The city of Bridgeport is working on a proposal to keep the New York Islanders AHL affiliate in Connecticut’s largest city for the next decade, according to the Connecticut Post.
The City Council met behind closed doors twice last week to discuss the proposal and could meet for a third time on Wednesday and vote, the paper reported. The deal would keep the Bridgeport Islanders in the city for the next decade while the city would agree to make $30 million in upgrades to the aging Webster Bank Arena.
The council may ask for the Islanders to pay a higher annual rent as part of some changes they could make to the lease. The team currently pays $250,000 in annual rent and the City Council may ask to increase it to $350,000.
“Two-hundred-fifty-thousand a year 20 years ago is probably up to $350,000-a-year now,” Councilman Matthew McCarthy told the Connecticut Post.
The Islanders and the City of Bridgeport have had some contentious moments over the last few years. In 2016, Mayor Joe Ganim accused the team of owing $750,000 in back rent, while the team responded with a claim that the city owed them $837,596 for repairs and maintenance they had done on Webster Bank Arena.
Things took another turn when the team took umbrage with Bridgeport’s plan to turn the desolate Ballpark at Harbor Yard’s into a summer concert amphitheater. They said it violated a non-compete clause in their lease with the city.
The City Council did take some responsibility for their role in the dispute between the city and the hockey team.
“We’re fighting over who should fix that building. It’s us,” Councilwoman Jeanette Herron told the Connecticut Post. “As a city, that’s our obligation. We are the owners.”
The New York Islanders are expected to call Webster Bank Arena their preseason home this fall while UBS Arena is completed.
The team’s lease with the city ended this year and they rebranded to the Bridgeport Islanders in May to line up more with the parent club. While speculation had begun to increase over the team potentially relocating, team president Brent Rossi told reporters that it wasn’t in the cards.
“We have working with the city over the last couple of years really to figure out what the future of this venue is going to be,” Rossi said in May. “Both from obviously from the lease perspective and from an improvements perspective to the physical venue. I will tell you I’m very optimistic and we’re heading in a very good direction where we’re going to have some very positives announcements within the next couple of months to that particular topic.”
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