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Report: Islanders Owners Partner with Oak View Group to Downsize Nassau Coliseum

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Nassau Coliseum

New York Islanders ownership is joining with Oak View Group on a proposal to downsize the Nassau Coliseum into a music-focused venue following the Islanders move to UBS Arena in 2021, Newsday reported on Tuesday night.

Oak View Group CEO Tim Leiweke is hoping by joining forces with New York Arena Partners, the group made of Isles ownership, New York Mets COO Jeff Wilpon and Oak View Group, it will bolster their proposal. New York Arena Partners is the group building the Islanders’ new arena at Belmont Park and developing the surrounding area.

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Leiweke’s plan focuses on cutting the Coliseum’s capacity to half of what it is now and the Oak View Group CEO sees the music-focused Nassau Coliseum as “a complement to Radio City Music Hall.”

The Islanders are slated to play their final season before UBS Arena opens at the Nassau Coliseum. There was some concern after Mikhail Prokhorov’s Onexim Sports and Entertainment closed the Long Island venue in June while they searched for someone to take over the lease of the building.

UBS Arena Puts Islanders Hockey, Fans First

Florida developer Nick Mastroianni II reached a deal with Nassau County to assume control of the lease for the Coliseum last month. On Tuesday he had begun internal meetings to discuss the future of the building, according to Newsday.

Oak View Group began expressing interest in the Nassau Coliseum in July after Leiweke was encouraged to be “part of the solution” by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Leiweke told Newsday. Mastroianni has until October to come with a plan for Nassau and submit it to the county.

The addition of the Islanders’ ownership group adds an interesting wrinkle to the Nassau Coliseum process. If Mastroianni decides not to select the Oak View Group bid, then the Islanders could potentially play in the building with another group running it.

Islanders owner Jon Ledecky has said in the past that he is confident the Islanders will play one final season at the Coliseum.

New York Islanders Owner Jon Ledecky: ‘In Gary We Trust’

During a sit down at the Preview Club in Manhattan with a small contingent of reporters, which included NYI Hockey Now, Ledecky said the focus was on the team’s run to the Stanley Cup and not on thinking about next season and how to honor the final year at Nassau.

“We’re focused on right now with the playoffs. Trying to reach the Stanley Cup Final,” Ledecky said. “In terms of the Nassau Coliseum, there’s just a lot of things going on. I think we’re looking forward to opening up the UBS Arena. … I can tell you there’s been a singular focus on where we are right now.”

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Nassau Coliseum is Where Isles Should Play Next Season, says Tim Leiweke

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Nassau Coliseum

The New York Islanders are supposed to play their final year at Nassau Coliseum this coming regular season before UBS Arena opens in 2021.

That remains the hope of Oak View Group CEO Tim Leiweke and the Islanders. That plan has been put into question a bit after Onexim Sports and Entertainment closed the Coliseum down in June and then Nassau County came to an agreement with Nick Mastroianni II to take over the lease last month.

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Oak View Group recently put in a proposal to downsize the Nassau Coliseum after the Islanders move to UBS Arena.

“I hope Nassau works out. That’s where the Islanders should play their games,” Leiweke told amNewYork Metro’s Joe Pantorno during a wide-ranging interview. “At the end of the day, we don’t want to be in a position where Nassau Coliseum’s future use is pitted directly against UBS Arena. It’s a billion-dollar private investment, so hopefully, there’s a way where we can find a solution for everyone and I’m going to leave it at that.”

The $1.5 billion UBS Arena project includes a new building for the Islanders, a retail district, a hotel and a newly constructed LIRR station. NYI Hockey Now was invited down to the Preview Club in Manhattan on Monday and spoke with Leiweke and Islanders owner Jon Ledecky about what the new project will look like.

On Tuesday, Newsday reported that the Islanders ownership had joined Oak View Group in its bid to downsize the Nassau Coliseum into a music-focused venue once the team played out their final year in 2020-21.

Should Oak View Group’s plan be picked by Mastroianni, it would be the third Islanders-related venue they operate. They will run UBS Arena once it opens and they currently run operations at Webster Bank Arena, home of the Islanders AHL affiliate, the Bridgeport Sound Tigers.

Oak View Group took over operations of the Connecticut arena in 2019.

“Jon and Scott have been kind enough to back Lou on getting the OVG team in there, too,” Leiweke said in the same amMetro New York interview. “So we have the synergy of our management team at UBS Arena and we put together I think the best management team for an arena I’ve ever seen. They’re also overseeing Bridgeport and they’re working on a long-term vision there. If something happened at Nassau, they’d also be the same team that oversees that.

“We’re very fortunate that we have some of the best executives in the business.”

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UBS Arena Puts Islanders Hockey, Fans First

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UBS Arena

NEW YORK — Like everything else in 2020, COVID-19 has had an impact one way or another on everything. That includes UBS Arena, the New York Islanders’ new home slated to open in October 2021.

As construction continues on the $1.5 billion project at Belmont Park, attention has been turned to elements of the arena in a post-COVID world. They’ve taken steps to address air circulation inside the arena and reimagine how fans will get concessions.

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“Absolutely we’ve had to put extra money into the building,” Oak View Group CEO and the arena project leader Tim Leiweke said Monday night during an interview during Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Final. “Not just for sanitization, but for air purification and we’ve had to make changes as we’ve learned about the virus. We’ve learned how it will have a continuing impact on the industry long term.”

