Make no mistake about ; this was as Rocky Balboa versus Apollo Creed as it gets. The heavy hitting favorite in one corner, James Dolan and his Madison Square Garden empire versus Bruce Ratner and his Barclays Center backers which include hip hop mogul Jay Z.
Almost everyone, myself included, figured that with Dolan’s powerful connections and cash flow that he would win the bid easily. But Ratner would not go down without a fight. Battling all the way to the 15th and final round, Nassau County executive Ed Magnano announced he had chosen the winning bid earlier this morning, deciding to go with Ratner and 1.4 million dollars per year in extra revenue.
What does this exactly mean for the future of the New York Islanders hockey club? Nothing actually. It’s more of a win to the true die-hard fans on the Island who felt slighted not only by their local politicians (Kate Murray in particular) and their neighbors (who voted against a very small tax increase to fund renovation). They get to keep some sense of sanity and loyalty to Long Island’s only professional sports team without the rival MSG corporation coming in to monopolize the area further.
The Islanders ARE moving to Barclays Center. And it now could happen even a year sooner than planned, in time for the 2014-15 puck drop. The original proposal that Ratner had laid out had the Islanders coming back to the Coliseum for at least six ‘home’ games. I say no to that. A team needs a home ice identity and stability. The Coliseum could and will be redeveloped for other entertainment events that will bring revenue and jobs in Hempstead.
Any talk of ‘moving back’ to Nassau after the Barclays lease expires is premature. The supposed ‘iron-clad’ agreement for the Isles to play in Brooklyn is just too profitable and marketable to even attempt to break or get around.
The Sound Tigers, playing their home games in Connecticut at Webster Bank Arena also have a long-term lease agreement to 2021. Now, I do not know the particulars or if there are any ‘out’ clauses contained but in all likelihood, expect the Tigers to stay where they are, at least for the immediate future.
The news will come soon enough as Ratner and his team fine tune their blueprints for the site and make them available to the public. Until then, we wait and allow the diehards their moment in the sun. It in no way can ever make up for losing the only professional sports team many have ever known but hopefully softens the blow somewhat.
And if nothing else, provides another opportunity to chirp at our neighbors across the pond in Manhattan.