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Best of 2017, #5: New York Islanders Win Belmont Park Bid

New York Islanders Belmont Park Arena Rendering

We end 2017 with a countdown of the 10 biggest stories of the year on Arena Digest, as chosen by editors and partially based on page views. Today, #5: The New York Islanders submit a winning bid for a new arena at Belmont Park

The New York Islanders now have far more certainty about their future, as the club’s proposal for a new arena at Belmont Park was announced on Wednesday as the winning bid in a request for proposals (RFP) process. This marks a major step in the club’s effort to replace Brooklyn’s Barclays Center.

The bid from New York Arena Partners, LLC–which includes the Islanders, Oak View Group, and Sterling Project Development–calls for an 18,000-seat arena that will host the Islanders and other events. Along with the arena, the project features a mix of development that includes a hotel, retail, outdoor recreation space, and an innovation center.

The Islanders have said that the arena will be privately financed, while the broader concept also includes a plan to make the existing Belmont Long Island Rail Road Station a full-time station. The Islanders are hopeful that construction could begin as early as the spring of 2018, allowing the new Belmont Park arena to open in time for the 2020-21 NHL season.

In the interim, the Islanders will have to figure out their short-term plans. When the winning bid was announced, New York governor Andrew Cuomo brought up the possibility of the Islanders playing some games at their former home, the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. NHL commissioner Gary Bettman has previously dismissed the Coliseum as a viable home for the Islanders over an extended period, but the league is expected to review the idea of allowing the team to use it for some games. More from Newsday:

Cuomo has asked NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman to allow the Islanders to play some home games at the Nassau Coliseum — which opened in April after a $160 million renovation — while construction of Belmont is underway.

The Coliseum, which seats 13,900 for hockey, is “not a viable home for the Islanders” on a permanent basis, Bettman said. But he said the NHL will “review” whether to allow the Coliseum to host some games on an interim basis.

The Islanders or Barclays can opt out of their 25-year licensing agreement in January. The team is negotiating with Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment, which operates Barclays Center and the Coliseum, on amending the lease. The negotiating window closes Jan. 1, and both sides have until Jan. 30 to deliver “opt-out” notices.

The Islanders and their partners will enter into a 49-year lease with the state and pay $40 million in rent. Empire State Development chose the pitch from the Islanders over a bid from MLS’s New York City FC, which proposed a new soccer stadium and associated development. The club currently plays its games at Yankee Stadium, and will continue working on its pursuit of a new soccer-specific facility.

The Islanders and their partners submitted the bid in September, and to that point it was known that the club had been considering its options to replace the Barclays Center, where it began playing in 2015. The arena originally opened for the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets in 2012, and has been criticized by fans and players alike as being a poor venue for hockey. Prior to their move to Brooklyn, the Islanders played at the Coliseum from 1972-2015.

Rendering courtesy New York Islanders.

Previously in our Top Ten Stories of 2017 List:

#6: Philips Arena Renovations Begin
#7: Calgary Flames’ Arena Pursuit Stalls
#8: Carolina Hurricanes Move Closer to Sale
#9: NBA G League Continues to Grow
#10: Colorado Eagles to Join AHL

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