Jeff Wilpon officially broke the ice in talks to potentially bring another professional sports team to Queens.
Reports have surfaced that the Mets’ chief operating officer recently met with Charles Wang, owner of the New York Islanders, to discuss relocation options for the embattled hockey franchise, as reported by Newsday on Wednesday, May 12.
The meeting, confirmed by Wilpon himself, is also said to have included talks about the possible sale of Long Island’s only professional sports team to the Mets’ owners.
Wang, Isles-owner for over a decade, has been trying since 2003 to get local government to approve a development plan that would give the team a new arena to replace Nassau Coliseum.
The plan, dubbed The Lighthouse Project, would not only renovate the aging Coliseum, but would also include a massive overhaul of the surrounding area. Wang’s proposal included a five-star hotel, housing, offices, park space, restaurants and a shopping mall.
Wang is said to have grown frustrated over the amount of time it has taken the Town of Hempstead, which oversees the land, to approve the project.
Jack Friedman, executive vice-president of the Queens Chamber of Commerce, said that bringing the Islanders to Queens is something that the Chamber has been interested in for years.
“The Lighthouse Project has gone nowhere for seven years,” said Friedman. “The master plan for that project and the master plan for Willets Point are almost identical. The only difference is Willets Point is a lot further along in terms of the politics and the zoning.”
Plans for Willets Point include a convention center that could potentially be used as home ice for the Islanders, whose lease at the Coliseum expires in 2015.
Most agree that bringing the Islanders to Queens would expand the fan base simply by providing mass transit options to get to and from the games. Also, Friedman believes that moving the team to Queens would give its Long Island followers the best chance to remain supportive.
“This is a logical scenario and one that Islanders fans would find least objectionable,” said Friedman, referring to reports that had Wang mulling to move the team out of New York entirely. “Queens can give the Islanders a new home and the Islanders can help create the destination area that Queens needs.”