New York Islanders ponder move to Willets Point

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Queens sports fans may be getting a second professional team to claim as their own since the New York Islanders organization has been in discussions recently about a move to Willets Point.

Charles Wang, owner of the Islanders National Hockey League team, has been looking to find a better home than the aging Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, L.I., for years, but the Lighthouse Project, slated to include renovations of the coliseum, has been repeatedly delayed. The team’s lease at the arena, where it plays its home games, ends in 2015.

Jeff Wilpon, chief operating officer for the New York Mets, said he talked to Queens College graduate Wang about building a new home for the Islanders near Citi Field and maybe even purchasing the Islanders, according to The New York Times.

The team won four back-to-back championships in their glory days between 1979 and 1983, but it has never returned to that peak and now loses millions each season for Wang, a computer pioneer who is one of Long Island’s wealthiest residents.

“We’ve had discussions with the Islanders — in addition to those we’ve had with Major League Soccer — about building a sports/ent­ertainment facility near Citi Field,” the Mets said in a statement, according to The Times.

The city currently plans to clear the 62-acre Willets Point area of its existing industrial businesses to make room for a multibillion-dollar, mixed-use development project. The city has said it has bought or is in agreements to buy 64 percent of the land in Willets Point and eminent domain may be employed to obtain other land in the area.

Requests for comment from the Islanders and Mets organizations were not returned Tuesday.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg has lent legitimacy to the reports of conversations between the men.

“I haven’t talked to the Wilpons yet. I will. I don’t know whether it’s just the owner or the team negotiating, using us as a negotiating ploy out on Long Island,” he told reporters last week, according to The Times.

The concept of moving the Islanders to Willets Point was also floated in the winter of 2009, when Jack Friedman, executive director of the Queens Chamber of Commerce, said it was a reasonable possibility.

“When you think about it, hockey and baseball only overlap for a month or two out of the year,” Friedman said at the time. “The Willets Point project is moving now, so it seems like a pretty logical place.”

When the Islanders joined the NHL in 1972, the team paid the New York Rangers a $4.5 million fee to move to Nassau County, L.I., according to The Times, but in 1986 the agreement was amended to allow the Islanders to move anywhere within Queens, Kings, Nassau or Suffolk counties.

Reach reporter Connor Adams Sheets by e-mail at or by phone at 718-260-4538.

Updated 5:55 pm, October 10, 2011
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