New York Islanders owner Charles Wang announced Wednesday that the club has entered into a new agreement with the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, which will be the new home of the Islanders beginning in the 2015-16 season. The announcement was made during a press conference at the new state-of-the-art arena.
"Our goal from the outset was to have the Islanders play in a local, world-class facility that possesses the amenities that our fans deserve," Wang said. "I'm happy to announce that we have achieved that goal. This has been a very long journey for the Islanders family starting with our fans, sponsors and employees. I want to personally thank them for their patience, loyalty and support. I'm excited about today's announcement and look forward to a long and successful future in Brooklyn."
The Islanders have been at their current home, Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum, since the team's inception in 1972, but Wang had vocalized his commitment to find a new home for the team when the franchise's current lease expires in 2015. Wednesday's announcement put to rest any speculations that the team would move outside the New York market.
Barclays Center currently houses the NBA's Brooklyn Nets, who relocated from across the Hudson River in Newark, New Jersey this summer. Barclays Center Majority Owner and Developer Bruce Ratner expressed his joy in having another professional franchise in the new building.
"It's finally happened, and I couldn't have found a better partner than Charles Wang," Ratner said. "Charles got very good offers to move the team out of our state, and he wouldn't do that. Charles wanted to keep them in the state of New York and local. Charles Wang is the real hero today. He has kept this team in New York state. We welcome the Islanders, welcome their fans, we welcome the new Brooklyn fans, and we're all going to enjoy hockey here."
To finally be in a position to be able to say, ‘You don't have to worry about the future. The club is staying local. You'll be able to get to it easily.' For us, for Islanders fans, for Charles Wang and Bruce Ratner, it is a dream come true. - NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman
Also on stage were Islanders General Manager Garth Snow, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz and Brooklyn Nets CEO Brett Yormark.
Snow said that the new building will benefit the Islanders on and off the ice, especially when it comes to attracting free agents.
"It's beautiful," Snow said about Barclays Center. "One walk through and you see that everything is first class all the way. As a player and now as a manager in this league, it's hard to compete without first class amenities and that's what we have here. This is an outstanding building. Not just in our sport, but in any sport, facilities play a large part in recruitment."
When Bettman took the podium, he praised Wang's decision to keep the Islanders in New York, as well as Ratner's initiative years ago to get the new arena off the ground.
"Bruce Ratner had an incredible vision to build a state-of-the-art facility in Brooklyn and he accomplished that goal in ways that many of us never could have imagined," Bettman said. "When you take that level of passion and combine it with Charles Wang, who is as passionate about this area as he is about the Islanders and Islander fans, and to finally be in a position to be able to say, ‘You don't have to worry about the future. The club is staying local. You'll be able to get to it easily.' For us, for Islanders fans, for Charles Wang and Bruce Ratner, it is a dream come true."
Mayor Bloomberg said that the Islanders move to Brooklyn in 2015 makes the largest city in the United States an even greater place to be.
"The whole world knows that Brooklyn is big-time and now we've got the big league sports to prove it," Mayor Bloomberg said. "The Barclays Center has already been a huge boost for Brooklyn. The fun is really just beginning at the Barclays Center and we're looking forward to the first faceoff when the Islanders take the ice in 2015."
Mayor Bloomberg also addressed the question of fans getting to the new arena from Long Island or from other parts of New York City.
"There's more mass transit under this building than any other stadium in New York City," Mayor Bloomberg said. "This makes [the games] more accessible to everyone. Fans from the Islanders current home in Nassau County can just take the Long Island Rail Road. The stop is just across the street. For the fans from the five boroughs, 11 subway lines meet at Atlantic Terminal. The majority of people who live on this island are in Brooklyn and Queens, so it only makes sense to have the Islanders here and we certainly welcome them with open arms."