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County Exec Laura Curran Remains Hopeful Fans will Be Allowed in Coliseum This Season

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An inside view of the New York Islanders home arena
Photo Credit: Darren McGee- Office of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo

When it comes to the idea of fans attending New York Islanders games at the Nassau Coliseum this season, Nassau County Executive Laura Curran isn’t giving up hope.

The Islanders open the home portion of their schedule on Monday against the Boston Bruins, but the home opener will have a different feel in front of an empty building. The 2020-21 season is the final year the Islanders will play at the Coliseum, with their new home at Belmont Park slated to open this fall.

“Never say never would be my motto,” county executive Curran told NYI Hockey Now about the prospects of fans attending games at some point. The Nassau County Executive spoke with NYI Hockey Now over the phone on Sunday.

There’s been renewed hope that fans might be able to return to sporting events in New York in a limited capacity following the success of the Buffalo Bills allowing 6,700 fans to their two playoff games at Bills Stadium. Fans were allowed to attend after being tested for COVID-19 before entering the stadium and adhering to social distancing rules once inside the venue.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo expressed a desire to use the Bills model to open up other sports and entertainment venues in the state.

County Exec Laura Curran Cheering on New York Islanders from Quarantine

The county executive acknowledged the success of the Bills plan, while also noting that there was a difference with the NFL team playing outdoors. Nassau County also has to weigh the financial benefits of opening the building to a limited number of fans if they get to that point.

“One thing you have to think about is even limited attendance, say 25 percent, is a real economic loser for the building,” Curran said. “You don’t have the people buying concessions and beer and all that. You still have the cost of opening, the cost of security and staffing. It might not be worth it.”

The county executive said that the Islanders were exploring what that number might need to be to make it economically feasible to open the Nassau Coliseum to fans, but that it was still too early to come up with a solid figure for that.

Nassau County has been having ongoing conversations with the state government about how to adapt the Bills plan for the Islanders and other venues on Long Island, Curran said.

The county executive has been a vocal supporter of both the Islanders’ UBS Arena at Belmont Park and the team’s early full-time return to Long Island before the opening of the new venue this fall. Curran lobbied NHL commissioner Gary Bettman to allow the Isles to play all their home games at Nassau Coliseum during their final year before the move to Belmont Park.

On Jan. 29, Gov. Cuomo announced that the Islanders would return to the Coliseum for one full final season during a press conference at the team’s long time home.

“This is the last season, I wrote that letter to Gary Bettman saying can we have the last season at the Barn,” Curran said. “He said yes, so I’d at least like to have something. Some fan activity there if we can. It depends on the vaccine. It depends on what the state allows us to do in terms of capacity and it depends on what makes sense financially for the building.”

During an interview with News 12 Long Island, the county executive expressed optimism that fans could be allowed back in the building in time for the playoffs. It was a sentiment she reiterated during her conversation with NYI Hockey Now.

“I do believe it’s within the realm of possibility,” she said.

There was some question last year whether the Islanders would even be able to play at the Nassau Coliseum or not after the venue was shuttered by Onexim Sports and Entertainment in June. The county was able to work out a deal so that businessman Nick Mastroianni would take over the lease and operations of the venue.

“It’s county property so he is now our tenant until we work out a longer-term deal,” Curran said. “This was a good way to handle this moment, especially if we can open up. Especially if we can have games in the Coliseum we needed someone there ready to operate the building and he’s doing that.”

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[…] County Exec Laura Curran Remains Hopeful Fans will Be Allowed in Coliseum This Season […]

[…] As the New York Islanders got set to host their home-opener amidst an empty Nassau Coliseum, County Exec Laura Curran was not giving up hope of getting fans inside the doors this season. (NYI Hockey Now) […]

[…] Curran had expressed hope that the Islanders would be able to get fans into the building. During an interview with NYI Hockey Now, she said that opening up the building to fans by the playoffs was “within the realm of […]

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Islanders Announce Fans Can Return to Nassau Coliseum on March 18

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NHL New York Islanders fans at Nassau Coliseum

The New York Islanders will begin allowing fans back in the building on March 18, the team announced on Wednesday.

The Islanders host the Philadelphia Flyers on March 18 and the statement from the team emphasized the return of season ticket holders on that date. State regulations currently limit capacity at venues in New York to 10 percent capacity and the Islanders said they would be following all required safety protocols.

A FAQ page set up by the Islanders says that roughly 1,300 fans will be allowed to attend games under the current state guidelines, which were announced on Feb. 10.

The team will welcome 1,000 frontline workers from Northwell Health on March 11 as a thank you for their “heroic efforts this past year.” The Islanders host the New Jersey Devils that night at Nassau Coliseum

Season ticket holders are being given priority for all homes this season, the team said. The FAQ page indicated that season ticket holders and suite holders would be given priority access to purchase tickets in order of tenure, followed by the general public.

As of now, the Islanders have only made seven-game available to purchase tickets to, which includes the March 18 date. March 20 vs. Philadelphia Flyers, April 1st vs. Washington Capitals, April 3rd vs. Philadelphia Flyers, Tuesday, April 6 vs. Washington Capitals,  April 8 vs. Philadelphia Flyers and April 9 vs. New York Rangers will have tickets sold as well, according to the team site.

