Kevin Schultz, Islanders Point Blank:When the Islanders head to the Barclays center for their first game at the arena on September 21st, a pre-season tilt against the Devils, the public will finally have a look at what a hockey rink retro-fitted inside a basketball arena will look like.
It’s not going to look like a traditional hockey arena.
The picture to your right came to light in September 2012 showing the rink setup. In it you can sort of see how the scoreboard will be hanging over one end of the ice and not centered as it normally would be.
A source with knowledge of the planning has told Point Blank that as a result of the arena not being specifically designed for hockey this will indeed be the layout and Barclays’ scoreboard will not hang directly over center ice. It will be off-center, hanging over one side of the neutral zone. The Barclays is going to leave this aspect of the setup as-is.
The source added that the Barclays Center is looking at possible ways to fit more seats into the arena, which will hold at least 14,500 for hockey, but that it isn’t possible to make changes to the sightlines or the structure of the building. Currently it would be the smallest arena in the NHL behind Winnipeg’s MTS Centre, which holds 15,004.
One change that will be coming to the building this summer is the construction of the Islanders’ locker room, the source said.
Last year, the Barclays center posted a seating chart to their website that showed that the upper deck of the arena behind one net would be left dark due to poor sightlines, which can sort of be seen in the above picture. It’s possible that given the configuration there could be dozens of empty rows on the lower bowl, on this same side of the arena. The lower bowl seats could even be pushed back entirely. It is unclear exactly how the arena plans to handle the setup in that end zone.
With one end of the upper deck and some of the lower bowl out of action due to poor sightlines, the arena could look something like America West Arena — now the US Airways Center — did when it hosted the Phoenix Coyotes between 1996 and 2003, after their move from Winnipeg to Arizona.
When fans got to America West, it seemed as though the concrete had been sheared in some places to configure the arena for hockey. It does not appear that the Barclays is going to make such drastic and destructive cosmetic changes to the $1 billion arena.
When Barclays was initially being constructed under the design of architect Frank Gehry, the arena considered whether to make it a basketball-only facility or a dual basketball-hockey facility. After Gehry was removed from the job for driving costs higher the arena had to make a decision on how to continue. Given that at the time the Islanders looked like a long shot to head to Brooklyn – this was in 2009 – the arena moved forward with construction as a basketball-only facility. Now that the Islanders have bolted for Brooklyn, the arena is being retrofit for hockey.
The Barclays Center is certainly going to be a unique hockey setup. With an off-center scoreboard and seating issues on one end, the Barclays’ setup for hockey is going to be much different than anything the NHL currently has in use.
With a history that contains four consecutive Stanley Cups, multitudes of miraculous overtime victories, record-length contracts and a former felon owner, the Islanders have been a part of many unique situations before. The Team That Has Always Been Different now has a new, unique looking home to go with their unique name and history. And they should embrace it.
In Boston there’s a legendary giant wall in the outfield that separates the baseball diamond from I-90. The old Maple Leaf Gardens had odd end zones of its own (pictured, right). Now, in Brooklyn, there will be a hockey rink that has a horseshoe-like seating setup and out-of-place scoreboard.
Hockey isn’t used to unique setups; the arenas are generally homogeneous with the main differentiating factors being their age and concession offerings (would you like sushi, a tattoo or cupcakes?). There’s no doubt that this could be more ammunition for critics to use against the quirky franchise despite their upstanding policy of not firing coaches over Skype.
The Islanders should embrace the quirks of the new arena.
This is the franchise that invented ice girls and the blog box. Maybe they can think of something innovative to do with the end zone of awkward seating and the oddly positioned scoreboard.
At the end of the day, the arena is beautiful and modern. At long last, the franchise will have a shiny new home even if it wasn’t theirs by design. There’s no reason to not make the best of the situation. They might as well — they’re going to be at the Barclays Center for 25 years, after all.