Opinion: So what if the Barclays / Islanders Opt Out Story Is True?
By now, everyone has read or been told about Friday’s New York Post story: Islanders, Barclays eye escape clause to get out of Brooklyn. I have never seen so many media members collectively looking to trash an article as much as this one. I’ve seen the article written by Josh Kosman and Rich Calder described as garbage, click bait, irresponsible journalism. I could go on.
From the start, my take on the story was quite different.
Yes, the headline is attention grabbing. Yes, you can say the New York Post is guilty of fueling speculation. Yes, it could have been more vetted. No, you can’t say that there isn’t any truth behind it.
Jon Ledecky and Scott Malkin become majority owners in July 2016 – they were not the owners of the Islanders when the Barclays Center lease was negotiated. Mikhail Prokhorov did not have 100% control of the arena until this past December. He also bought control of the renovated Nassau Coliseum. With new players now in place and gaining control heading into next season, why is it so hard to imagine one if not both sides exploring other options?
The “little known” clause mentioned in the article has been known for over the last year. Kosman himself and we at IslesBlog wrote about it in December 2014. The clause is there for a reason and the “ironclad” 25 year lease once described by Charles Wang is anything but.
After a tumultuous first season in Brooklyn, one full of public relations gaffes and vocal fan displeasure, I would be disappointed in Ledecky/Malkin if they WEREN’T looking at alternatives. That’s the type of ownership you want to have, not owners that are going to kick up their feet and collect while their fans remain unsettled and unhappy.
Earlier this afternoon, Kosman joined Evan Roberts on WFAN to expand on his story and suggested the Barclays agreement to pay the Islanders $53.5 million per year was that predicated on the belief that team’s attendance would be in excess of 14,000 a game. Right now New York is ranked 28th of 30th in the NHL, averaging 13,424 ahead of only Carolina and Arizona.
*The Islanders are ranked 26th in capacity percentage at 84.9%.
The Post also floats the idea of a Willets Point arena in Queens and references the refurbished Coliseum being built both as potential, while still, longshot options. Just because they aren’t viable options right now shouldn’t preclude new ownership from seeing what’s possible. Now to the part everyone up in arms seems to be forgetting. It does not say the Islanders are definitely leaving or want to leave Brooklyn.
Does any of this mean that a future between the Islanders and Brooklyn is already over? Absolutely not. In fact, Ledecky/Malkin were in New York City last week meeting with sports marketing / public relations executives to examine ways to attract new fans and improve the in-game experience. They want to do whatever necessary to build off year one and make it better.
This is called due-diligence. This is called exploring all possibilities. This is smart.
“Executives with the Islanders believe Barclays is going to exercise their out,” Kosman told Roberts. Barclays Center has the NBA, it has Boxing, it has College Basketball, it has concerts. The harsh reality is that the arena may not need the money suck that a bad, low drawing Islanders team may become and I am quite sure Prokhorov isn’t pleased with the negative light his shiny new investment is now held in.
The fact that the Islanders and Barclays can part ways in 2020 is not news, but what fans have to realize is that there is a lot of uncertainty moving forward as to just how successful this partnership can be for both the arena and the team. As a result, Barclays Center and the Islanders are trying to do a delicate balancing act – one where they are working towards making hockey in Brooklyn the best possible product while being fully aware of the substantial limitations that are present and will remain so.
It’s a deal where both sides are reliant on each together to create the best possible product. If you had an unhappy business partner that may want to get out a long-term deal, wouldn’t you be open to other options? Wouldn’t you feel compelled to see what alternatives were out there however unlikely?
That’s all that is going on here, nothing more, nothing less.
At least, so far.