The ongoing saga surrounding the renovated Nassau Coliseum continued with a new wrinkle.
Naming rights sponsor New York Community Bank is exiting its long-term deal with the arena, Newsday reported. The building has been formally knowns as NYCB Live’s Nassau Coliseum since it reopened in 2017 after renovations were completed.
Nick Mastroianni II, the new leaseholder for the Nassau Coliseum, allowed NYCB to exit the agreement early, bank officials told the newspaper. The main reason, according to the report, is the uncertainty surrounding the Nassau HUB site.
The future of the Coliseum, as well as the surrounding 77-acres, has come into question once again after Onexim Sports and Entertainment announced they were shutting down the venue in June while they looked for someone to take over the lease. A deal was reached last week between Nassau County and Mastroianni for the Florida-based businessman Mastroianni to take over the lease immediately.
When Onexim, which is owned by Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov, shuttered the venue in June it raised plenty of questions about where the New York Islanders would play their final season before UBS Arena opens at Belmont Park. Earlier this year, prior to COVID-19, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that the Islanders would play all playoff games at Nassau Coliseum and the entire 2020-21 season would be played on Long Island.
Nassau County officials remain optimistic that the Islanders will play one more season at the Barn before relocating to UBS Arena for the 2021-22 season. It remains unclear, however, if fans will even be allowed inside arenas when the 2020-21 season starts this winter, whenever that is.
The Islanders called the Coliseum home from 1972 up until 2015. The team relocated to Barclays Center for the 2015-16 season, but began splitting time between the renovated Coliseum and Barclays Center during the 2018-19 NHL season.
Should New York Islanders Explore Outdoor Hockey Games for 2020-21 Season?
NHL owners are exploring any way they can to make money this upcoming season with hockey-related revenue expected to take a massive hit due to the COVID-19 pandemic. That includes potentially playing multiple games in outdoor venues.
Multiple media reports have indicated that it is an idea that is on the table and that several teams specifically have shown interest in it. According to The Athletic, the Pittsburgh Penguins, Boston Bruins, Carolina Hurricanes, Dallas Stars, Los Angeles Kings, Nashville Predators and Florida Panthers have all expressed interest.
Sportnet in Canada reported that the Anaheim Ducks were also among the teams interested.
For the record, that same report by The Athletic indicates that the New York Islanders do not want to participate in outdoor games this year. But is that the right call?
In general, the idea makes plenty of sense. Outdoor events are allowed larger crowds than indoor ones and various markets in the NFL have opened their stadiums to limited capacity crowds. The NHL is a gate-driven league and being able to host a higher volume of fans in a safe manner would be a big boost for the owners.
However, if you look at which teams are confirmed to have shown interest in the outdoor game idea, a majority of them are in states that are allowing limited numbers of fans into sporting events already. Boston, Los Angeles and Anaheim are the lone exceptions, with Los Angeles issuing new stay-at-home orders as COVID-19 numbers spike in the city and across the state of California.
In the Islanders case, the idea would be an exciting one to see come to fruition, but it remains unclear what benefit it would have for them financially. As of now, New York does not allow fans to attend professional sporting events in the state.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo had previously expressed hope to allow limited numbers of fans to attend Buffalo Bills games. In early November Gov. Cuomo said it would be “reckless” to allow fans into the games, and with rising COVID-19 numbers across the state that likely won’t change any time soon.
So without fans likely allowed in the venue for the first month or so of the season anyway and the high cost it would be to rent out Citi Field or Yankee Stadium, it made sense to see the Islanders balk at the idea.
Credit Charles Wang for Helping to Get New York Islanders to Belmont Park, Says Ledecky
When the New York Islanders new arena opens at Belmont Park next fall, you can be sure there will be plenty of dignitaries on hand to celebrate the occasion. One who won’t be is former Islanders owner Charles Wang.
The late Islanders owner passed away on Oct. 21, 2018, after a battle with lung cancer.
While Wang won’t be able to celebrate the Islanders return to Long Island and Nassau County, currant co-owner Jon Ledecky said on Wednesday that Wang deserves a lot of credit for getting them to Belmont Park. Ledecky was speaking at a Sports Business Journal virtual event when the comments were made.
“A salute to Charles Wang, the former owner of the Islanders who was our partner,” Ledecky said, according to NY SportsDay. “He was the one who suggested having a meeting with NYRA (New York Racing Association) to go and see the site and that really stimulated all of us about what the possibilities would be at that campus.”
It was Wang who had started looking at the idea of possibly building a new arena for the team at Belmont Park back in 2015, just as the Islanders were beginning their run at Barclays Center. Wang and NYRA board member Michael Dubb scouted the area in December of that year.
Several months later on a snowy day, Wang met with NYRA chief executive Christopher Kay.
“Charles deserves all the credit. The Islanders don’t come back to Long Island without Charles,” Dubb told Newsday in 2018 following Wang’s death.
Ledecky’s comments on Wednesday were also not his first praising Wang for the vision he had for the Islanders at the famed Long Island horse track. The current Islanders co-owner had a similar comment in 2018 as well.
“The arena at Belmont Park will be just one of (Charles Wang’s) many legacies left to the team and to Long Island,” Ledecky said in a statement at the time.
While Wang’s vision helped get the ball rolling, the Islanders do owe a debt of gratitude to the current governor of New York Andrew Cuomo. Gov. Cuomo has been one of the biggest — and most influential — supporters of the Islanders arena project.
It’s the most support the Islanders have had politically since former New York Gov. David Patterson threw some support behind the Lighthouse Project in 2009.
“Thank you to Governor Cuomo because without his vision of the need for the Islanders who had needed a new home for over two decades…his vision of going to Belmont and about recognizing Belmont as a site that could work, we wouldn’t be there right now,” Ledecky said during the SBJ event.
Deal with Coliseum Lease Holder Allows Isles to Play There During Restrictions
An agreement between Nassau County and new Nassau Coliseum leaseholder Nassau Live Center LLC would allow for the New York Islanders to use the Coliseum during the COVID-19 restrictions should the NHL season start up in 2021, According to Newsday.
Nassau Live Center LLC, which is run by Florida businessman Nick Mastroianni II, took over operations of the Nassau Coliseum in August after Mikhail Prokhorov owned Onexim Sports and Entertainment shuttered the building earlier this year. The new arrangement between the County and Mastroianni would allow for Mastroianni to forgo the $4 million a month rent payments to Nassau County until at least next summer.
As part of that, the Islanders would be allowed to play at the Coliseum with or without fans in the building next season. The 2020-21 season is the Islanders final one before they move to UBS Arena at Belmont Park.
In September Islanders general manager Lou Lamoriello told reporters that the Islanders would play their final year before Belmont at Nassau Coliseum despite the uncertainty at the time surrounding the use of the county-owned facility.
“We will definitely be playing at the Coliseum next year. That is a confirmation,” Lamoriello said in September.
The NHL is targeting a Jan. 1 start date, but there is no firm plan in place yet on how the league will start by that date. Among the many aspects the NHL is trying to plan for is whether or not they will use hub cities to begin the year or have teams play in their home arenas.
An amendment was also agreed upon, according to Newsday, that would give Mastroianni “until six months after the state lifts restrictions on arena events” to submit a plan to the County for the Nassau Coliseum. Oak View Group, which is a part owner and operator of the Islanders new arena at Belmont Park, proposed downsizing the Coliseum to a 5,000 seat music-focused venue.
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