Voted Off the Island?

The New York Islanders’ future could be in jeopardy after Long Island residents voted against a new arena.

Ed Millerby Ed Miller

For the last 39 years, the New York Islanders have called Long Island and Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum home but that could all change in the not too distant future.  On Monday, Nassau County residents voted against a $400 million referendum that would have led to a new home for the Islanders.  Many are now speculating that without a new stadium, the Islanders could be the NHL’s next victim of relocation.

Residents voted 33,526 to 24,553 in favor of nay in an election that officials said was a low turnout, with only about 15 percent showing up to make their voice heard.  Troubles with the Long Island Rail Road and bad weather in the afternoon may have scared some voters away. 

The Islanders current home – nicknamed the Coliseum – has been home to the Islanders since the team joined the league in 1972, as an expansion team.  For years, owner Charles Wang has been toying with the notion of finding a new place for the Islanders to call home.  The push for a new arena came, in part because of how outdated and run down the Coliseum has become.  Wang's biggest plan for New York’s current home came in 2009 and became known as "The Lighthouse Project.” It would have been privately financed and would have cost an estimated $3.74 billion that included a refurbished Coliseum, a minor-league baseball stadium and various other housing, hotels and businesses in the area.

During this past season, the Islanders even asked the county for $4 million for repairs which included fixing the roof, lower-bowl seating and improving the ice surface.  The arena needs plenty more than a touch up and the Islander’s lease with the Nassau Coliseum isn’t up until 2015, so what happens after that?

The team and the league have several different options for what it could do with the team.  At the top of that list is the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.  The arena –which opens next year – will be the new home of the New Jersey Nets of the NBA but will seat an estimated 18,000 fans.  There is also a spot adjacent to Citi Field in Queens that could be a potential spot for a new home.  A relocation could be another option, as there are a couple of cities in the market for an expansion NHL team. 

If the Islanders move west, there are one city that could house an NHL franchise tomorrow, if the opportunity presented itself.  As a matter of fact Kansas City, Missouri welcomed the Islanders in 2009 for a preseason game, which could have been the city’s way of showing it wants to bid for a team, despite past history.  For two years in the mid 70s, Kansas City was home to the Scouts but the team was forced to relocate to Denver due to debt problems.

Las Vegas is another viable option.

The city has long been interested in acquiring a major league franchise and just this year, Mayor Oscar Goodman made it clear he plans to do whatever is in his power to get an arena built in the hopes of luring a major league franchise to the Sin City.  And let’s not forget, Canada is always an option when it comes to relocating.

And now we wait.  We have to wait and see what all the legal mumbo jumbo and politics will lead to in Nassau County but it would be a shame if a team so rich in NHL history had to find a new home.


Photo courtesy of The Associated Press.