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Islanders take another step out of Brooklyn

New Jersey Devils v New York Islanders Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

The Islanders and Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment have until January to work out a new deal for Barclays Center, but increasingly it looks like the NHL wants out of Brooklyn.

On Thursday, the Islanders submitted a bid to New York State, offering to develop 43 vacant acres around Belmont Park in Queens into a sports and entertainment venue. Thursday was the deadline for bids.

The bid was officially submitted by a group calling itself New York Arena Partners, LLC, It includes Islander co-owners, Jon Ledecky and Scott Malkin, Sterling Project Development, an organization spearheaded by New York Mets owners Fred and Jeff Wilpon, and Oak View Group, which is backed by Madison Square Garden.

“We look forward to discussing [the proposal] with the Empire State Development Corporation,” the statement said of the Isles’ bid, which is one of at least three submitted to the state agency.

Some think the Islanders are trying to gain leverage for negotiations with Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment, Mikhail Prokhorov’s holding company, but the bid suggests a growing seriousness about a move.

Barclays has not worked for the Islanders who moved to Brooklyn in 2015. Although Bruce Ratner, then majority owner of Barclays, claimed at the time that the 25-year lease was ironclad, it provides an “out” for the Isles in January.

The Islanders’ problems with Barclays are many. Its sightlines for hockey are considered the worst in the NHL, the arena has never mastered ice-making, and attendance is at or near the bottom of the NHL.

One possible solution that Long Island fans would embrace, a return to the renovated Nassau Coliseum, has been shut down by NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman. The Coliseum is run by BS&E under a lease with Nassau County.

Bettman said earlier this month that he doesn’t consider the smaller 13,000-seat version of the “Old Barn” to be a “viable option.” BS&E has signaled that it could un-make some of their renovations to add more seats, but there’s no indication that will fly either.

“I do think the Islanders have options, very good options,” Bettman said last week, an apparent reference to the Belmont bid. “They are in the process of evaluating what makes the most sense for the franchise and, in particular, for their fans.”

Financing the new arena might be difficult, however. The New York arena market could be described as saturated. The metropolitan area now has four big venues, all relatively new or newly renovated: Madison Square Garden, Prudential Center, Barclays Center, and Nassau Coliseum. A fifth arena, the old IZOD Center, sits vacant in the Meadowlands, being used now primarily to shoot TV commercials and rehearse concert tours for other venues.

A new arena in Queens, midway between Barclays and Nassau, would provide additional competition for Prokhorov’s properties. Its proposed links to MSG might also provide the same kind of booking options that BS&E has with its two arenas.

The next step will be up to the Empire State Development Corporation, which would be asked to provide government subsidies. The ESDC will review the bids and determine which is best for the property in Elmont, Long Island.