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New York Islanders to move to Brooklyn in 2015

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The National Hockey League’s (NHL) New York Islanders are moving to Brooklyn in 2015, it was announced on Wednesday.

Islanders owner Charles Wang speaks during the announcement of NHL's New York Islanders' move to the Barclays Center in 2015 in Brooklyn, in New York October 24, 2012. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

The Islanders will leave their traditional home base at Nassau County on Long Island when their current lease expires after the 2014-15 season.

They will share the Barclays Center with the National Basketball Association’s Brooklyn Nets, who took up residence in the brand new multi-purpose indoor arena last month after leaving New Jersey.

“We have entered into a 25-year agreement beginning with the 2015-16 season,” team owner Charles Wang told a conference.

“I am excited about today’s announcement and look forward to a long successful future in Brooklyn. It was our goal from day one to keep the Islanders in the local New York area.”

The Islanders confirmed that the team’s name and logo would remain unchanged.

The announcement ended years of conjecture and debate over the long-term future of the Islanders at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum, which was opened in 1972 when the team was first admitted to the NHL.

Plans to renovate the old stadium or build a new one were considered then rejected, prompting speculation the Islanders could shift to Brooklyn and reunite with the Nets.

The Nets briefly played at Nassau before moving across the Hudson River to Newark. They are part owned by Bruce Ratner, who developed the Barclays Center.

“Bruce and I met about six to seven years ago and at that time we both had a dream and a passion to build something special for our respective fan bases,” said Wang.

“Bruce obviously wanted to attract the Islanders to call Brooklyn their home and I wanted the Nets to call Nassau County their home. Paramount to all was that we wanted to keep our teams local.”

Founded in 1972 as part of a strategy to stop the rebel World Hockey Association getting a foothold in New York, the Islanders have been based at Nassau since their admission.

They are one of three NHL teams in the area, along with the New York Rangers and New Jersey Devils.

Led by Hall of Famers including Denis Potvin and Mike Bossy, the Islanders were an overnight success, making the playoffs in 14 consecutive seasons between 1974 and 1988, and winning the Stanley Cup four times in a row from 1980 to 1983, earning official recognition as an NHL dynasty.

In recent times, the team has fallen on hard times, finishing last in the Atlantic Division in each of the past five seasons and failing to make the playoffs, triggering dwindling attendances.

“Who said the rivalry between the Rangers and the Islanders couldn’t get any bigger? Well, it just did,” said New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

“I’m sure this is going to help them get their mojo back.”

The 675,000-square-foot, 18,000-seat Barclays Center was officially opened on September 28 with a concert by rapper Jay-Z. Built on the site of a gritty former rail yard, the arena sits in the middle of a busy shopping area.

The Nets will play their first regular-season game at the arena, against the New York Knicks, on November 1.

The Islanders were scheduled to play a preseason game there but it was cancelled when the 2012-13 NHL season was put on hold because of the bitter labor dispute between the league and players.

“You don’t have to worry about the future of this club, the club has stayed local, you’ll be able to get to it easily,” NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said.

“For us, for Islanders fans, I know for Charles Wang and Bruce Ratner, (it) is a dream come true.”

Editing by Julian Linden