Fans will need to provide a negative PCR test that was administered within 72 hours of the game. The Islanders have partnered with Northwell Health GoHealth Urgent Care to create a “dedicated process for fans to ensure that you have your test results in hand on game day,” the FAQ page said.

 

If a fan tests negative or fails a temperature check on game day, they will be given a refund. Fans will also receive refunds for any canceled games and a refund option will be available if a game has to be rescheduled.

Fans are being asked to stay at home if they are feeling symptomatic or not feeling well, in which case they will be offered a refund as well, according to the Islanders website.

The announcement about the Coliseum reopening to fans was welcomed news to Nassau County Executive Laura Curran. She has been a vocal supporter of the Islanders and lobbied the NHL to allow them to play all of their home games on Long Island in their final year before UBS Arena opens.

“We know that it’s starting at just 10 percent capacity, but we’re hoping that number continues to go up and up and up until we’re at full capacity,” Curran said in a video posted on Twitter. “In the meantime, I’m looking forward to seeing you there. Let’s rock the barn.”

Prior to the start of the season, there was a question of if fans would even be allowed into the Nassau Coliseum for games. During a ceremony honoring frontline workers at Long Island Jewish Medical Center, Islanders co-owner Jon Ledecky wasn’t sure when that date would be.

“That time will eventually arrive, but we are going to listen to the health authorities and the experts at each and every step,” Ledecky said during the December event.

 

The Islanders had been one of the only metropolitan teams currently playing that had not announced when their fans would be back at their arena following Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s announcement earlier this month that venues could reopen. The Barclays Center and Madison Square Garden both welcomed fans back on Tuesday, which was the first day when they could reopen with 10 percent capacity, COVID testing and strict social distancing rules in place.

The New York Rangers will have fans back in the building on Friday when they host the Boston Bruins.

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Islanders Fans Return to Nassau Coliseum Remains Uncertain

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Nassau Coliseum home of the New York Islanders

It may be a little longer before New York Islanders fans are back in the Nassau Coliseum.

Islanders general manager Lou Lamoriello cautioned that the team may not be letting spectators right in after Gov. Andrew Cuomo allows limited fans back into New York sporting venues beginning Feb. 23.  Lamoriello told reporters that there were still a lot of unknowns about protocols.

The first game the Islanders would be allowed to have fans inside the Coliseum would be on Feb. 25 against the Boston Bruins.

“I don’t think you can assume anything. There is a lot that has to be done well before that,” Lamoriello said in response to a question from NYI Hockey Now. “And that’s not too far away. I don’t believe it will happen at that date, but I’m not the final decision-maker. With that the decisions will come from what the protocol is, can we satisfy the protocol. What is going to be necessary for the fans to be able to come in.”

Venues are only allowed 10 percent capacity under Cuomo’s guidelines and patrons must have proof of a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours of the event. Social distancing will be enforced and face coverings will be required inside.

The New York State Department of Health must also approve all venue reopening plans.

When Cuomo made the announcement last Wednesday, the Brooklyn Nets, New York Knicks and New York Rangers all announced dates they would start to let fans back in. The Islanders did following the governor’s announcement.

“There’s certainly a lot of questions unanswered at this point,” Lamoriello said. “Everyone is working on it, but I don’t feel anyone should put a date on it.”

Following the Feb. 25 matchup with Boston, the next available game the Islanders could up the arena up to fans would the weekend set of games they have against Pittsburgh on Feb. 27 and Feb. 28. The Islanders have not hosted a home game at Nassau Coliseum with fans in attendance since March 7 against the Carolina Hurricanes.

Lamoriello said that everyone was excited to hear fans would be allowed back into the arena, but that it was also somewhat of a somber moment as well.

“Certainly knowing what this pandemic has done to people that were close to me and certainly friends, how important it is for the safety and health of all our fans and all of our people,” Lamoriello said. “That will take prime focus before that happens. There’s a lot of protocol that will have to be answered, but I’m excited to hear the potential of that coming about in the near future.

“But I don’t feel that should happen until we can handle that in a very safe way.”

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NYHN Reader Poll: Would You Feel Comfortable Attending Islanders Games?

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NHL New York Islanders fans at Nassau Coliseum

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced on Wednesday that large arenas and stadiums could begin to reopen on Feb. 23, which includes the New York Islanders home of Nassau Coliseum.

The announcement was met with approval and excitement from pro sports franchises and local officials. The Nassau Coliseum, along with other venues in New York State, will be limited to 10 percent capacity when their doors do open.

“It’s exciting that Governor Cuomo has announced that New York State will allow a limited number of fans to attend games starting February 23rd,” The Islanders said in a statement. “We look forward to welcoming the best fans in hockey back to the Coliseum as soon as possible and to UBS Arena at Belmont Park next season. … The health and safety of our fans and our staff remains our top priority.”

Priority for tickets is being given to season ticket holders.

But how comfortable will Islanders fans be with returning to the Nassau Coliseum, even with a smaller than normal capacity in the arena? We decided to take the question right to you and let you sound off here on NYI Hockey Now.

Vote in our poll below and feel free to expand on that vote in the comment section as to why you would or would not feel comfortable going to a game in person right now.

This poll is no longer accepting votes

Do You Feel Comfortable Attending Islanders Games Again in Person?
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