I am fully aware that the Belmont Park arena proposal has been announced already by Jon Ledecky and Islanders management. I am fully aware that the arena is backed by some of the important people in New York sports (Governor Cuomo, the Wilpon family, James Dolan, and the Islanders). But I still think that this arena will not happen.
Here is a brief history lesson. It took the Barclays Center eight years to be built because they were matched by steady opposition. The lawyer for the citizens against the construction of the arena was Norman Siegel, and he managed to delay construction for multiple years. This time around, the Belmont Park Community Coalition, a coalition that is opposing the arena, has lawyered up, and hired (you guessed it) Norman Siegel. Even if the arena does eventually get built, it will be after a long legal dispute.
Why Belmont Will Not Happen
The LIRR: One of the main points of bringing the Islanders to Belmont would be that the railroad station there would need to be updated. The LIRR promised the entire community that this upgrade could be possible, but they were wrong. Recently, it has become known around Long Island that this will be very difficult because the train station there is too small and too dilapidated to support thousands of screaming Islander fans.
Ronkonkoma: This morning it was announced that the group, Jones LaSalle, has submitted a bid to build a 17,500 seat arena in Ronkonkoma, New York. Unlike the Belmont arena, this proposal makes logistical sense. With Belmont, there would be four arenas within a thirty-minute driving range. This would create havoc for everyone involved with the Nassau Coliseum, the Barclays Center, Belmont Arena, and Madison Square Garden. Ronkonkoma is situated far enough from the metro area to have their own base. The LIRR has a hub in Ronkonkoma and McArthur Airport would be right next to the proposed stadium, making travel very easy and accessible. You can read more about this arena here.
The Belmont Arena is currently undergoing some environmental testing to determine if the plan is safe. There has been some speculation that the Islanders new arena will fail the testing and that the proposal will have to be dropped altogether. If the plan is deemed safe, then the reviews should be completed by the summer of 2019, which would delay the construction to the fall.
The original projection for the opening of Belmont Arena was the 2020-21 season, but there are already rumblings it will be pushed back all the way to the 2022-23 campaign. The Islanders have made it very clear that the most important thing for them is that the arena is beautiful and that it is built quickly. Sadly, it is not looking like this will happen. With the amount of time allotted for the completion of the project, it is only feasible that the Isles begin to look at other options.
Backup options for the New York Islanders include Citi Field, the Nassau Coliseum, and Ronkonkoma Arena. Here are what will need to take place for these options to happen:
What needs to happen for the Islanders to play at Citi Field
Belmont and Ronkonkoma both fail, meanwhile Gary Bettman becomes too stubborn to let the Islanders play at the Coliseum full-time.
What needs to happen for the Islanders to play at Ronkonkoma Arena
Belmont Arena fails or the construction takes too long.
What needs to happen for the Islanders to play at Nassau Coliseum
Belmont fails and Ronkonkoma fails. Also, the Nassau Coliseum undergoes another renovation.
I believe that Belmont Arena will never come to fruition. Environmental issues, the renovated Belmont train station, and outside factors will be huge contributors to where the Islanders call home for the next couple of decades. My prediction is Islanders will call Nassau Coliseum home again after some major renovations. I’m just happy Quebec and Kansas City are no longer options!