What the virus hasn’t changed is the excitement surrounding the opening of the arena at Belmont Park. That was on display on Monday as Islanders co-owner Jon Ledecky showed off a taste of what UBS Arena will offer to a small group of invited guests at the Preview Club in Manhattan.

Ledecky watched Monday’s Eastern Conference Final from the Preview Club as he highlighted the finer points of what fans can expect when UBS opens in 2021, and expressed his excitement for a fanbase that has dealt with instability for far too long.

“I feel that the fans deserve a home after all these decades of needing a new home and all the different elements that were involved in searching for a new home,” Ledecky said Monday night in Manhattan. “I’m very pleased for the fans and I’m happy with the fans reaction and I think what was great is the notion that we were able to have three different constituencies give us input in the arena.”

Bowl of UBS Arena

When the building opens it will boast the largest scoreboard, with high definition technology and two levels of high-resolution LED ribbon boards, a state of the art sound system, theatrical lighting and ice video projections.

UBS Arena was designed specifically with hockey in mind, as ownership took input directly from the fans and players. The Islanders will have a 23,000 square foot campus inside the arena, which was designed off meetings with players, coach Barry Trotz and general manager Lou Lamoriello.

Ledecky also spent plenty of time on game nights walking around Nassau Coliseum and Barclays Center listening to the fans and taking in what they wanted in a new venue. High on that list was getting rid of the long concession and bathroom lines, but even higher was bringing the intimacy and feel of Nassau Coliseum to UBS Arena.

While Nassau Coliseum has never been renowned for its amenities, the sightlines and noise level are regarded as some of the best in the National Hockey League. “(UBS Arena is) going to be the loudest and most intimate arena in the National Hockey League still, which is what Alex Ovechkin told me was the coolest part of the Nassau Coliseum,” Ledecky said.

Part of what makes UBS Arena unique compared to some of the other new venues around the NHL and country is that the building was designed for the sport of hockey as well as music. The three major venues in New York, for instance, are either multipurpose venues or designed specifically with basketball in mind in the case of Barclays Center.

“In the case of hockey, we’ve made a lot of changes from what people are used to seeing in a typical arena,” We’ve shrunk the number of suites so there are only roughly 50 suites in the entire building. We don’t have a lot of breakage within the bowl itself. So it’s tight and it’s steep and it kind of sits on top of the ice to give it that Coliseum feel.

“There were a lot of architectural and design specifics requests and changes made to the way that this building was designed and it is being built in order to make it perfect for hockey. We weren’t trying to appease everything and everybody and that helps.”

UBS Arena can host basketball games, and with 150 dates a year to fill the emphasis was also put on concerts. Similarly to how Ledecky solicited input from players and fans, they talked to people in the music industry.

“Tim Leiweke brilliantly arranged for the group, the architects and us, to met with musical acts, their talent managers, their road agents, their road managers,” Ledecky said. “That was the first time that anybody built an arena design where they actually talked to the music folks.”

At the center of the room of the Preview Club, four replica Stanley Cups sit as an homage to the Islanders championship history. On the wall, Bill Smith’s stick is prominently displayed alongside Bill Torrey’s famed bowtie and Al Arbour’s blue and orange jacket.

While Ledecky wouldn’t give out specifics, the Islanders owner promise the history would be honored inside UBS Arena.

“We’re going to have sections and displays and memorabilia,” Ledecky said. “We’re going to be honoring not only the great alumni, but we’ll also be honoring the great fans. Stand by there’s going to be unique things in this building that take into account the rich heritage and history of the Islanders. Recognize the 550-plus alums who have put on the sweater and also recognize the great fans who have been supporting us.”

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Nassau Coliseum Loses Naming Rights Sponsor

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Nassau Coliseum

The ongoing saga surrounding the renovated Nassau Coliseum continued with a new wrinkle.

Naming rights sponsor New York Community Bank is exiting its long-term deal with the arena, Newsday reported. The building has been formally knowns as NYCB Live’s Nassau Coliseum since it reopened in 2017 after renovations were completed.

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Nick Mastroianni II, the new leaseholder for the Nassau Coliseum, allowed NYCB to exit the agreement early, bank officials told the newspaper. The main reason, according to the report, is the uncertainty surrounding the Nassau HUB site.

The future of the Coliseum, as well as the surrounding 77-acres, has come into question once again after Onexim Sports and Entertainment announced they were shutting down the venue in June while they looked for someone to take over the lease. A deal was reached last week between Nassau County and Mastroianni for the Florida-based businessman Mastroianni to take over the lease immediately.

When Onexim, which is owned by Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov, shuttered the venue in June it raised plenty of questions about where the New York Islanders would play their final season before UBS Arena opens at Belmont Park. Earlier this year, prior to COVID-19, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that the Islanders would play all playoff games at Nassau Coliseum and the entire 2020-21 season would be played on Long Island.

Nassau County officials remain optimistic that the Islanders will play one more season at the Barn before relocating to UBS Arena for the 2021-22 season. It remains unclear, however, if fans will even be allowed inside arenas when the 2020-21 season starts this winter, whenever that is.

The Islanders called the Coliseum home from 1972 up until 2015. The team relocated to Barclays Center for the 2015-16 season, but began splitting time between the renovated Coliseum and Barclays Center during the 2018-19 NHL season.

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