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Wang meets with Mets about new Flushing Meadow arena

New York IslandersNewsday is reporting that New York Mets Chief Operating Officer Jeff Wilpon met with New York Islanders Charles Wang about moving the NHL franchise to a new potential arena next to Citi Field, following up on earlier discussions to buy the team.

The discussions are in the early stages.

Wang has worked for several years on a renovation or replacement of the Nassau Coliseum, the team’s new home. He’s proposed an ambitious development called Lighthouse that would surround the arena with mixed-use development, but local officials have refused to approve the project. The project also at one time contained a Class AA ballpark that would be either built or managed by the Mets, whose other foray into minor-league sports, the Brooklyn Cyclones (short season; NY-Penn League), has been a success.

An arena, of course, is considerably more ambitious than a minor-league ballpark. And moving the Islanders to a new Flushing Meadow arena is ambitious, to say the least. While the NHL wouldn’t have a problem with the Islanders moving elsewhere in the New York City market (indeed, Wang has also talked with the NBA’s New Jersey Nets about a move to the new Brooklyn arena, Barclays Center), finding the money for a new arena would be an issue. It costs $500 million for a state-of-the-art arena in the New York City market these days, and it’s doubtful the city would fund such a project, though Wilpon and crew probably could float more bonds using the same city mechanisms used to finance Citi Field. There’s certainly enough land for the project.

But once built, there’s a larger issue: competing in the New York City market. There’s a good rule of thumb in the arena world: it’s very hard for a market to support more than one major arena. In New York, there are already four — Madison Square Garden, Prudential Center, the Meadowlands, and the Nassau Coliseum. A new Brooklyn arena would bring that to five. Of those existing four arenas, only one is thriving — Madison Square Garden — while the Nassau Coliseum and two Newark arenas struggle (though a deal to coordinate bookings in Jersey should solve some of the issues). Of course, New York City is like no other market in the world — but adding another arena to the mix may be too much.

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