As if they didn’t have enough to deal with, the New York Islanders’ seemingly never-ending arena drama continues. After the positive news that the National Hockey League was pushing forward into phase two of its ‘return to play’ protocol and construction had begun again at Belmont Park, site of the sparkling new arena that will host Islanders games in the future, this little tidbit appeared yesterday, seemingly out of nowhere.
Bloomberg first broke the story, which was also reported here on WFAN.com, of Nassau Coliseum owner Mikhail Prokhorov’s intentions to close the site ‘indefinitely’ as coronavirus concerns continue to wreak havoc on all events, spanning many realms of entertainment. Considering there hasn’t been a live event at the building in many months, and none are on the immediate horizon, Prokhorov is hoping to have someone else not only assume control of operations, but also a $100 million debt still owed on the property.
It’s a curious decision for someone worth $11.5 billion (yes, that’s billion), but nobody, at this juncture, would be wise to sit with an accumulating debt while generating zero revenue. Islanders co-owners Scott Malkin and Jon Ledecky need to formulate their next move and are likely going to be forced to wait until someone, if anyone, bites on Prokhorov’s offer, but when WFAN reached out for comment, Ledecky offered a polite ‘no comment’, instead saying:
“We are really excited about Belmont and looking forward to a sneak preview once the ‘new normal’ returns.”
After the grandiose press conference earlier this year announcing the Islanders would be playing at the Coliseum until Belmont is ready, the team can hardly afford another arena PR disaster. Their relationship with Barclays Center was fractured beyond repair when BSE was under the leadership of Brett Yormark, who cared little about the team and the sport. With Yormark now gone, can anything be salvaged under the building’s new landlord, Joe Tsai? The ice is still horrendous and fans are less likely now to even give it a chance, given the mess some arena staff created of game nights.
In speaking with three different sources Tuesday, the feeling I came away with is this is nothing more than a financial move for Prokhorov, and one I, if I was in his shoes, would have also instituted. It does not prevent the Islanders from fulfilling their remaining home schedule at the old barn, though, as announced and intended. When hockey is finally allowed to return to its home cities, and nobody at this point can even guess when that might be, all three were confident that the Islanders’ address would be 1255 Hempstead Turnpike.
For now, it’s just another bump in the road to Belmont. I can’t imagine that the Islanders and their ownership were blindsided by this. They knew this was coming and knew they didn’t have to be prepared with any type of official statement, at least until the county announces the games must and will go on as planned. And that’s all everyone is hoping for.