You didn’t have to be at the recent grand opening of the UBS Arena in Elmont to know it was a big deal. The Empire State Building, Pier 17 at The Seaport and the Nassau County seat of government’s dome were all lit in Islanders and Nassau County blue and orange on Nov. 20. Key players — not on the Islanders, in this case — in the project were slated to ring the morning bell at the New York Stock Exchange a little more than a week later.
The opening of the UBS Arena, which held a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Nov. 19 a day before the Islanders’ first game there, is part of a celebration where the venue, not only the Islanders or performers, is the star. The arena built at Belmont Park on the border of Queens and Nassau is a major development in terms of entertainment and could have a big economic impact.
“The new UBS arena keeps the Islanders here, contributes to Long Island’s sports economy and will have a multiplier impact of billions of dollars over the life of the developer’s lease,” Long Island Association CEO Matthew Cohen said.
Local business groups view the opening on New York State-owned land as a win for the community, bringing in new businesses and benefiting those in the area.
“This development will bring a steady stream of revenue locally and statewide,” said Julie Marchesella, president of the Elmont Chamber of Commerce. “The Islanders as well as arena partners in the construction process have already been using several delis, restaurants, printers and other business services to effect a change in the economic circumstances of our community.”
The new home of four-time consecutive Stanley Cup Champion New York Islanders was developed as a partnership between Oak View Group, the New York Islanders and Jeff Wilpon. Construction went on despite the pandemic, building facilities including medical-grade air filtration and ultraviolet light systems to help with cleaning.
Tim Leiweke, CEO of Oak View Group and leader of the arena project, talked about the project’s “promise of helping reinvigorate the New York economy,” among other benefits.
Organizations are hoping to harness the arena as a marketing engine as well. Northwell Health CEO Michael Dowling announced a sponsorship agreement with the Islanders and UBS Arena, saying his system is “proud to align ourselves with New York’s newest premier sports and entertainment venue.”
The arena, in a region where the division between Nassau and New York City goes beyond an area code, builds a new, big bridge between Nassau and the Big Apple. The structure is in Nassau, a slapshot away from Queens, but with sections of the parking lot in Queens.
“You really don’t even know whether you’re in Queens or in Nassau,”Queens Chamber of Commerce CEO Thomas Grech said. “There’s no demarcation literally between Nassau and Queens. In that area, it’s fungible.”
Marchesella said the arena realizes a vision the community first outlined years ago for a sports/entertainment venue.
“Elmont’s vision plan, written almost 15 years ago, is now coming to fruition,” she said. “This was the vision for Elmont. Other things were added, like a hotel and stores. From a regional approach, it had to be economically viable.”
The $1.5 billion arena and surrounding redevelopment, according to developers, is expected to generate $25 billion in economic activity, including infrastructure improvements such as the revamp of the nearby Belmont Park Long Island Rail Road station. The development is slated to include 315,000 square feet of retail and a 250-room boutique hotel along with the 23,000-square-foot Islanders locker and team training facility.
While some worry that the UBS Arena could compete with the Isles’ longtime home, Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Uniondale, developers bill the venue as a boon in a region big enough for both. Organizers say the arena, able to fit up to 19,000 for concerts and 17,250 for NHL hockey games, is slated to host more than 150 major events annually.
“Before and after games and events and concerts, we want folks to come and stay, eat, drink and be merry in Queens,” Grech said. “There’s a lot of restaurants right on the outskirts of the parking lot and the arena.”
The Islanders debuted in their new home Nov. 20, playing the Calgary Flames, followed by Grammy Award-winner Harry Styles slated to perform on Nov. 28. WWE was on the calendar for Nov. 29 as part of WWE Monday Night RAW.
But some Hockey fans hoping to see the Islanders play a game at UBS may have to watch them on TV. As of press time, suites were gone, and there were very few single-game tickets left.
“Selling out season tickets is a true testament to this loyal fanbase,” Leiweke said.