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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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Deal with Coliseum Lease Holder Allows Isles to Play There During Restrictions

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Nassau Coliseum

An agreement between Nassau County and new Nassau Coliseum leaseholder Nassau Live Center LLC would allow for the New York Islanders to use the Coliseum during the COVID-19 restrictions should the NHL season start up in 2021, According to Newsday.

Nassau Live Center LLC, which is run by Florida businessman Nick Mastroianni II, took over operations of the Nassau Coliseum in August after Mikhail Prokhorov owned Onexim Sports and Entertainment shuttered the building earlier this year. The new arrangement between the County and Mastroianni would allow for Mastroianni to forgo the $4 million a month rent payments to Nassau County until at least next summer.

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As part of that, the Islanders would be allowed to play at the Coliseum with or without fans in the building next season. The 2020-21 season is the Islanders final one before they move to UBS Arena at Belmont Park.

In September Islanders general manager Lou Lamoriello told reporters that the Islanders would play their final year before Belmont at Nassau Coliseum despite the uncertainty at the time surrounding the use of the county-owned facility.

“We will definitely be playing at the Coliseum next year. That is a confirmation,” Lamoriello said in September.

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The NHL is targeting a Jan. 1 start date, but there is no firm plan in place yet on how the league will start by that date. Among the many aspects the NHL is trying to plan for is whether or not they will use hub cities to begin the year or have teams play in their home arenas.

An amendment was also agreed upon, according to Newsday, that would give Mastroianni “until six months after the state lifts restrictions on arena events” to submit a plan to the County for the Nassau Coliseum. Oak View Group, which is a part owner and operator of the Islanders new arena at Belmont Park, proposed downsizing the Coliseum to a 5,000 seat music-focused venue.

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Iona Basketball Coach Rick Pitino Buys Islanders Season Tickets

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CHESTNUT HILL, MA - FEBRUARY 04: Louisville Cardinals head coach Rick Pitino during the first half of a college basketball game between Louisville Cardinals and Boston College Eagles on February 4, 2017, at Conte Forum in Chestnut Hill, MA. Louisville defeated Boston College 90-67. (Photo by M. Anthony Nesmith/Icon Sportswire)

Islanders general manager Lou Lamoriello is doing more than just selling NHL players on the New York Islanders, it seems he’s selling some of his friends on season tickets.

Legendary college basketball coach Rick Pitino told News 12 that during a recent dinner between himself and Lamoriello that he was convinced to jump on the Islanders bandwagon and purchase season tickets. Pitino was named head coach of nearby Iona College’s men’s basketball program in March.

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“We spent three and a half hours together and I bought Islander season tickets just because of Lou,” Pitino told the Long Island news station. “Now I’m somewhat of a hockey fan, but not over the top. I feel that Lou Lamoriello will bring a Stanley Cup champion to the Islanders and I bought two season tickets with their new place at Belmont Park.”

Pitino and Lamoriello have a long history together that goes back to both to their days at Providence College. Lamoriello was the athletic director there and hired Pitino to coach the men’s basketball team in 1985.

Rick Pitino is also no stranger to Long Island, having been born in nearby New York City, going to high school at St. Dominic in Oyster Bay and coaching the New York Knicks from 1987 to 1989.

Pitino said in the interview that he had signed up for season tickets for three years, but that the salesperson tried to get him locked in for 10 years. The Iona coached joked that he may not live long enough to see the whole 10 years.

“I said to him, ‘how long do you think I’m going live? I’ve been coaching 43 years,'” Pitino said. “And he laughed. I said ‘I think I’ll stay with the three-year package.'”

The famed basketball coach’s season ticket purchase added to the growing number of people that have bought packages for the Islanders new arena at Belmont Park.

In August, the Islanders announced that 80 percent of season tickets at  UBS Arena had been sold. Ticket sales were boosted by the Islanders run to the Eastern Conference Finals over the summer.

“The unprecedented demand for season tickets adds a new level of excitement about the team. The support from our loyal Islanders fans across the metro NY region has been tremendous,” Islanders Co-Owner Jon Ledecky said in a statement at the time.

While Islanders games are not the must be events that games at Madison Square Garden have been in the past, some notable people have been known to be spotted at games in the past. Former New York Jet Damien Woody has become a vocal supporter of the Islanders.

New York Mets pitcher Noah Syndergaard has been to games in the past, as has Law & Order SVU star Peter Scanavino.

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Final Steel Beam Raised at Islanders’ UBS Arena

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Final steel beam at UBS Arena

The final steel beam was raised to the top of UBS Arena on Friday during a ceremony at Belmont Park.

The placing of the final beam is another significant milestone for the New York Islanders future home. UBS Arena is expected to be completed in time for the start of the 2021-22 NHL season.

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Islanders co-owner Jon Ledecky and NHL commissioner Gary Bettman were on hand for the “Topping Off Ceremony.” Islanders alumni Butch Goring, John Tonelli and Clark Gillies were also on hand for the event.

It was just over a year ago that the Islanders broke ground on the site next to the famed horse racing track. The arena is part of a larger development project that will include a hotel, shopping district and community space.

“Since that day last September the construction team has erected thousands of pieces of steel and poured over 27,000 cubic yards of concrete,” Ledecky said on Friday. “I am simply in awe of the work done by the men and women building UBS Arena. This will be our home, but it will always be your legacy.”

Construction on the arena was halted on March 27 as part of a statewide ban on nonessential construction during the COVID-19 pandemic and resumed two months later, but did not have an impact on the completion date.

“This represents a point of normalcy,” Bettman said. “It gives a hope and a prospect to focus on for a future that will be bright. What sports and arenas like this represent is people from diverse communities, diverse backgrounds all coming together in a common rooting sensation. A common goal of being together.  It’s what communities and society is all about together.

“This arena and the progress that’s been made is a beacon of hope that yes construction can continue during a difficult time. This represents what will be a return to normalcy for this area and nothing in a time like this can be more important.”

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