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Barclays Center leaders meet with NHL

Aug 19, 2011, 9:03 PM EDT

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New Jersey Nets AP

Katie Strang of Newsday confirmed that Barclays Center CEO Brett Yormark and developer Bruce Ratner met with league officials in Manhattan on Thursday. The men had “very general” discussions with the league regarding Barclays Center in Brooklyn and its viability as a potential hockey arena in the future. Although neither league officials, nor Yormark (or Ratner) commented as to the specifics of the meeting, it’s pretty safe to say the conversation had to do with the local NHL team who has a lease ending in 2015. Like the Islanders don’t have enough things going on right now.

For those keeping track, the new Barclays Center will be less than 30 miles west of Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum on the corner of Atlantic and Flatbush in Brooklyn. We’re talking about a 45 minute drive—it’s close, but 45 minutes can be the difference between a fan going to a game and catching it on TV. Just ask fans in Arizona the difference between an arena in Scottsdale, downtown Phoenix, and Glendale. Fans in the Eastern regions of Nassau and Suffolk counties would potentially see their commute to games increased. But that’s only part of the story.

A move would put the Islanders both closer to media capital of North America as well as closer to fans that commute to Manhattan on a daily basis. Sure, the arena is further away from the suburban roots of Uniondale—but at least it’s moving in the right direction.

Another potential problem would be the capacity for hockey in the new Barclays Center. Strang talked about the potential capacity problem:

“One question that has surfaced repeatedly with regards to the Barclays Center is whether the arena’s limited capacity–believed to be about 14,000 for hockey– would be a deterrent.

However, each evaluation is “situation based” by the NHL.

“We have no set seating capacity or requirements established,” the league spokesperson said.”

(s/t to Kukla’s Korner)

Cue the “there aren’t even 14,000 Islanders fans” jokes since the Islanders averaged a league-worst 11,059 last season. For a bit of perspective, despite the Phoenix Coyotes’ well-publicized attendance problems, they still averaged 1,100 more fans per game. The Thrashers averaged 2,400 more fans and they relocated the minute the season ended. But as the Winnipeg situation has shown us, the NHL is willing to place a team into smaller buildings provided that the team fills all of the available seats.

On the flip side, it’s important to note that 14,000 would be the smallest venue in the league. Even if they sold-out the new building every single night, they still would have had the 4th worst attendance—not exactly a ton of upward mobility for a team who hopes to be on the rise.

Regardless, Barclays Center officials meeting with the NHL is the first step towards making the new arena a viable option for the Islanders when their lease expires in 2015. But would the Islanders just be trading one arena problem for another?

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