NHL hockey and horse racing are together at last. The New York Islanders have submitted a successful bid to build a new arena behind the grandstands at Belmont Park. It’s a bit of a surprise move that will relocate the team yet again, just as they’re on the brink of becoming a legitimate contender.
The New York Islanders played out of the Nassau Coliseum since the team was formed officially in 1972 and quickly became a formidably dynasty by winning four consecutive Stanley Cups from 1980 -1983. However, following these dynasty years, the team fell on hard times. Issues with ownership, poor scouting and dwindling attendance threatened the viability of the wayward franchise as they faltered greatly from the mid-90’s through the turn of the century.
By 2011, the relationship with Nassau county had disintegrated and the team formally relocated to the newly minted Barclay’s Center in 2015. The New York Islanders signed a 40-year lease with Barclay’s Center, but that relationship has eroded as well after consistent problems with maintaining quality ice conditions.
There’s no set timetable for the official move to Belmont Park, but it’s certainly an exciting development. Hockey and horse racing don’t seem like a likely pair – because they’re not – but the New York Islanders seemingly offer the best intrinsic value to the area. In fact, the Islanders beat out thew New York FC of Major League Soccer, which planned to build a 26,000 seat stadium.
The bid was submitted by New York Arena Partners, a limited liability company whose partners include the hockey team itself, a development group connected to New York Mets owner Fred Wilpon, and a third group of investors which involves Madison Square Garden. Overseeing the process was Empire State Development.
Any excitement involving the arrival of the New York Islanders at Belmont Park may also spell the end of Aqueduct Racetrack, but that’s heresy based on the idea that harness racing may be moving to Belmont Park as well in an effort for the financially strapped NYRA to consolidate its resources. Again this is speculation. It’s difficult to imagine that a track as storied as Aqueduct would close suddenly.
Then again it was also unfathomable that the New York Islanders might be playing playoff games at Belmont Park on the day of the Belmont Stakes too.