The Islanders are leaving Brooklyn. Does anyone care?

Businesses near Barclays reflect on the hockey team’s upcoming move

February 28, 2019 By Raanan Geberer Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Fans walk along the concourse at Barclays Center ahead of an Islanders game on Jan. 15. AP Photo/Kevin Hagen
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While the NHL’s resurgent New York Islanders are expected to move to a new arena in Belmont Park in 2021-22, there’s been little indication of what the move would mean for businesses and real estate near Barclays Center in Brooklyn, where the hockey team is still playing half of its home games.

The Islanders moved to Barclays in 2015; the upcoming move was announced soon after the $1 billion arena opened in 2012. Before Barclays’ opening in September of that year, the Brooklyn Eagle reported that “Local businesses are ready — already, the Modell’s Sporting Goods store across the street was almost totally filled with Brooklyn Nets hats, t-shirts and jerseys.”

In Brooklyn, the price of condos and co-ops in nearby Prospect Heights, Downtown Brooklyn, Fort Greene, Boerum Hill and Park Slope increased from $485,000 to more than $700,000 after Barclays was built, according to CityRealty, a real estate firm.

The Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce has not yet considered what losing the franchise — and their 20 home games — might mean for vendors, a spokesperson told the Queens Eagle. But the Islanders, whose home was the Nassau Coliseum from 1972 to 2015, never really caught on with locals. Their core fan base remains on Long Island and in Eastern Queens.

“It’s clear the arena wasn’t designed for hockey,” Eric McClure, the founder of Park Slope Neighbors, told the Queens Eagle. “The arena was not designed for hockey, and it did not catch on with local folks. It has the worst attendance by a National Hockey League team by a fairly significant margin.”

Although they are in first place in their division, the Islanders are averaging just 12,038 fans per game this season, according to a report by ESPN. The rival New York Rangers of Madison Square Garden average 17,337 per game.

Since the beginning of this season, the Islanders have been playing half their games at Barclays and half at the renovated Nassau Coliseum, although NHL officials have made it clear that they don’t think the Coliseum is suitable as a full-time venue for the team.

Mark Caserta, the executive director of the Fifth Avenue Business Improvement District, told the Queens Eagle that the arena, whose main tenant is the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets, did not live up to expectations for many businesses but has fueled the local restaurant industry.

“I think the Barclays Center drew new people to that area, but there was speculation on the part of property owners that there is more foot traffic than there actually is,” he said.

“Some rents were higher than others, but despite the problems with the arena, some fans came out to support the local bars and restaurants … the bars closest to it were packed to the gills.”

Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, reflecting the attitude of many Brooklynites, commented, “There’s only one Brooklyn team for Barclays Center, and that’s the Brooklyn Nets. We wish the Islanders well on their journey to Belmont.”

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