The NHL announced Tuesday that the Sabres and Rangers will play the 2018 NHL Winter Classic at the Mets’ stadium in Queens. Despite the fact that the Sabres reside hundreds of miles away in Buffalo while the Rangers are only a borough away, the Sabres will be the “home team.” The NHL said that the decision to have the Sabres serve as the hosts was informed by “a variety of factors,” although they declined to elaborate further.
As the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle reported Wednesday, there’s a specific reason why the Rangers wouldn’t want to have a home game in Queens. The Rangers and Knicks both play in Madison Square Garden, whose owners take advantage of a property tax exemption loophole that saves them around $40 million per year. According to New York Real Property Tax Law § 429, MSG’s owners don’t have to pay any property taxes on their arena so long as both the Knicks and Rangers play in the building. If they play a home game elsewhere, the exemption vanishes:
If one or both of said teams shall cease to play their home games in said property at any time, the tax exemption provided herein shall cease immediately and such property shall immediately be restored to the tax rolls and thereupon become subject to taxation and shall be taxed pro rata for the unexpired portion of the taxable year.
New York City created the exemption in 1982 when the city was struggling economically and both teams threatened to leave unless they were granted tax concessions. The city’s budget committee has argued that the exemption is anachronistic and unnecessary, since James Dolan’s Madison Square Garden Company is valued at almost $5 billion, and they have a point. The Sabres, who have to give up a home game to accommodate Dolan, would likely agree.