Crain’s New York Business has reported hearing rumors indicating that the New York Islanders will play the entirety of their 2019-2020 home schedule (and presumably the ’20-’21 home schedule) at NYCB Live’s renovated Nassau Coliseum, the club’s home from 1972 through 2015. The team’s 4-year lease at the Barclays Center expires at the completion of this season and with the venue experiencing +/- $50 million in hockey-related losses over that time, it would seem highly unlikely that the pact will be extended; Barclays Center believes it can generate more revenue booking concerts (it’s the 4th most popular concert venue in U.S.) than it can hosting hockey games. The Isles hope to move into a permanent home – a new privately financed $1.2 billion arena at Belmont Park – in time for the 2021-2022 season; as the rumor goes, the team has already “secured state approval” to build on a site next to the racetrack and plans to break ground this spring.
Howie Long-Short: The Barclays Center’s deal with the Islanders has contributed to its underperformance (at least relative to internal projections). The building guaranteed the club $55 million/season in exchange for control over team ticketing and concession revenues, but during 2017-2018 season Barclays Center failed to break-even – taking in just $43 million in ticket and F&B sales. Barclays reported a net cash loss of $21 million last season.
Ticket sales revenue is underwhelming because the team is drawing less than 12,000 fans/game (a league low), but that figure has more to do with the building’s architecture than it does the team’s fan base. Remember, Barclays Center was built to host Nets games and concerts – hockey never figured into the plans. As a result, +/- 20% of the seats (17,000+ for basketball) have obstructed site lines and are intentionally left unsold when the venue is configured for hockey.
The Islanders won’t play another game at Barclays Center unless the club advances past the first round of the playoffs. The team will play out the balance of its regular season schedule and its first-round playoff series on Long Island. Of course, should the Brooklyn building host playoff games it would be a tremendous boon to its bottom line – it’s been estimated that each home playoff game could be worth upwards of $1 million in revenue.
While the Islanders are on the way out, the Crain’s piece cited a Nets representative who indicated the team is gaining momentum within the borough. Ticket revenues are up +20% YoY and the club has sold twice as many “early-bird season-ticket packages” for the 2019-2020 season.
Fun Fact: The Barclays Center was the first arena to cost over $1 billion.
Fan Marino: The Islanders have acknowledged The Barn “does not qualify as an NHL major league facility”, but with no other viable options and a rabid fan base on the Island, it’s sensible for the team to return to Nassau county for the next 2 seasons. The building won’t seat any more people (capacity is 13,917) and there still isn’t nearly enough luxury suites (11 vs. Barclays Center’s 101), but it should look better – and it has new bathrooms – after having undergone a $180 million renovation. There’s no question where Islanders coach Barry Trotz prefers to play. He’s suggested that the Coliseum’s atmosphere “is worth at least 10-12 points [in the standings].”
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