Islanders’ move to Queens floated

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Could the New York Islanders be Queens−bound? Stranger things have happened, says Jack Friedman.

It started as an off−the−cuff response that Friedman, executive director of the Queens Chamber of Commerce, gave to a reporter at a recent news conference, but the borough business boss said the idea of moving the pro ice hockey team to Willets Point is not completely out of the realm of possibilities.

“When you think about it, hockey and baseball only overlap for a month or two out of the year. The Willets Point project is moving now, so it seems like a pretty logical place,” Friedman said. “My little crazy idea is actually trying to gain some momentum.”

The Islanders, owned by Queens College graduate Charles Wang, raised eyebrows earlier this year when they announced the team would hold its annual training camp next fall in the Canadian province of Saskatchewan and would follow it up with a preseason game in Kansas City, Mo. The team’s lease at the Nassau Coliseum, where it plays its home games, ends in 2015 and plans for a new arena and residential complex have yet to win approval from state and county authorities.

While the Islanders have repeatedly said they do not have plans to move the team, reports have said that computer pioneer Wang is growing frustrated with Nassau County officials over the new arena delays — a notion reinforced by the team’s decision to host events in Canada and Missouri.

Enter Willets Point. The city recently approved redevelopment plans for Willets Point, which may include a 400,000−­square−f­oot convention center that Friedman said could easily include a hockey arena.

“In other cities, there are a lot of facilities like that which include a sports arena,” he said. “Obviously, the ball’s in their court, but it’s something we would be very open to discussing. It’s not the worst idea we’ve ever had.”

The city Economic Development Corp., which drafted the Willets Point redevelopment plans, said it is not something that it planned for, but are not ruling the idea out either.

“This is the first we’ve heard of it, but when the private sector responds to our RFP, we are looking forward to evaluating any ideas that fall within the guidelines of the approved rezoning,” a spokesman for the agency said.

City Councilman John Liu (D−Flushing), who worked closely on the redevelopment plans for Willets Point, agreed.

“The Islanders are seriously contemplating a move out to Kansas City, which would be from a New Yorker’s perspective a total waste,” Liu said. “If we could keep them in the area, especially in Queens, it would be fantastic. We always have to think outside the box on these things.”

Reach reporter Stephen Stirling by e−mail at or by phone at 718−229−0300, Ext. 138.

Updated 6:35 pm, October 10, 2011
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