New York Islanders: Belmont Arena Not Expected To Open Until 2021-22

NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 07: The New York Islanders celebrate a 5-4 shootout victory over the New Jersey Devils at the Barclays Center on January 7, 2018 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 07: The New York Islanders celebrate a 5-4 shootout victory over the New Jersey Devils at the Barclays Center on January 7, 2018 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

The New York Islanders were recently awarded the rights to develop a brand new arena on the site of Belmont Park Racetrack in Elmont, NY. A new analysis of the contract details has the arena tentatively being ready for the beginning of the 2021-22 NHL season.

The New York Islanders are still feeling the intoxicating effects of victory after submitting the winning bid to develop a new arena at Belmont Park Racetrack. Jim Baumbach of Newsday wrote a column outlining the construction schedule for the new arena. His estimates have the arena being ready for the beginning of the New York Islanders’ 2021-22 season.

After moving into Kings County for the 2015-16 season, the Islanders were well aware of a clause in their lease with the Barclays Center in Downtown Brooklyn. That clause gives them the opportunity to nullify their lease agreement and leave the Barclays Center after the 2018-19 season.

Due to league-wide complaints about the ice-quality of the Barclays Center and well-publicized issues with spectator sight-lines throughout the arena, the Islanders knew their stay in Brooklyn wouldn’t be permanent. Soon after beginning to play in the Barclays Center, we almost immediately began to hear rumors about the Isles wanting out.

Let’s get to work

Now that the New York Islanders winning bid has been selected, it’s time for the real work to begin. Obviously, the Isles want to get out of the Barclays Center as soon as possible. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and a small army of league representatives went to the renovated Nassau Coliseum last week to gauge what improvements would need to be made in order for the Islanders to make their home there while they are waiting to move back home to Long Island.

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The NHL has said publicly that they would be open to the Islanders temporarily playing their home games at the Nassau Coliseum, pending league approval of the facilities. That would certainly bode well for the New York Islanders fans, most of whom live on Long Island. Traveling into Downtown Brooklyn has been a chore for Islanders fans who were used to driving to Uniondale and tailgating in the parking lot before games.

The roar of the crowd at the Isles’ preseason game at the Coliseum this year dwarfed anything I’ve ever heard from the fans at the Barclays Center. Those couple of hours hanging out in the lot brings us fans together. It’s an integral part of the experience. Getting the ball rolling on the construction of the New York Islanders’ new arena (parking lot included) can’t come soon enough.

New York Islanders Belmont Arena Estimated Timeline

The timeline of events leading up to the grand opening of the Islanders new arena has a detailed, but fairly basic, structure. The biggest hurdle of the process has already been cleared, which was getting the state’s approval to develop on the land. Pending final approval, which is basically a formality at this point, the New York Islanders have secured their new home.

According to an analysis of the bid’s details, performed by Newsday, there are two major phases to still be completed before the Islanders can move in. The first order of business is for Empire State Development (ESD) to have an environmental review of the land to survey any impact the development will have on the community.

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That process is expected to take anywhere from 12 to 16 months, according to Newsday’s estimates. If the environmental review begins in March, as planned, this should pave the way for the Islanders to begin the next phase of the new arena’s development, construction, sometime in Spring of 2019.

Trust the process

As per Jim Baumbach’s column in Newsday, the New York Islanders have quite the road ahead of them before they can move into their new digs. Initially, the Islanders were hoping the Belmont arena would be ready for the start of the 2020-21 season. Judging by the construction timeframes of arenas recently built in the NY/Metro area, a 2020 opening may not be feasible.

From Baumbach’s article in Newsday:

"“Construction at Citi Field, for example, began in November 2006 and the stadium opened 28 months later for the start of the Mets’ 2009 season. Browne said construction on Citi Field was completed on time and came in $40 million under budget.Construction on the new Yankee Stadium began in August 2006 and it opened in April 2009 — a span of 32 months.It’s important to note, though, that no two stadium timelines are alike. Barclays Center in Brooklyn was approved in March 2005 but the start of construction was delayed more than five years because of various lawsuits. It opened 30 months later.”"

Once the environmental review is complete and approved, construction can commence. As per Baumbach, sources say this process can take anywhere from 26 to 30 months. If everything works out as planned, the New York Islanders new arena would be ready to go for the beginning of the 2021-22 season.

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If the Isles can secure the NHL’s blessing to temporarily use the Nassau Coliseum as their home arena, the transition into Belmont could be practically seamless. If the New York Islanders can lock up John Tavares to a long-term contract, things would be looking pretty good in Islander-land.