By Peter Schwartz
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The Islanders are moving to Brooklyn next season.
What's done is done.
They're leaving the Nassau Coliseum for the state-of-the-art Barclays Center and an ironclad 25-year lease. Like many Islander fans, I'm not happy about it -- but it's something we'll just have to deal with.
A lot of thoughts went through my mind as I boarded the Long Island Railroad en route to Friday's game. Here's the first one: thank God for the Barclays Center!
Hey, that comment might surprise many of you, but Brooklyn is much easier to get to than Kansas City or Quebec. I never dreamed in a million years that the Islanders would ever play anywhere else but in a building -- old, new or renovated -- on Hempstead Turnpike in Uniondale.
But the reality is that it didn't work out between owner Charles Wang and the politicians. So the only real option was to move to Brooklyn and a building that was not designed for hockey.
The alternative would have stunk, plain and simple. After 43 years, the team that I grew up with, the team that I love the most in professional sports, the team that my kids now root for, could have left town altogether.
Thankfully, they'll be just a one-hour train ride away. You know, the same ride that Rangers fans have been programmed to deal with for many years. Even though I'll miss my very brief drive to the Nassau Coliseum (shorter than the length of an intermission), there's a certain excitement about taking the train to the game.
And if Friday was an indication of things to come, the commute won't be too bad for Islanders fans because the LIRR added some trains. Specifically, direct trains to Brooklyn in both directions that did not require a transfer at Jamaica. That will be important to maintain -- and increase -- when the Islanders make the move next season.
I'll say this: it was surreal to see crowds of Islanders fans boarding a train for a home game. You always see a smattering of Islanders jerseys for games against the Rangers at Madison Square Garden, but Friday night it was tons of Islanders fans jamming into my direct train to Barclays Center.
OK, now the bad news.
I'm not breaking any news here, but let's be honest: the Barclays Center is beautiful; it's not a hockey arena. Now, it's going to be the Islanders' home, so everyone has to make the best of it. But there's a huge problem.
Barclays Center holds 15,795 fans for hockey, but not all of those seats offer an ideal view of the ice. I attended Friday night's game with a press credential, but I moved around to different spots in the arena so that I could get a look at what some of the fans were seeing.
First up, Section 212-213, where members of the media were sitting. This was actually not bad:
That was from the good end of the building. It appeared as if most of the seats down the length of the ice from top to bottom in the arena are fine, with many of them being really good.
But, there is a major problem on the other end of the building. I can deal with the scoreboard hanging over the blue line, but I would be quite upset if I bought a seat with this view from Section 231:
As you can see -- or as you can't see, however you want to say it -- you can't see the goal on that end of the ice.
Then I made my way downstairs behind Sections 1 and 3:
Still no view of the goal!
In an interview with the New York Times, Barclays Center CEO Brett Yormark said there are about 400 seats in the building that have an obstructed view, and some of the worst won't be sold when the Islanders take up residency at the arena next year.
"The seats with horrible views, they are off the manifest," Yormark told the Times. "We're upfront about it. Fans knew the seats are obstructed when they bought them."
That's all well and good, but Yormark may have forgotten a zero in his estimation of obstructed seats. I was told by an Islanders source that there are about 4,000 seats with some sort of obstructed view.
So what would be better, the Barclays Center or a renovated Nassau Coliseum with a downsized capacity of 13,000 decent seats?
You could make the argument that if the Islanders are good, people might pay say $15 or $20 for an obstructed-view seat just to be in the building. Or some may just decide it's not worth the commute and the money and will just stay home and watch on television.
This is going to be an emotional season for Islanders Country. The Nassau Coliseum hosted so many memorable moments over 43 years, but new arenas are just a part of the landscape of sports these days.
The Islanders' slogan for next year's move is "Tradition Has A New Home In Brooklyn."
Hey, I'm all for change if it makes the Islanders a better franchise, and this move could be a great thing. The Barclays Center is giving the Islanders a substantial fee each year so the team will have built in revenue before they sell one ticket.
Now if a team grows in Brooklyn, or in this case if a team moves to Brooklyn, will there be support?
I think the Nets have answered that question, but the arena is built for basketball. I have no problem hopping on a train to go see the Islanders play, but when I get there, I need to see the whole ice. If I can't get a ticket that offers that, I'm staying home.
If enough people stay home, maybe the Barclays Center will want out of the deal. And since they will be renovating the Coliseum after all, maybe they just might ship the Islanders back to where they belong.
Now, geographically, Brooklyn is on Long Island -- but I mean Nassau County. But seriously, thanks to the Barclays Center for keeping the Islanders around. It has its issues, but I can still see my team play.
I just need to see the whole ice!
You can follow me on Twitter @pschwartzcbsfan.
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