it's not a major undertaking to change the piping," Yormark added said. "And if the relationship with the Islanders extends, we're more than willing and able to accommodate them with copper piping."

That's a change from previous reports. Newsday's Arthur Staple has reported that it would require switching from PVC to steel (not copper), which would require shutting down the arena for the summer, which he deemed very unlikely.

So it's very interesting that Yormark suggests it's no big deal. He's not the historically most trustworthy guy, of course. But as I've suggested, the relationship between Barclays and the Islanders may not have been moving toward divorce, but rather renegotiation.