ELMONT, N.Y. — New York Islanders co-owner Jon Ledecky joked that Tim Leiweke told not to wear nice clothes the final two days before the opening of UBS Arena. “‘You’re going to be running around, you’re on trash detail to get all the trash out of here,'” Ledecky recalled Leiweke saying while standing overlooking the ice at the Islanders’ new home.
The Islanders are in the final stages of their historic 13-game road trip and are just over a week away from taking the ice at the still under construction venue. Work has continued 24/7 as they hit the home stretch to finish the $1.5 billion arena.
Construction workers mulled about during Thursday’s dual events, one honoring American veterans from various branches of the armed service and the other announcing that Shaquille O’Neal’s Big Chicken brand will be available at UBS Arena opens next week. Signs of the progress that has gone on the grounds at Belmont Park and a reminder of what still needs to be completed before the building hosts the Islanders for their first home game next Saturday.
“I feel this is an incredible accomplishment to have built this arena in the middle of a difficult time for our country,” Ledecky said. “The pandemic, all the different sacrifices that all of us had to make to have this rise up and represent America and this area after the pandemic. As we move, hopefully, post-pandemic what a great symbol of the resilience of New York, the resilience of the metropolitan area and the resilience our fans. … It’s been a long time to get this done. A lot of folks tried.”
Today the #Isles unveiled a #POW #MIA Chair in honor of the #Military on #VeteransDay , the chair sits under the #Isles 4 #stanleycup Championship Banners I asked team owner Jon Ledecky about it today pic.twitter.com/umDr1OFCer
— Mark Rosenman (SportsTalkNY) (@sportstalkny) November 11, 2021
The opening of the new venue won’t come without its hiccups, Ledecky predicted. The Islanders’ co-owner predicted glitches to occur during the early days of the arena.
Ledecky said he would be in the parking lot making sure people can get in and out in a timely fashion. He’ll also be making sure entry runs as smoothly as possible.
“It’s going to be bumpy in the beginning,” Ledecky said. “We’re going to learn lessons in the beginning, but over time it’s going to be fantastic. The most important thing is that the fans think they own the building.”
UBS Arena is the culmination of a decade’s-long quest by the New York Islanders to find a suitable home arena. The organization spent years trying to renovate and rebuild the Nassau Coliseum during Charle’s Wang’s years as owner of the Islanders before moving the club to Barclays Center in 2015.
The Islanders have made no secret about the inspirations for their new home. Modeled to honor some of New York’s great landmarks, parts of the arena pay homage to Grand Central Station and the heralded Belmont Park race track that sits right next door to UBS Arena.
— Christian Arnold (@C_Arnold01) November 11, 2021
The biggest thing that Ledecky wanted was to honor the fans’ desire to make everyone feel at home.
“Inclusion was the word that our fanbase said,” Ledecky explained. “We want everyone to feel they can participate and part of it. We don’t want to see, pardon the expression, corporate suits. We want to be part of the fans. That the fans can interact with each other. Whether they’re buying the best seat in the house or they have the “Bob Uecker” seat. The democratization of our fan base was incredibly important to them.”
While O’Neal was admittedly not the world’s biggest hockey fan, the NBA and television superstar he liked what he saw on Thursday of the work that has been completed at the arena.
“It’s very impressive,” O’Neal said. “It’s one of the best arenas I’ve seen. Shout out to the men and women getting it done. Still in pretty rough shape, but I know it will be ready by next Friday and those guys deserve all the credit.”