First, the city is committed to cleaning up Willets Point and clearing the way for development.
Secondly, the United State Tennis Association (USTA) is looking to put a dome over Arthur Ashe Stadium so that rain does not interfere with the last days of the world’s biggest tennis tournament, which traditionally concludes the Sunday after Labor Day. When this does happen, as it did this past year, USTA officials refer to it as “the lost weekend.”
Meanwhile, Queens needs a sports arena that doubles as a convention center - a complex that could be a hub for businesses and some kind of affordable housing complex, as well as a hotel.
Also, the NHL's New York Islanders, which few on Long Island care about anymore, are looking to move the club somewhere far away from their current home in Uniondale, Long Island, with Kansas City regularly bandied about as a landing spot.
Jack Friedman, the man who runs the Queens Chamber of Commerce, is nervously excited about this perfect storm for all those involved: the USTA, the community, the city, hockey fans, the Queens economy, and, yes, even the Islanders franchise, the NHL dynasty of the 1980’s.
He says the chamber has its eye on the ball here and would love to help bring all sides together. “We need this for Queens and it has to be done now,” said Friedman last week at the chamber's golf outing.
Sure, Queens was used as a pawn by the Jets to no avail in 2005, but the USTA used Atlanta as a pawn to keep the U.S. Open at Flushing Meadows Park in the 1990’s. So what? It’s just good business to eye every opportunity and Charles Wang, owner of the Islanders, is compelled to look at other cities for his franchise.
But understand this Charles: the rest of the world knows that a New York franchise will always be more valuable than one in “who cares” Kansas City, Kansas. Maybe it’s cold and maybe there’s some great hockey going on there, but there are no fans anywhere like New York fans. We think the Islanders can create a great following here in Queens.
Wang’s lease at Nassau Coliseum expires in five seasons; the city is planning a complex, including a convention center at Willets Point; and the USTA needs an indoor option for the US Open.
Build the arena for the Islanders right across the street from the National Tennis Center, which allows the USTA to play its Friday, Saturday and Sunday matches on finals weekend there if need be. The icing on the cake is that the parking lot at Citi Field will now be used all year long.