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An Inside Look at The Islanders’ New Arena

Photo: Joe Pantorno/AMNY

Over the past 35 years, you can count on one hand the number of times there has been such reasons for optimism around the New York Islanders.

They’re in the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time in 27 years, they have some of the best leadership in the NHL from GM Lou Lamoriello down to head coach Barry Trotz, and they have a state-of-the-art arena under construction that will finally provide them with a 21st-century, hockey-first home at Belmont Park.

During Game 2 against the Lightning Wednesday night, Islanders owner Jon Ledecky invited amNewYork Metro to the UBS Arena Preview Club, offering the newspaper a first glimpse at the team’s future home, while providing an in-depth look alongside Oak View Group CEO, Tim Leiweke, whose company is overseeing the building’s construction.

The $1.5 billion project is set to become the premier arena in the New York metropolitan area to catch a hockey game — or a concert — as Leiweke and Ledecky did incredible amounts of homework in designing UBS Arena.

“We all collectively did an analysis on what worked and what didn’t work. The players helped design with Lou and Barry the 23,000 square-foot campus,” Ledecky told amNewYork Metro. “It was really a combination of Tim and the fact that I was traveling around the Coliseum vs. sitting in the owner’s box, talking to hundreds of fans. They all wanted the same thing: An intimate, tight, great lower bowl, and an intimate environment.”

Such a setup will be reminiscent of the team’s current home, Nassau Coliseum, which provided some of the best sightlines and atmospheres in hockey, but lacked modern-day amenities for a pro hockey team.

To ensure UBS Arena met those standards, Ledecky traveled across the country and toured numerous arenas to replicate the best aspects from each.

“There’s a lot of learning and as I call it, let’s be great thieves,” Leiweke said. “We don’t have to be the smartest guys in the room, we just have to be good at taking other people’s ideas and putting it to work here.”

At this point, the renderings of the arena have become museum-worthy works of art for Islanders fans, who are eagerly awaiting their new home’s opening for the start of the 2021-22 season. But there are some other things to look for other than just the in-game experience — especially an unnamed restaurant that Leiweke raved about.

“This restaurant-bar that we’ve created in the building, and I’m not going to give too much of this away, but there’s a spot in the building that stares straight at the stage. Honestly, I’ve been doing this for 40-plus years, I’ve built lots of arenas, we’re in the middle of building six right now. This is singularly the greatest place I’ve ever seen to either watch a concert or a hockey game,” Leiweke said. “The restaurant, the decorations, the special touches, the linen touches, the food we’re going to serve, this is my favorite place in the building. And when people see it, I think they’ll know why it might be, maybe, the single best space in any arena I’ve ever seen to see a live event.”

For Ledecky, it’s a special section in the arena without seats that allows fans to stand and mingle, making hockey games not just vital for a sports fan, but “a happening” for all who attend.

And if they do have to leave their perch or their seats for refreshments, they won’t miss a beat.

“We’re going to have eight bars where you can actually see the action while you’re grabbing a drink. That’s something you don’t see in a lot of arenas,” Ledecky said. “You have to go through the concourse, you have to stand on line, maybe there’s a TV you can see, and half the time you go — I know when I’ve been a fan — half the time I go to get a Coke or a drink, I miss the damn goal. I think having something like that is fan-friendly.”

Before UBS Arena can be completed and experienced, the Islanders still have one more year to get through, which doesn’t provide them a guarantee of their former home, the Nassau Coliseum, right now.

Mikhail Prokhorov got out of his contract and his debt earlier this summer, which was taken over by Florida developer Nick Mastroianni II. While he searches for a new developer for the building, Leiweke and Oak View Group have already put in a pitch to do just that, allowing the Islanders to play the 2020-21 season at the Coliseum before heading out to Belmont.

There has been no clarity on the situation as of yet.

“I hope Nassau works out. That’s where the Islanders should play their games. 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,” Leiweke said. “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.”

This story first appeared in amNY.com

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UBS Scores Naming Rights to Islanders’ New Belmont Park Arena

Renderings of the new UBS Arena, home of the New York Islanders. (Photo: NHL)

Union Bank of Switzerland, better known as UBS, has secured a 20-year arena naming partnership with the New York Islanders for the NHL club’s new arena at Belmont Park set to open for the 2021-22 season.

UBS is the world’s largest wealth manager and is involved in almost all major financial activities ranging from retail and commercial banking to investment banking, management, and wealth management. 

“This is just another major piece to the foundation of the Islanders, the arena in Belmont, Long Island, and the whole New York metropolitan area moving forward,” NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said.
 
“UBS Arena will stand as a beacon of strength, resilience, achievement, and community, and we look forward to celebrating this milestone with our loyal fans,” Islanders co-owner Jon Ledecky said in a statement.
 
The $1.5 billion state-of-the-art arena provides the Islanders with a first-class home for the first time since the very beginning of the organization’s existence back in 1972.
 
The Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum, which served as the Islanders’ original home until 2015, had received no major upgrades or renovations in its over-40-year history, forcing the team to move to the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
 
After the relationship between the club and the Brooklyn venue soured, the Islanders returned home to the coliseum in Uniondale to split its regular-season schedule last year and during the 2019-20 season. Before the coronavirus pandemic shut down the NHL, New York State Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the Islanders would play all of their games at the Coliseum next season.
 
