Newsday 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.