The New York Islanders were behind the eight ball when they spent their final days in Long Island. Nassau Coliseum was falling apart, and their leverage options were dwindling. So when they worked out a deal to play for 25 years in Brooklyn, it seemed like a good compromise for fans who wanted to see their beloved Islanders stay in the New York area.
But the Islanders are 28th in the league in attendance, there are way too many obstructed view seats, and the CEO of the Islanders new home, Brett Yormark, has battled Islanders fans about goal horns and anti-Rangers chants. It hasn’t been a happy marriage between the team and the building. And now it looks like the Islanders are looking to escape before the newlywed period is even over:
The Islanders’ relationship with Barclays Center has been on such thin ice during the club’s first season in Brooklyn that both sides are secretly exploring ways to cut ties or modify the existing terms of their lease, The Post has learned.
The Islanders were losing roughly $20 million annually playing at the antiquated Nassau Coliseum — their home for 43 years — when owner Charles Wang in 2012 cut a 25-year lease deal with Barclays Center to have the team move there beginning this season. The lease includes a little-known out clause that kicks in after the fourth season that both sides could take advantage of, sources said.
This marriage seems to have been made in hell from the beginning. First off, if you think that having the Long Island Railroad (or the LIRR for you locals) heading straight to the Barclays Center is an upgrade over the out of the way drive that Islanders fans had to make to the old Coliseum, Long Islanders are used to driving. They drive everywhere. The Coliseum, as decrepit as it might have been near the end, was centrally located in the heart of the fan base. From Brooklyn, a lot of Islanders fans have at least an hour ride home from Brooklyn on the train, and that’s just to Hempstead, where the old barn was. Many Islanders fans live further away from there, so on a weeknight it’s either an 90 minute trip from a 10:10 train which will put them home close to midnight. That’s a lot of the fan base that would just opt to not go anymore.
Second, and now I can speak to this having taken in the Red Wings/Islanders game in person this past Monday (my first Isles game in Brooklyn): There’s no chance that an Islander fan can truly feel at home in that place. And full disclosure: I’m not an Islander fan. But they deserve better. At Madison Square Garden, for example, Rangers fans can go and not be subject to ubiquitous Knicks stuff all over the place and vice versa. Even in a stadium shared by rivals like Met Life Stadium, home to the Jets and Giants, a Jets fan can go there and not get the feeling that this is the home of the Giants as they used to in the old Meadowlands. But when you are at your seat in Brooklyn, Nets signage dominates the structure. Even worse, in the concourses of Barclays on Monday afternoon, the televisions are playing an interview with Brook Lopez instead of anything having to do with the Islanders. That would seem like such a simple adjustment, but it’s obviously one that the Barclays folks still haven’t figured out. And it’s February. I can’t blame Islanders fans for feeling like they’re crashing at a friend’s place instead of being home.
Not to mention the atmosphere of the place, which was dead. And that isn’t dead in comparison to Saturday night games, I’m talking dead in comparison to other weekday afternoon holiday games which took place in the Coliseum, which is about the fairest comparison you could make. It isn’t home. And it’s increasingly clear that it can’t be permanent.