I went and took in a Yankee game on May 1. I could not help marvel at the new Yankee Stadium. The place is truly a sight to behold and a pleasure to watch a game in.
The Great Hall, The Yankee Museum, the sight lines, the concourse, the food, the access, the huge video board—it is just an amazing facility.
I think it is safe to say that the New York Yankees are the richest, most successful franchise in baseball and arguably in all of sports worldwide, with an estimated value of $1.5 billion.
I sat there and thought about sometimes aloud how awesome the place is.
I realized how lucky we were as Yankee and Met fans to have such beautiful, albeit expensive places to watch professional sports.
Then I thought of the place I spend my winters watching professional sports, The Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum.
We all know there is no comparison with NHL teams and MLB teams with the economics of each sport. All of MLB's teams are worth an estimated $18 billion combined. The NHL by comparison? Its teams are worth an estimated 5.6 billion.
That being said, the Islanders are in the same market as the Yankees. However, it isn't fair to compare the two, given the Yankees status in the NY sports landscape. After all, the Islanders came into the NY sports market second decades after the NY Rangers.
That's eerily similar to the NY Mets. The Mets and the Islanders have a lot in common. They are viewed as the "secondary" NY franchises to the Yankees and Rangers.
The Mets are worth $900 million and are the third most valuable franchise in baseball.
That's a pretty good second fiddle there, wouldnt you say?
The NY Rangers are the second highest valued team at $414 million.
The NY Islanders, the 29th most valuable franchise in the NHL.
So what gives?
The economics of the two sports aside, the Islanders are a victim of two main problems, and the biggest problems are not what you may think, so let's rule the obvious out first.
As bad as the Nassau Coliseum is you can't blame the arena for the value of the team. While it certainly doesn't help, it stands far from the prime reason.
Take a look at the stadiums the Yankees and Mets have been playing in up until this season. Shea Stadium and Yankee Stadium were far past their primes 15 years ago and two facilities that both fans and the tenants viewed as far inferior to what was being built around the league over the last 10 years.
No one will say that Madison Square Garden is a great arena.
In spite of that, the Yankees, Mets, and Rangers multiplied in value over the last 10 years.
Let's look at those two main reasons a little closer:
1. Stable Ownership
Go ahead. Admit it. The Wilpons, Dolans, and Stienbrenners are three of the best owners in sports. They spend money, the make money, they sell tickets and players will play there.
But Shea and Yankee Stadiums as well as the Garden are and were such old decrepit places to play.
Do you think Carlos Beltran or Pedro Martinez cared about the Shea facilities when they signed those mammoth contracts? Players care about two things: Winning and money, and some not necessarily in that order.
Do you think Scott Gomez and Chris Drury cared about the arena when they signed with the Rangers?
How about A-Rod? Giambi? Damon? Think they were worried about playing in that old ball park?
No, it's all about the money and winning people.
Granted, franchises have shown that they can win and build winners without spending like a drunken prom queen, but there is always a few players of a high dollar amount kicking around on these winning franchises.
If the Islanders were so inclined, they could go out and offer Marian Hossa and Marian Gaborik a boatload of cash this summer and get both of them.The problem is they can't, or a better word is, they wont.
This is not even considering the parade of inept and criminal owners the Islanders have had over the last 25 years.
To sum it all up, the Islanders have three past owners that are currently in prison.
That should be enough on that subject.
Plain and simple, people. Winning sells. It sells more than anything else. If the Islanders turned around and won 45 games next season, won a couple of playoff series, and looked good doing it, the building would be packed every night for the next three years minimum. Season tickets would multiply exponentially, and merchandise would fly off the shelves.
The Yankees come to mind. As much as Yankee Stadium was beloved, let's face it: When the Yankees stunk, the place drew 15,000 people per game. They said they would never draw three million fans a season. They said the South Bronx could not be a successful venue for baseball any more. They said traffic issues could not be solved.
All the Yankees had to do to prove all of the above wrong was win the World Series in 1996. Then again in 1998, 1999, and 2000. Four championships in five years.
The Yankees are nine years removed from their last World Series championship, and they drew four million fans last year in that same broken down old stadium with no parking and severely dated facilites.
Now they have an absolute palace to play in. Does anyone think that would have happened if not for the team's success on the field?
The Mets got their new $900 million palace also this past season, probably due to the fact the city was not going to build the Yankees a palace, and let the Mets sit in that toilet Shea Stadium and risk losing the money machine the Mets are.
New York City, the biggest red tape-producing, construction-blocking city lit not one, but two monstrous stadium projects totaling over $2.5 billion, all in the same year.
That's not even mentioning the Giants and Jets new stadium, which costs reportedly are spiraling up to $2 billion.
These teams all have one thing in common: They range from very successful to moderately successful on the field.
When they stunk, there was no talk of any new stadiums, or it was laughed off by the masses and politicians.
The single most important thing the Islanders can do to speed up the process on their Lighthouse Project is win.
In this case, it's not "If you build it they will come," it's "If you build a winner, they will come."