Yesterday the New York Islanders announced they'd be leaving their soulless, ancient, crumbling box in Uniondale in favor of Brooklyn's new (if rusty) Barclays Center when their lease expires in 2015. Judging by the Nassau Coliseum's Yelp reviews, no one is really going to miss it:
This place is an uber-poop hole. It is infamously known as the worst professional sporting arena in all of North America. A well deserved moniker.
- The seat cushions are worn out and matted down
- There are not enough bathrooms
- The concourse is narrower than your typical high school venue
- There are seats where the overhang blocks the scoreboard
- There are seats where you must sit at a 45 degree angle if you're over 5'9".
- The food options are terrible
- Getting there EVEN FROM MANHATTAN, is like the plot to the Steve Martin + John Candy classic: Planes, Trains, and Automobiles. 1) Subway to Penn Station, 2) LIRR to Hempstead, 3) N70 to outside the arena, 4) 1/4 mile walk to arena. Really? Am I in Cleveland yet?
The team had long been looking for greener pastures. Last summer, Nassau County residents struck down a proposed tax which would have provided $400 million of government funds to build a new arena. 57 percent of voters opposed the plan. Without a new rink, the Islanders seemed destined to live out their last days in Nassau County in the dilapidated Coliseum. Yesterday's announcement only confirmed what everyone already knew.
Recently, the team has been just as ugly as the place it calls home. The Islanders haven't made the playoffs since the 2006-07 season, but all those years of sucking may soon pay off. The Isles stockpiled high draft picks and now have a core of talented young players—John Tavares, Matt Moulson, Kyle Okposo, among others—to build around. By the time they get to Brooklyn they might be a halfway decent team.
The Barclays Center, though, isn't a good place for hockey. The Islanders' current home has a capacity of 16,250 for hockey, making it the second-smallest arena in the NHL. Their new home will be smaller.
The Barclays Center was designed for basketball, so its hockey arrangement is kind of funky. The ice will be shifted towards one end, with very minimal seating on that side of the arena. Because of that, Barclays will seat only 14,500 fans, making it smaller than Winnipeg's MTS Centre, which was designed for a minor-league team.
Still, the move to Brooklyn keeps the team in the New York area for a while. That wasn't always a guarantee. As the team floundered and the walls of the arena began to crumble, cities without hockey teams licked their lips. A group of fans from Quebec rented 23 buses in 2010 and invaded the arena. Seattle just approved a plan to build a new downtown arena in hopes of attracting another NBA franchise and perhaps the city's first NHL team. And then there's Kansas City, which hasn't had an NHL team since the Scouts left to become the Colorado Rockies in 1976. (The Rockies became the New Jersey Devils in 1982). KC already has what Quebec, Seattle (and Brooklyn!) do not, a new, gleaming NHL-sized arena.
The Islanders and Devils were supposed to play a preseason game at the Barclays, but that isn't happening because of the whole lockout thing. With the Isles' impending move, the two KHL games scheduled to be played in Brooklyn in January suddenly got a whole lot more interesting. SKA St. Petersburg and Dynamo Moscow are supposed to play at the Barclays Center on January 19 and 20. If it doesn't go well, is it too late for Charles Wang to backtrack and say, "Eh, no thanks"?