In June, however, the arena’s billionaire operator, Mikhail Prokhorov, shuttered the doors of the coliseum indefinitely until an investor takes over the lease while assuming the $100 million in debt — thus calling into question where the Islanders will play their games next season.
 
Upon the NHL’s restart on Aug. 1, the Islanders — along with the other qualified Eastern Conference teams — will begin their best-of-five qualifying tournament against the Florida Panthers at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto.
 
Despite the coronavirus pandemic effectively stopping on-site construction for nearly four months, UBS Arena is still on pace to open its doors for the 2021-22 season. 
 
This story first appeared on amny.com
 
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Islanders New Belmont Park Arena Leadership Named

A rendering of the Islanders' new arena at Belmont Park. (Photo courtesy of New York Arena Partners)

New York Arena Partners announced on Wednesday that Tom Pistore has been named President of Commercial Operations while Hank Abate is the President of Arena Operations for the new event center at Belmont Park, which will most notably house the NHL’s New York Islanders. 

“During these unprecedented times, we’re fortunate to be building Belmont Park Arena, which we are confident will play a key part in New York State’s economic recovery,” Tim Leiweke, CEO of Oak View Group — which is overseeing the arena’s construction, said. “This is going to be a world-class venue with a top executive team — Tom and Hank are highly respected throughout the industry and the perfect choices to lead us.”

 
Pistore spent 20 years at Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment Partnership where worked with the Toronto Maple Leafs and Toronto Raptors, among others. 

“Belmont Park Arena is going to be an iconic venue that will transform the way fans view sports and live entertainment,” Pistore said. 

Abate has spent over 40 years in arena, theater, and stadium management operations, including a stint as Executive Vice President of Venue Management for The Madison Square Garden Company. He will remain President of Oak View Group Facilities. 

“I’ve operated venues across the country and Belmont Park Arena will be second to none,” Abate said. “This Arena has been thoughtfully designed for the fans, artists, and athletes that will call it home.”

Also joining the Belmont Park Arena executive team is Charles Groneman as Chief Financial Officer, Zachary Klein as General Counsel, and Lea del Rosario as Senior Vice President of Human Resources. 

The desire for the new arena at Belmont Park to come to fruition was only strengthened amongst the fan base on Tuesday after it was announced that Nassau Coliseum — where the Islanders were scheduled to play all their home games next season — would close its doors until investors step in and pay down the venue’s debts. 

Despite a nearly-three-month delay of on-site construction due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Belmont Park Arena is still on schedule to open for the 2021-22 NHL season. 

This story first appeared on amny.com

Related Story: Nassau Coliseum Temporarily Shutting Its Doors

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Nassau Coliseum Temporarily Shutting Its Doors, Report Says

Harlem Globetrotterrs
The Harlem Globetrotterrs's star player, Flight Time, makes a trick shot from the roof of Nassau Coliseum.

NYCB Live, home of the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum, which is temporarily acting as the home of the NHL’s New York Islanders while their new venue at Belmont Park is being completed, is closing its doors, according to a report by Patrick Clark of Bloomberg.com

The building’s operator, billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov, will keep the doors locked indefinitely until an investor is found that will take over operations and pick up the remaining debt on the venue.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the coliseum has been closed since March with no revenue coming in as all hockey games and live events, including concerts, were postponed indefinitely.

“I was very disappointed to hear this, but I can’t say I was surprised,” Nassau County Executive Laura Curran said. “Arenas are really taking a hard hit since the pandemic and the coliseum has been dark for months now. Like with everything else, we will regroup, we will find our way forward… We will analyze everything, look at all of the options…and we will recover from this.”

Per Clark, Prokhorov and his Onexim Sports and Entertainment, “would turn over the lease in return for assuming roughly $100 million in loans on the property.” Arena employees are already being laid off. 

“While we still believe in the enormous long term economic value of the Coliseum and the development of the surrounding land, [Nassau Events Center] recognizes that such value will be best realized by other parties,” an Onexim statement read.

At the surface, this throws an enormous wrench in the Islanders’ plans over the next two years as the team could be rendered homeless until Belmont is completed. 

“No comment at this time,” an Islanders spokesperson told amNewYork Metro.

In February, New York State Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that the team would be playing all of its remaining home games at the coliseum on Long Island until their new arena at Belmont Park was ready. It officially ended a broken relationship with the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, which the team called home since 2015. 

However, the Islanders will not be playing a home game at the coliseum from anywhere between four-to-six months depending on when the 2020-21 NHL season begins. 

While the league is working toward returning to action in late-July for an expanded postseason that will include the Islanders, all games will be played at two neutral sites — and the Nassau Coliseum was not up for consideration.

In a best-case-scenario-type situation, it allows ample time for Prokhorov to find the necessary investors to pay down the debt and re-open the doors, whether that be the Islanders or an outside party. But Newsday’s Jim Baumbach reports that the team will likely play its games next season at the Barclays Center

This story first appeared on amny.com

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