147th Belmont Stakes, Belmont Park
(Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

Empire State Development has officially awarded the New York Islanders the opportunity to build a new arena at Belmont Park.

At last, after spending the last two years at the Barclays Center, the Islanders are returning to Long Island in a brand new, state of the art arena.

The move, which has been nearly a year in the making, brings the Islanders back to Long Island in a move that NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman calls the franchise’s first true “state of the art” arena.

What makes Belmont so special — aside from being on a Long Island address — is that the building will be owned and operated by the Islanders.

Governor Andrew Cuomo echoed the sentiments of native Long Island fans, according to Jim Baumbach and Robert Brodsky of Newsday:

“I always felt when the Islanders left, they left a hole in the heart of Long Island,” Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said at a news conference at the racetrack. “The Islanders are back where they belong. It feels right. It feels good.”

New York Islanders

The new arena will have a capacity of 18,000 (yes, for hockey) and will host 150 events anually. Included in the project is 435,000 square feet of retail space, a hotel with over 200 rooms and a 10,000-square-foot “innovation center” developed with input from residents.

What happens in the interim is anyone’s guess.

It’s no secret that the relationship between the Islanders and the Barclays Center has been rocky since its inception. The Islanders or the Barclays Center have the option to opt-out of their deal in January.

The window to renegotiate the existing deal with the Barclays Center ends on January 1. If the Barclays Center opts out, the Islanders must leave after the 2018-19 season. Both sides have until January 30 to deliver a formal opt-out notice.

The Islanders and Barclays Center have been negotiating the terms of a new deal since March of 2017, and will likely try to agree on a one or two year deal until the Belmont arena is complete.

Despite the pleas of Cuomo for the Islanders to play “some games” at the Coliseum during the meantime, Bettman has made it abundantly clear that he is not in favor of this option panning out.

Being that it’s expected to take at least two years to complete the arena, what happens after 2018-19 is anyone’s guess.

Also, what happens now with Islander captain John Tavares? Tavares said the following according to Greg Joyce of the New York Post:

“No, not really,” he said. “Like I said, I was driving on the way to the rink today, so just trying to focus on playing well tonight and contributing. There will be time as things progress, but whatever news today or whatever is made of [Wednesday], it’s not going to determine or change anything at this point.”

Tavares maintains his “stricly business” attitude, but it should also be noted that he hasn’t ruled out inking a mid-season extensions, according to Brian Compton.

So, after addressing a major factor in the Islanders future, quetions remain with the captain, and the short-term arena solution.

But, those are for a later time. For now, sit back, relax and enjoy an early Christmas gift delivered by Jon Ledecky and Scott Malkin, who are quickly cementing their place in Islander history as one of the best ownership groups ever.

ESNY City Stream

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