NEW YORK – The NHL’s New York Islanders have agreed to move to Brooklyn’s Barclays Center from Long Island as early as 2015, a person familiar with the situation told The Associated Press on Wednesday.
The person was not authorized to discuss the situation before an afternoon announcement and spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity. Islanders owner Charles Wang and developer Bruce Ratner were among those scheduled to be at the news conference.
Officials in neighboring Nassau County, N.Y., have struggled for years to come up with a plan to either renovate or build a new arena to replace the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum, which opened in 1972. That same year, the Islanders joined the National Hockey League.
Wang has threatened to move the team from the site when the team’s lease expires after the 2015 season. Wang, the founder of a computer software company, presented a plan in 2003 for a privately funded multibillion-dollar development of housing, retail and a new arena on the property, but the proposal foundered amid community opposition.
Wang has complained that the dilapidated building is unsuited for a professional sports franchise.
Earlier this month, the U.S. Labor Department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration cited the building for 16 violations of workplace health and safety standards. OSHA said workers had been exposed to asbestos. The areas were not accessible to the general public. It also found inadequately lighted exit routes and other violations.
A statement from SMG, the company that manages the Coliseum for Nassau County, said it would contest the citation. It said the asbestos issues had been remediated.
As recently as April, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said Brooklyn might not be a viable destination for the Islanders because it’s hard to reach for the team’s fan base in Long Island and Queens. However, the team’s announcement of a news conference at the Barclays Center trumpeted the fact that it is located "atop one of the largest transportation hubs in New York City … accessible by 11 subway lines, the Long Island Rail Road, and 11 bus lines."
Bettman said at the time that the league ideally wanted the club to remain in Nassau County.
Last year, county voters overwhelmingly rejected a referendum – backed by Wang – that would have allowed Nassau County to borrow $400 million to build a new hockey arena on the current site in Uniondale.
Earlier this year, county officials announced they were seeking proposals to open the 77-acre parcel to any developer interested in proposing new ideas for the site. An announcement on those proposals was expected to be released any day.
County Executive Edward Mangano, who backed the referendum as a way of keeping the hockey team from leaving along with spurring economic development and job growth, had no immediate comment on the reports about the team’s move.