The rumors are true. The New York Islanders are moving to Brooklyn in 2015. The move, one that has been speculated for quite some time now, was confirmed by the New York Post (Source) and various members of the NHL media (Source).
Hockey is officially coming to the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
Update #2 - At the team's official press conference Islanders owner Charles Wang states the contract for the Islanders to play in the Barclays Center is for 25 years, beginning in 2015-16.
Update #1 - The team will reportedly retain their name "The New York Islanders" at the insistence of the NHL. (Source)
The Islanders' move comes as their lease expires at their current place of residence, the Nassau Coliseum, in 2015. The move, while often speculated, seemed to have plenty of question marks. Would Barclays, an arena not built specifically for hockey, be able to accommodate the game? Would the small capacity influence the NHL's decision?
When configured for hockey Barclays will hold roughly 14,500 people (Source). This was a topic the NHL didn't seem too keen on. However, it's worth noting that the Winnipeg Jets, formerly the Atlanta Thrashers, moved into the MTS Center - a stadium with a capacity around 15,000. To date, the Jets have enjoyed large, loud crowds despite their reduced capacity. The idea is that with fewer seats available the demand for tickets increases. The same theory will be applied to the Islanders when they move to Brooklyn but it remains to be seen if the success we've seen in Winnipeg (so far) will be replicated.
The other major issue is that since Barclays wasn't built with hockey as a main focus, some of the sight lines are a bit of a mess (Source). This is a pretty major issue but we imagine that since the move won't happen until 2015, the league and the stadium will work together to improve the current situation. At least, we'd hope so.
Will this be the kick the Islanders need in the attendance department? That's tough to forecast. Tickets will be at a bit more of a premium (14,500 at Barclays vs. 16,250 at Nassau) but it's not as if the Islanders were selling out, or even coming close to selling out games at Nassau. According to HockeyDB, the Islanders averaged just over 13,000 fans in 2011-12. They averaged just over 11,000 fans in 2010-11. Using those figures, the Islanders still wouldn't come close to selling out their new venue in Brooklyn.
Looking at the immediate future, the move should boost the team's attendance. Fans will want to see their favorite team and check out their new home arena. They'll also likely attract more casual fans that reside in the Brooklyn area as now the team will be right down the road. Barclays is also well positioned to major public transportation which should make commutes to the stadium relatively easy.
As for the distant future, it's tough to say how this will all pan out. The Islanders will need to boost attendance, regardless of where they play, to be financially successful. They'll probably have to raise the price of tickets to make up for the reduced seating capacity. Simply, the team won't survive unless attendance improves.
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As a fan of another financially struggling team, I do hope that this works out for the Islanders, though I doubt that they'll see nearly the results that Winnipeg has.
@miendiem Agreed. I sincerely wish them the best.
It has been interesting watching various fans assign blame, whether it is to the owner (Wang) or to the county itself. I think realistically, Wang did the best he could. He very easily could have uprooted the team and moved them to Canada or out West. Reports have said he has lost somewhere in the neighborhood of $250 million on the Isles. Hard to fault the man for making a change. Also hard not to blame the community.
@David Rogers All good points. I'll admit, I'm certainly not up on the technicalities of the situation, but from the limited amount that I have read, if they couldn't find a way to keep the team in their old barn, this is about the best they could have hoped for. And, though I can't say this about anything else these days, kudos to the NHL for insisting on keeping the history of the name intact. Here's hoping they can get other things as right in the coming days.