New York Islanders fans had a number of complaints about the experience of going to home games at the Barclays Center. Team management has heard them and changes should be coming.
New York Islanders co-majority owner John Ledecky spoke on the NHL Networks NHL Tonight to discuss his niece, Katie Ledecky’s overwhelming success at the Rio Olympics as well as questions regarding rumors of the team moving from the Barclays Center.
Just a month ago a number of reports started emerging that the New York Islanders franchise were looking to ditch the Barclays Center after just a year.
Reports had the Isles looking at building an arena at Willets Point, next to Citi Field. Or looking at Belmont Park as a potential site for a new arena. And even that the team could return to Long Island.
But in Ledecky’s statement, he put some of those rumors to rest and identified that both parties, Barclays, and the Isles were focused on improving the “fan experience”. How they do that still remains unknown.
Here’s Ledecky’s full answer about Barclays:
Barclays Center is a first class facility, it’s our home and Barclays Center management has been very receptive in helping us to improve the fan experience. It’s interesting to read press accounts but Barclays Center is our home, and even if one was to surmise that a new arena was being planned, that would take a long time in the New York market.
So I think what we’re focused on is improving the fan experience, improving transportation to and from the games for the fans who remain loyal from the Long Island market, making fans in the New York City metropolitan area understand that we have a great team and making sure the experience inside Barclays is an A-plus experience both for the fans and for the players.
To their credit, [CEO] Brett Yormark and his group at Barclays Center have been working very actively in the offseason to improve the experience on many different levels, and I’m sure at the appropriate time, we’ll roll out an announcement about what we’ve done in the offseason to welcome the fans even more to Barclays.
How to Increase the Fan Experience
Increasing fan experience is a fairly vague statement. The experience differs from one fan to the next and can involve just about anything from the color on the walls to what hangs in the rafters.
CBS polled fans on Twitter about the major issues that they faced in terms of experience at the Barclays Center. Some of the responses they received are fairly obvious, and should be quick wins for the Barclays Center to incorporate.
You can find the full list here. We just wanted to list a few items that Barclays can easily address in order to increase fan experience.
- Hang ALL of the team’s championship banners.
Most NHL teams have all their championship banners up in the rafters, not just Stanley Cup championships but division championships as well. These were hanging at the Nassau Coliseum but didn’t make the move over to Barclays. Fans want to be able to celebrate these major accomplishments.
- Add more blue and orange signage inside the building. To some fans, Barclays feels too generic.
There’s no better way to feel like you don’t belong then the omission of your community. The Barclays Center was purpose built for basketball. And fans can feel it when they walk around the Barclays Center.
The Brooklyn Nets name can be seen throughout Barclays, but there’s no sign of the Islanders. It’s incredibly alienating to walk into a building knowing you don’t necessarily belong. It just doesn’t feel like home.
Maybe painting the aisles orange and blue won’t fly, but calling to the community and to the fans sense of identity with their colors, images, signs and banners would go a long way for the Isles faithful to feel at home at the Barclays.
- Allow fans to move down into the lower bowl seating to watch warmups, even if they don’t have a ticket for the sections in question.
Most arenas, if not all of them already allow this. It’s a no brainer in order to align the Barclays with the common feel of NHL arenas around the league.
This isn’t reinventing the wheel for Barclays either, just consult the other arena operators on what their security protocol is for pre-game warmups and copy it. Or how about they just ask their new hire Kevin Gilmore how to do it.
Quick Wins Make Big Difference
These are just quick wins that could help increase fan experience at the Barclays Center. Are there bigger and better solutions? Absolutely.
But bigger solutions require just that, a bigger solution. Something a bit more complex to solve. Like those obstructed seats. How do you fix that? Barclays dropped the price for those seats.
The experience requires a significant upgrade there’s no doubt about it. Fixing it isn’t going to be easy.
A few quick wins such as hanging all of our championship banners, or making it feel like our home by representing our team colors, and letting fans truly experience what it is to go to an NHL hockey game would be progress in the right direction and make a big difference.