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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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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?
Welcome to your new home for New York Islanders breaking news, analysis and opinion. Like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and don't forget to subscribe to NYHN+ for all of our members-only content from Christian Arnold and the National Hockey Now network.
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