The Barclays Center and the Long Island Rail Road are taking steps to ensure that New York Islanders fans follow their team to Brooklyn -- even if it means going by train.
Heading toward the final preseason game Friday in Brooklyn before the team permanently relocates there during the 2015-16 season, the Barclays Center is partnering with the LIRR on several new initiatives to make it easier to get to and from the hockey franchise's new home arena. They include new direct service to key stations and increased efforts to tell fans in the stands when their train is leaving.
"We really want to make sure that we do everything right for the Long Islanders coming out to Brooklyn," Barclays chief operating officer Fred Mangione said. "This is kind of our last dress rehearsal. The next time the Islanders are here, they're here for real."
Extra trains, personnel
The enhanced LIRR service to and from Atlantic Terminal for Friday's game includes an extra westbound Babylon train before the game and two additional eastbound trains after the game going directly to Babylon and Hicksville. Brooklyn customers traveling to those stations typically have to change at Jamaica.
In between scheduled departures, the LIRR will also run shuttle trains between Atlantic Terminal and Jamaica at regular intervals after the game, and as late as necessary. The LIRR will also have extra personnel available at Atlantic Terminal to assist customers.
President Patrick Nowakowski said the LIRR wants to be better prepared to serve Islanders fans than it was during the team's first Brooklyn preseason game a year ago, when the railroad was "crushed" by 6,000 fans after the game -- considerably more passengers than the LIRR carries after other Barclays events. Friday's game could be an important indicator of what the railroad could expect when the Islanders play more than 40 games in Brooklyn during the 2015-16 season, he said.
"One of the dynamics that we've really got to figure out going forward is: Are the Islanders going to be a game changer in terms of what we see for Barclays events?" Nowakowski said. "This is an attempt to do better than we did last year, and hopefully learn a lot more."
The Barclays' 2012 opening has created a ridership boon for the LIRR, which in 2010 even eliminated overnight service on the Brooklyn line because of low ridership. It restored some of that service last year.
The railroad has said it now carries an average of 3,300 additional passengers on the line on nights when the arena hosts an event -- an increase of more than 300 percent.
Will fans make the trip?
Barclays officials say they're doing their part to encourage fans to ride the rails, including with posters on trains promoting Friday's preseason game against the Devils. And for fans who take the train to the game, the Barclays Center will post train times on monitors throughout the arena concourse and, for the first time, on its center scoreboard during and after the game.
"We'll just see what the universe is coming from Long Island. Obviously everybody talks about us being in the heart of Brooklyn and owning the borough. But we think we're really going to branch out to Long Islanders," said Mangione, who said it will require "an education process" to get Nassau and Suffolk residents to make the trip. "As much as you can tell people to take the train, Long Islanders get in their cars. They know what they know."
Thirty-year Islanders season ticket holder and former team Booster Club president Claire Harding of Halesite said no amount of promotion of service enhancements will get her to follow the team to Brooklyn. Whereas the drive to and from Nassau Coliseum usually takes her about a half-hour, the trip to the Barclays, door-to-door, would take her about two hours.
"I admit it, we're spoiled," Harding said. "I just don't see how it's going to be doable."
But other Long Island-based fans said they are undeterred by the move and are even looking forward to the ride to Brooklyn and the nightlife scene there after the games.
"It will probably turn into a traveling tailgate party on the trains," said season ticket holder David Singer, 52, of Merrick.