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NHL’s Islanders moving to Brooklyn: reports

In three years, New York Islanders fans may no longer have to attend games at decrepit Nassau Coliseum.

At a 1 p.m. ET news conference, the National Hockey League team is expected to announce a move to the $ 1 billion US Barclays Center in downtown Brooklyn, N.Y., in 2015, according to several media outlets.

Islanders owner Charles Wang, who has threatened to move the team when its lease at Nassau Coliseum expires in 2015, has attempted for years to have a new arena built but was voted down overwhelmingly in a referendum by local residents. It 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.

The Islanders reportedly will keep their name at the insistence of NHL officials.

The Islanders ranked next-to-last among 30 teams last season in average attendance at 13,191 at the 16,234-seat Nassau Coliseum. Arena officials have said Barclays Center, which is home to the National Basketball Association’s Brooklyn Nets, will seat 14,500 for hockey. That would be less than Winnipeg’s MTS Centre (15,015) to make it the smallest NHL arena.

On Oct. 2, New York and the New Jersey Devils were scheduled to play a pre-season game at Barclays Center, but it was cancelled due to the NHL lockout.

An Islanders news release Wednesday morning mentioned that Barclays Center is “located atop one of the largest transportation hubs in New York City,” and is accessible by 11 subway lines, the Long Island Rail Road, and 11 bus lines.”

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.

Bettman said at the time that the league ideally wanted the club to remain in Nassau County.

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.

With files from The Associated Press
CBC | Sports News