With Uncertain Future, Islanders Return To Coliseum Past

The New York Islanders returned to the Nassau Coliseum, now called NYCB Live, for a preseason NHL game on September 17. They won an overtime extended game, 3-2 against the Philadelphia Flyers. When the Islanders skated out onto the ice, the noisy atmosphere was still there, but this wasn’t home for more than one night.

When the Islanders returned to their former home of 43 years, emotions were high, even if it was just a preseason game. Since reports surfaced earlier this year that the Barclays Center didn’t include the Islanders in their financial plans of the future, rumors were abound that the Islanders could come back to Nassau County, Long Island instead of playing in Brooklyn, New York. The current home of the Islanders, the Barclays Center has an opt out clause following the 2018-19 season, according to the New York Post.

An Uncertain Future

All of this comes amid a backdrop of uncertainty about where the NHL franchise would play, if the Barclays Center decided to terminate their contract. The governor of Connecticut sent the Islanders a letter saying they were welcome to relocate to Hartford, according to The Guardian, and there are plenty of other hockey-hungry cities that would welcome an NHL team with open arms. The Guardian specifically mentions Seattle, Quebec City, and Hartford as possible relocation options.

The Sayevich Family before an Islanders game at the Old Nassau Coliseum (Credit: Danielle M. Sayevich)

But, there are plenty of Long Islanders who want the Islanders to stay in New York, and preferably, move back to Long Island. Danielle M. Sayevich, a life-long fan from Copiague, attended many games at “The Barn” before the franchise moved to Brooklyn.  “The thing I miss most about the Coliseum though is how close to home it was, and how easy it was to get to games,” she said in a Facebook message. Sayevich also said that along with the difficult travel for her to get to the Barclays Center, she didn’t hear any positive reviews on the seating there either.

Eric, 33, from Searington, runs @ColiseumNassau, a Twitter account that is against the Barclays Center being the home of the Islanders. “I was at the game and it was good to be at a REAL hockey building,” he said in a Twitter direct message. A second renovation to the Coliseum to increase capacity, and possibly add more concourse room would also be an idea he would support. He made sure to emphasis that the Barclays Center is not a hockey venue, to him, and to many other Islanders fans too.

Attendance Low, Passion Still High

Attendance at the Barclays Center has always been an issue for the Islanders. According to ESPN attendance data, in 2014-15, the last season the Coliseum was the home of the Islanders, attendance was higher than the seasons at the Barclays Center. Attendance during the 2016-17 was the lowest average attendance the Islanders had since the strike-shortened 2010-11 season. (Multiple requests for comment to Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment were not answered.)

One thing that didn’t change, according to tweet by Newsday reporter Arthur Staple, was the noise level inside the sold-out arena.

However, this decision isn’t simply up to loyal Long Islanders. Gary Bettman, NHL Commissioner, said he doesn’t see the Coliseum as a “viable” option, according to Newsday. When it comes to capacity for fans, the venue is lacking far behind other arenas, making the arena not a suitable place for an NHL team. But, Long Island politicians from both Nassau and Suffolk counties, including Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano, have been trying their best to find a way to get the team back on their original ice.

 

“I don’t view the Nassau Coliseum as a viable option…”

– NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman

 

Fans still have issues with the Barclays Center. Brian Heyman, a freelance journalist, attended the game and covered it for Newsday. He detailed some of the fan perspectives that he overheard. They included some fans who missed tailgating (something that can’t be done in Brooklyn), the easy commute for those who live on Long Island, and the fact that the Coliseum still had better sightlines than the Barclays Center.

In a Twitter direct message, Heyman said, “Another fan told me that as nice as it was to see the Islanders back, they still need a new building. He endorsed something that had previously been reported, the team’s interest in building an arena at Belmont Park. He called it a happy medium.” If this fan had their way, the happy medium would be an upgraded experience for a variety of reasons, like the travel there and tailgating, Heyman said. Eric said that he believe the Belmont possibility is “the clear cut first choice” for the franchise and he has already purchased a Belmont Park Arena T-shirt. On September 28th, ESPN confirmed the Islanders’ did submit a bid for a new arena at Belmont Park.

Days after the game at the Coliseum, it was reported by Newsday that NYCFC, one of New York’s two Major League Soccer franchises, would bid for a soccer stadium at Belmont Park. If that were the case, according to Jim Bauchman, that would put NYCFC in “competition with the Islanders’ plan” for an arena there, further complicating their arena issues.

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