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Mike BarryEye on the Island

By Mike Barry
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Islanders’ Plan?

The New York Islanders will participate on Tuesday, Oct. 2 in the first-ever National Hockey League (NHL) game to be played at either Barclays Center or in Brooklyn. But it may not be the last.

“We love the idea of the Islanders playing a game here,” said Bob Sanna, executive vice president of Forest City Ratner Companies (FCRC), and head of construction for Barclays Center. When our conversation about the upcoming Islanders-New Jersey Devils preseason game turned to Barclays Centers’ extraordinary access to mass transit, Sanna added, “Getting here is no more complicated than going to Madison Square Garden on the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) to see a Knicks game.”

Every LIRR train line, with the exception of the Port Washington branch, can deliver passengers directly to the LIRR’s Atlantic Terminal station and Barclays Center is a short walk from there. Port Washington branch customers must first travel to Penn Station, and then take a 20-minute subway ride, to reach the venue.

The media coverage last week on the prospect of the Islanders moving to Brooklyn in 2015, after their current lease expires at the Nassau Coliseum, focused on the logistical hurdles Barclays Center would purportedly face in accommodating an NHL franchise. That’s not the case.

“We have a complete ice floor in the building,” Sanna stated. “The format of the ice floor actually becomes the format for every other thing that goes on in the building, including concerts.” Barclays Center can, however, only seat 14,500 hockey fans whereas it will house up to 18,000 for basketball when the National Basketball Association’s (NBA) New Jersey Nets move to Brooklyn in the fall of this year.

Sanna added that FCRC has examined closely how facilities such as Bankers Life Field House in downtown Indianapolis adjusted to allow both the NBA’s Indiana Pacers and the U.S. Hockey League’s Indiana Ice to play there.

If a comparable scenario materializes in Brooklyn, the Nets and the Islanders, both of whom called the Nassau Coliseum home in the 1970s, could reunite under the same roof without it requiring a heavy lift on the part of Barclays Centers’ engineers and architects.

Fans of irony may recall that Cablevision, then-owner of Madison Square Garden (MSG), the New York Knicks, and the New York Rangers (they’ve since spun off all three assets into The Madison Square Garden Company) spent millions of dollars lobbying elected officials in 2004 and 2005 to keep the National Football League’s (NFL) New York Jets from moving to the far west side of Manhattan. Cablevision prevailed even though the Jets posed no competitive threat to either the Knicks or the Rangers. Their primary concern was that the New York Sports and Convention Center would have competed against MSG for live musical events and other shows.

Cablevision and The MSG Company remained comparatively quiet as FCRC successfully fought off legal challenges to their plans over the past six or seven years to get Barclays Center built. It is going to open in September 2012 and, if the Islanders were to move there in three years, Barclays Center will pose a competitive threat to everything Madison Square Garden offers.

Mike Barry, a corporate communications consultant, has worked in government and journalism. Email: MFBARRY@optonline.net