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August 2, 2011

Are the Islanders Moving to Brooklyn Now or What?

Runnin' Scared
by Neil deMause

Everyone's favorite critic of publicly funded sports facilities weighs in on the Nassau Coliseum fallout.

​So Nassau County held its vote on the $400 million New York Islanders arena plan yesterday, and for team owner Charles Wang things went about as well as ... it's tempting to say "as well as a typical Islanders game," but that'd be cruel. In any case, the final vote was 57-43% against funding a new arena (plus a new minor-league baseball stadium for an as-yet nonexistent Atlantic League team) with a 4% property tax hike, one that just might have been illegal.
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The question, though, is where the Islanders would go? CBSSports.com runs down the likely leading candidates, marking Brooklyn, Quebec City, Kansas City, Houston, Seattle, Milwaukee, and Hamilton as the front-runners. But each option comes with significant hurdles.
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Brooklyn's new Barclay Center, the home of the Nets starting next year that is rapidly taking shape atop the ghost of Freddy's, has been widely talked up as a prospective landing place for the Islanders: It's new, and it's easily accessible by Long Island Rail Road if you don't mind the change at Jamaica. Unfortunately, as part of developer Bruce Ratner's plan to downsize the Brooklyn arena's budget, he shrunk the arena as well — to the point where the floor is now far too small to accommodate an NHL rink. (The Post reported today that the Barclays would be an "NHL-regulation size arena," but they appear to be talking about seating capacity, not floor size.) Tearing out the lower seating bowl and rebuilding it to fit hockey might be feasible, but would no doubt be pricey.

(Barclays Center CEO Brett Yormark tells the Voice in an emailed statement: "The Barclays Center will have an ice rink that can support professional hockey. Due to the venue's design, the capacity for hockey would be a few thousand seats less than for basketball. While we hope to explore hockey opportunities in the future, our primary focus at the moment is to build the best sports and entertainment venue in the world." Which doesn't answer much about what "can support" means — would it end up like the old America West Arena in Phoenix, with some seats that couldn't see the nets? — and Yormark didn't respond to questions about cost.)

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Posted by eric at August 2, 2011 2:13 PM