Thursday, January 23, 2014

Islanders won't leave Long Island a year early: Report

The Islanders will honor their lease with Nassau County and remain at their Nassau Coliseum home through the end of the 2014-15 hockey season before moving to Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

The Islanders had preliminary discussions in recent months about the team leaving the Uniondale, Long Island arena at the end of this season, but the conversations never advanced and the idea was scrapped, reports Newsday.

Islanders owner Charles Wang announced in October 2012 that after repeated attempts to build a new arena for his club in Nassau, the team would move to Brooklyn beginning with the 2015-16 season.

Developer Bruce Ratner, who built the Barclays Center and won the rights last year to redevelop the Coliseum, said in August that it was "highly likely" the Islanders would complete their lease and remain in Nassau through 2015.

But Ratner, executive chairman of Forest City Ratner Cos., and Islanders officials had refused to close the window on an early departure, leading to speculation on social media by fans that Long Island's only major league sports franchise could exit earlier than expected. Especially after the Islanders and Devils played the first NHL game ever — an exhibition match — at Barclays in September.

In a statement Wednesday, Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano said he was "looking forward to a successful 2015 Islanders hockey season."

The Islanders have leases with Nassau County and SMG, the Coliseum's Pennsylvania-based property manager. All three parties would have had to sign off on a deal allowing the Islanders to leave a year early.

Islanders senior vice president Michael Picker and SMG officials did not return calls for comment.

A 2011 proposal by Mangano to authorize spending $400 million in public funds to construct a new arena — and hopefully keep the team — was voted down by taxpayers.

Ratner was selected by Mangano to renovate the Coliseum and will spend $229 million in private funds to rebuild the 41-year-old arena and construct an adjacent plaza with attractions including restaurants, shopping, a movie theater and an outdoor amphitheater.

Work on the project is expected to begin in August 2015 after the Islanders vacate the arena.

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