The New York Islanders are in discussions with state officials about building a new hockey arena at Belmont Park in Elmont, a move that would bring the team back to Nassau after they left to play in Brooklyn last year, according to sources familiar with the negotiations.
The sources confirmed that the team’s new owners have met several times in recent months with officials of the New York Racing Association, which runs Belmont, to discuss a possible new arena.
“NYRA is courting the Islanders,” said one source briefed on the talks. “This is a wonderful opportunity to bring the Islanders back home.”
Another source briefed on the talks characterized them as in the early stages and stressed the team’s new owners are weighing multiple options, including remaining in Brooklyn. Jon Ledecky and partner Scott Malkin took over control of the Islanders from Charles Wang July 1.
NYRA officials did not respond to requests for comment. Islanders spokesman Kimber Auerbach said the club does not comment on “rumor and speculation.”
Discussions have centered on a vacant 28-acre parcel covered by Belmont’s south parking lot that the Empire State Development Corp., the state’s primary business-aid agency, put out for bid nearly four years ago, sources said. The site has ample parking, proximity to highways and access to a Long Island Rail Road station.
Four companies already have put in bids to develop the property. While state officials have repeatedly promised that a decision was pending, the agency has yet to pick a winner.
The bidders include the New York Cosmos, who want to spend $400 million to build a 25,000-seat soccer stadium, hotel and retail complex. Three other developers have proposed commercial retail complexes.
An Empire State spokesman did not respond to a request for comment. A Cosmos spokeswoman said the club is still awaiting a decision from the state and is unaware of any discussions involving the Islanders.
It wasn’t immediately clear if the state is prepared to scrap the prior RFP or how the land could be awarded to the Islanders for development.
Disclosure of the Belmont discussions followed a Newsday report Thursday that the Islanders have had discussions with the Wilpon family, the majority owners of the New York Mets, about building an arena for the hockey team next to Citi Field in Queens.
The Islanders announced in 2012 that they would move to Barclays Center for the 2015-2016 season after the team was unable to secure approval for a new Nassau Coliseum.
Multiple sources said the Islanders and Barclays Center have opt-out clauses in their 25-year license agreement that, if triggered, would lead to the Islanders’ exit after their fourth season in Brooklyn.
While Ledecky referred to Barclays Center as “great partners” last week, he told reporters work still needs to be done to make the team feel at home at the arena. He said Barclays management had been receptive to their concerns.
Last season, players complained about the quality of the ice surface and fans were critical of obstructed view seats, lack of Islanders branding throughout the arena and the overall game presentation experience.
The license agreement with the Barclays Center is unusual in that the arena pays the team a set fee annually in exchange for control of the team’s ticket and marketing operations. Experts have said this limits the Islanders new owners’ ability to benefit from any revenue growth, potentially playing a role in their interest to have their own arena as opposed to being a tenant.
A Barclays spokesman declined to comment Friday.