The Bridgeport Islanders must save the Nassau Coliseum

Another professional sports tenant is set to leave the Old Barn in 2025.

Tampa Bay Lightning v New York Islanders - Game Six
Tampa Bay Lightning v New York Islanders - Game Six / Steven Ryan/GettyImages

The NY Islanders played their first 42 seasons at the Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale. Since the opening of UBS Arena in 2021, the Islanders' former home has been in a state of trying with a professional sports franchise to consider the Coliseum their home. On February 21st, the New York Riptide of the National Lacrosse League announced they will be relocating north of the United States border from Uniondale to Ottawa for their 2025 season. After failing to grow a fanbase on Long Island since the team was founded in 2019, the Riptide became the latest franchise to depart the 'Old Barn.'

When the Islanders departed for the Barclays Center in Brooklyn in 2015, Nassau Coliseum went under a $180 million renovation project. The new Coliseum was constructed by Forest City Enterprises, the founder and owner of Brooklyn's Barclays Center. After years of debating and negotiating plans for the Lighthouse Project, Long Island residents were relieved a real estate investor was willing to take on the challenge of re-igniting the Old Barn. Islanders fans were hopeful the team would opt out of their lease with the Barclays Center and return to their true home in Uniondale.

Once the renovations were completed in 2017, fans realized Forest City Enterprises built a smaller arena compared to the original Coliseum. The new arena only held a capacity of 13,900 occupants for hockey, the smallest among all 31 NHL venues at the time. Commissioner Gary Bettman would not grant the Islanders permission to make the Coliseum their permanent home but allowed the team to return from 2019-2021 until UBS Arena was completed. The Isles made many new memories during this short time, concluding their Coliseum tenure with a Game 6 victory against the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2021.

With the Islanders now playing their home games in Elmont and the Riptide leaving for Ottawa, the NBA G-League's Long Island Nets are the Coliseum's last remaining tenant. There has been public consideration to renovating the Coliseum once more, except the venue would now either be for hospitality, medical research, or a casino. With nothing set in stone and considering Long Island is not an NBA stronghold for the Nets, is there a team that can save the Old Barn?

Long Island would embrace the Bridgeport Islanders.

UBS Arena is a beautiful venue that will now host the 2026 NHL All-Star Game. The arena has had success drawing hockey fans, concertgoers, and mixed-martial arts fans since its inception in 2021. However, Islanders fans have drawbacks due to the harsh commute from Suffolk County to the border of Queens. Suffice it to say fans wish the arena stood on the same property the Coliseum holds now in Uniondale.

For those who cannot commute often enough to watch their favorite hockey team live in Elmont, a minor league hockey team would be an ideal replica. The Islanders' AHL affiliate plays its home games at Total Mortgage Arena in Bridgeport, Connecticut. The team ranks fourth-to-last in attendance this season, drawing just 3,141 fans per game. While Bridgeport is just a ferry ride away from Port Jefferson, New England is not an ideal fit for a New York-affiliated franchise attempting to grow a fanbase.

Islanders fans would also relish their first accessible opportunity to watch the team's prospects live and in person. We hear on the broadcast and read about how the AHL Islanders players are performing but do not have a true connection. This has been a frustration of New York Jets fans since the team moved their practice facility from Hofstra University to Florham Park, New Jersey, leaving most of their fanbase with no interaction with their players.

The Riptides' decision to relocate after the 2024 NLL season sparked Islanders fans' reaction to finding a new tenant to occupy the Coliseum. Since the AHL Islanders have failed to garner attention in Bridgeport, fans on Long Island would welcome the affiliate's move to Uniondale. While financial and lease agreement terms have not been released to the public regarding the AHL Islanders' commitment to Bridgeport, it is clear fans are not traveling hours from Long Island to watch the team. Since UBS Arena has drawbacks for commuters from the central and eastern ends of Nassau and Suffolk counties, the AHL Islanders would be embraced at the Nassau Coliseum.