Islanders moving to Brooklyn
NEW YORK -- The New York Islanders are officially Brooklyn-bound.
The Islanders announced Wednesday that they've agreed to move from Long Island to Brooklyn's Barclays Center and share the $1 billion arena with the Nets.
"You don't have to worry about the future of this team," NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said at a news conference Wednesday. "It's remaining local."
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The Islanders have established a 25-year agreement to play at Barclays Center beginning in the 2015-16 season. Their lease at Nassau Coliseum expires after the 2014-15 season.
Islanders owner Charles Wang said he plans to honor the existing lease and also plans on retaining 100 percent ownership of the team. Wang added that the 25-year agreement is "ironclad" when asked about a potential opt-out. The Islanders' team name and logo will not change.
"We are the New York Islanders," Wang said.
The announcement was made with Wang, Bettman, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Brooklyn borough president Marty Markowitz, Islanders general manager Garth Snow, Barclays Center owner and developer Bruce Ratner, and Barclays Center and Brooklyn Nets chief executive Brett Yormark in attendance.
"Brooklyn is big-time and now we have the big league sports to prove it," Bloomberg said.
Ratner said Wang had "very good offers to move the team out of our state, very good offers, and Charles wouldn't do that."
Ratner later called Wang "a hero."
As of now, Barclays Center would only hold 14,500 for hockey, but Bettman says plans are in place to increase the attendance to "15,000-plus." At 15,004, Winnipeg's MTS Centre currently has the NHL's smallest capacity. Nassau Coliseum only seats 16,234, making it the second-smallest venue in terms of capacity.
"A thousand seats ... I don't think it makes a material difference," Bettman said. "It's not an issue."
Out With the Old ...
The Islanders' move to Brooklyn's Barclays Center beginning in the 2015-16 season shouldn't come as a surprise. The Isles have been looking to move from or upgrade their present home, the Nassau Coliseum, for some time. Here are the oldest current arenas in the NHL:
|Rangers||Madison Square Garden*||1968|
|Red Wings||Joe Louis Arena||1979|
|* 4th different building named MSG|
-- ESPN Stats & Information
Said Yormark: "We will make the necessary commitments to be a first-class facility for the Islanders."
Barclays Center does not have separate locker rooms for hockey, but when asked whether they would be added, Yormark responded, "I think that's fair to say."
The Islanders had been trying to secure a new arena near the site of the Coliseum for some time. Wang, the founder of a computer software company, presented a plan in 2003 for a privately funded multibillion-dollar development of housing, retail space and a new arena on the property, but the proposal foundered amid community opposition.
Nassau County voters also rejected a $400 million proposal for a new arena, funded by bonds, in August 2001.
"It will be tough leaving such a historic building on Long Island, but we need a new rink and Barclays is a state-of-the-art facility that will be a great home for us," Islanders winger Matt Moulson told ESPNNewYork.com via text message. "I hope the fans that have stood by this team through good and bad times continue to support us on our quest for the Stanley Cup."
As recently as April, Bettman said Brooklyn might not be a viable destination for the Islanders because it's hard to reach for the team's fan base in Long Island and Queens. However, the team's announcement of a news conference at the Barclays Center trumpeted the fact that it is located "atop one of the largest transportation hubs in New York City ... accessible by 11 subway lines, the Long Island Rail Road, and 11 bus lines."
The 10 Greatest Islanders
In honor of their impending move to Brooklyn, we look back at the Islanders' Top 10 players. Photo Gallery
The outdated Coliseum -- it was built in 1971 and opened in 1972 -- is no longer suitable for the NHL, Bettman said. Despite Nassau holding over 16,000 fans, the Islanders' average attendance last season was 13,191.
"It is unfortunate that we were unable to keep the team in Nassau County," the Islanders' Matt Martin said in a text. "Obviously, there is a ton of history there and it is sad to see that come to an end, but in saying that, I'm extremely excited that we were able to remain in New York and for the team's fresh start in Brooklyn at the Barclays Center. I'm happy to be part of this new beginning."
Nets coach Avery Johnson said Wednesday he's happy to be sharing the arena with the Islanders but believes "at the end of the day, the focus of the whole Barclays Center project is Nets basketball."
"At the end of the day, I've often used college football as an example," Johnson said. "At the end of the day, we are the college football program. So even though a university has other sports, we are the major team. And we're the driving force. "But at the same time, the building needs to produce revenue, and having that 40-some-odd more dates a year, I think that's great."
Information from ESPN.com's Pierre LeBrun, ESPN The Magazine's Craig Custance, ESPNNewYork.com's Katie Strang and The Associated Press was used in this report.