Islanders committed to building arena at Belmont Park
Co-owner Ledecky expects to win bid, give team permanent home on Long Islandby Brian Compton @BComptonNHL / NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor
NEW YORK -- The New York Islanders are committed to building an arena at Belmont Park, co-owner Jon Ledecky confirmed Tuesday.
Ledecky and co-owner Scott Malkin are part of a group known as New York Arena Partners, LLC., which also includes Sterling Project Development and the Oak View Group. Sterling Project Development is controlled by the Wilpon family, which owns the New York Mets. Oak View Group has helped in the design and construction of arenas across North America.
Ledecky said he's unsure of how long it will be before Empire State Development, which will determine what will be built at Belmont, decides on the winning bid. Most estimates appear to be in the range of 4-6 months.
Belmont Park is located in Elmont, New York, on the border of Nassau County and Queens.
"We have not received any formal or informal communication about a timeline," Ledecky said at a media luncheon in Manhattan. "We obviously hope it will be sooner rather than later and we would hope that our proposal is the best proposal. We don't know if they've seen three or 10 or five, but we certainly put a lot of time and resources and effort and the arena partnership group did in making a first-class presentation.
"We didn't just throw a piece of paper across the room. We really were thoughtful. Obviously from a self-interested perspective, we think we're the best and we want to send that message to the community, to the media, to our fans, to our constituents through all the different areas, the players, that we're singularly focused on this and we've spent the resources. We want to win. We want Belmont to be our permanent home."
Ledecky said the Islanders are contractually obligated to play this season and next at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, where they began play at the start of the 2015-16 season after 43 years at Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, New York. He wouldn't comment on where the Islanders would play in the interim should they receive the go-ahead to build an arena at Belmont. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman has said on multiple occasions that the Coliseum is not a viable option.
"We're focused on getting that shovel in the ground and move forward on Belmont," Ledecky said. "We're not concerned at all [about the interim]. Our concern and our focus should be on Belmont. Off of that, everything else becomes clear. We either get Belmont or we don't get Belmont. That's exactly our focus -- to get Belmont.
"Barclays is a wonderful place. Unfortunately at the time it was built, they decided not to configure it for hockey. Nassau Coliseum is a lovely spot, but the commissioner of the NHL is on public record saying it's not viable for an NHL team. You have to have a focus on a place that will be our home, which is Belmont Park."
Ledecky said he's visited every arena in the NHL, including practice facilities, with hopes of giving his players the best experience possible and have a better idea of what he wants to accomplish at Belmont should the Islanders win the bid.
Ledecky and co-owner Scott Malkin have spent more than $60 million on upgrades to Northwell Health Ice Center, the Islanders practice facility in East Meadow, New York, which is down the street from the Coliseum. They plan to unveil those upgrades to the media on Oct. 31.
Ledecky believes should the Islanders win the bid, it would take roughly 20 months for the arena to be built. He also said there have been preliminary discussions to improve mass transit at Belmont, which does have a Long Island Rail Road station but would require some upgrading.
When asked what the Islanders' long-term future in New York would look like if they don't win the Belmont bid, Ledecky stayed on message.
"We're planning on winning this thing, No. 1," he said. "No. 2, we're sending that message. No. 3, Scott and I grew up in this area. Scott obviously comes back and forth from London.
"It's a New York metropolitan area team. When you think about the exodus from Long Island of fans generationally who are now living in Westchester, Connecticut, New Jersey, the boroughs (of New York City) and Long Island, Belmont actually if you do surveys that we've done, Belmont is a perfect spot for that constituency versus Brooklyn. We're trying to be responsive to the fans."
Ledecky hopes to accomplish what his predecessors were unable to do -- find the Islanders a permanent home they can call their own.
"People 25 years from now aren't even going to remember we owned the team," Ledecky said. "They'll remember that, 'Oh, those former owners, they built that great building for the team and it won more Cups. That's what we want our legacy to be. This is something that we think is right for the history and the heritage of the Islanders."