Brooklyn’s gain is Gary Harding’s loss.
Harding, who lives on Long Island, blogs for islestalk.com and is former president of the New York Islanders Booster Club, is disappointed at the news that the Islanders are moving to the Barclays Center in 2015.
That the team’s colors will remain the same – at least for now – is no consolation for Harding, who blames Nassau County politics for the loss of his team to Brooklyn.
“I will absolutely miss them,” he said. “I am part of a group of season ticket holders. It’s like a family.” Harding acknowledges the struggles team owner Charles Wang faced and understands his reason for relocating the team. “He lost so many fans and so much money,” he said, referring to Wang’s experience with the Nassau Coliseum over the years and disagreements over funding.
The Islanders, winners of four Stanley Cup championships, will be the second major sports team to call the new arena their home. The Brooklyn Nets begin their inaugural season November 1.
Wang signed a 25-year agreement, marking a major change for the Islanders, who have played at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Uniondale, N.Y., since 1972. A proposal to renovate the Coliseum, which is in need of major upgrading, was voted down in Nassau County last August.
At today’s press conference, Wang focused on the future. “We’re thrilled to have the opportunity to play in Barclays Center, a first class arena,” he said. “This has been a long journey for the Islanders family starting with our loyal fans, sponsors, and employees. I want to personally thank them for their patience, loyalty, and support. I am excited about today’s announcement and I am looking forward to a long and successful future in Brooklyn.”
Wang was accompanied by Bruce Ratner, a majority owner of the Barclays Center, and Onexim Sports and Entertainment USA, Inc., a company established by Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov.
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, Islanders Manager Garth Snow and Barclays Center and Brooklyn Nets CEO Brett Yormark, also attended.
The Barclays Center, which sits atop a major transportation hub, will accommodate seating for 14,500 Islander fans. Although the team will offer first rights to season ticket holders, Harding doesn’t think he will be able to afford the cost.
“It will be too expensive,” he says. He also worries about the commute with his family from Huntington, Long Island. “We would have to leave by 3:30 pm to get to the game on time. It’s just difficult.”