Belmont arena bid gives Islanders a path out of Brooklyn

New York Islanders forward Jordan Eberle roars after scoring a goalThe New York Islanders appear to have found a new home fairly close to their old one. The Islanders have been struggling to attract fans to their games since moving to Brooklyn from Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Uniondale, but a bid to develop the land around Belmont Park could give the franchise the stability it craves.

The bid, which is expected to be officially announced as the winning bid on Wednesday, includes an 18,000 seat arena adjacent to the famed Belmont Park racetrack—home to one of horse racing’s triple-crown events, the Belmont Stakes. Belmont Park is located in Elmont, approximately nine miles west of Uniondale, and a move back towards the fans that used to support them seems like exactly what the Islanders need in order to stay in the New York area.

The Islanders were struggling to attract fans to their old arena in Uniondale, but the move to Brooklyn completely tanked their attendance. The Islanders are now attracting the fewest fans on average in the entire NHL despite their 10-3-2 home record, and the building is a big part of the problem. Barclays Center was designed specifically for basketball, and it isn’t long enough to fit an entire hockey rink inside without overlapping with the stands at one end, creating horrible sightlines and obstructed views of one of the goals.

With Brooklyn not working out and no other options in sight, talk of relocating the Islanders began to surface, with cities like Houston, Seattle, and Quebec City floated as potential destinations. A winning Belmont bid would end the speculation and provide the Islanders a clear path out of Brooklyn—something they and Barclays Center owner Mikhail Prokhorov would both appreciate. The other main competing bid belongs to MLS franchise New York City FC, but potential scheduling conflicts between the racetrack and the MLS season, which both happen mainly during the summer, make an NHL team a better fit. The Islanders’ bid also goes beyond an arena, adding a hotel, retail space, and a community-partnered innovation center to the area around the 112-year-old racetrack.