Nassau Coliseum to shut shop; ‘Isles’ marooned


Nassau Coliseum July 2020 Image:

The National Hockey League’s (NHL’s) New York Islanders have been left high and dry and will have to find a new digs for themselves for the 2020-21 seasons following an announcement that the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum would be shuttered indefinitely in New York, US.

The National Hockey League is a professional ice hockey league in North America, currently comprising 31 teams: 24 in the United States and seven in Canada.

It was announced in March this year that the Islanders would play all of their home games at the Nassau Coliseum in Long Island, New York, next season. The move came after New York State invested $6m to bring the 14,500-capacity multifunctional venue to measure up to minimum NHL standards.

However, the ‘Isles’ have now been left in the lurch after the Nassau Coliseum’s operating company, Onexim Sports and Entertainment, announced plans to close the facility indefinitely due to the devastating effects of the global COVID-19 pandemic.

Onexim runs the Nassau Coliseum through its subsidiary, Nassau Events Center, under a lease from local authority Nassau County. It is owned by billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov, the former owner of Brooklyn Nets and Barclays Center.

Prokhorov stated that he would “turn over the lease in return for assuming $100 million in loans on the property.”

Media reports stated that Onexim is shuttering the multifunctional venue due to losses sustained during the coronavirus crisis due to which hell has broken loose in US. It is also seeking investors to pay off the $100m loans on the building and could surrender its lease to lenders.

A statement sent out by Onexim read, “Sadly, the unforeseeable and unprecedented COVID-19 crisis has had a devastating effect on the operations of the Coliseum and its finances, and delayed the planned development. 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.”

The statement added, “Accordingly, Nassau Events Center has engaged with Nassau County, other important stakeholders, and potential investors to find the right party or parties to take over operations of the Coliseum. We cannot predict or control the actions of other interested stakeholders.

However, we remain confident that the Coliseum and the proposed development project represent valuable investment opportunities, committed to the effort to find the right solution to the problems confronting the Coliseum, and hopeful that these efforts will bear fruit,” the company said.

The Islanders are expected to move to a new facility at Belmont Park in New York in the 2021-22 NHL season. The $1.3bn Belmont Redevelopment Project, which broke ground last September, will boast a 19,000-seat arena. The pandemic is not expected to come in the way of Belmont’s target finish date.

Nassau Coliseum served as the home venue of the ‘Isles’ from 1972 to 2015, but were forced to move when efforts to reconfigure the arena collapsed.

The Islanders have been shuttling between the Barclays Center in Brooklyn – primarily the home of Brooklyn Nets of the National Basketball Association – and the Nassau Coliseum – for the past two seasons.

It appears likely that the Islanders will play full-time at the Barclays Center in 2020-21 if a return to the Nassau Coliseum is not plausible at all.

Construction on the new Belmont Arena resumed on May 24th. It is expected to be completed in time for the start of the 2021-2022 seasons, even though construction was paused for nearly three months.

Lamented Nassau County Executive Laura Curran, “I was very disappointed to hear this, but I can’t say that I was surprised. Arenas are really taking a hard hit. It’s some bad news piled on top of some bad news. We will handle it. We will look at all options, and remain optimistic for our future.”

Nassau Coliseum closed in March due to the global outbreak of COVID-19. The arena canceled all live events, and its coffers are slowly drying up.

The aforementioned development comes despite New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo stating in February that the Islanders would play all their games – regular season and playoffs – at Nassau Coliseum until the new arena is ready to move in.

Prokhorov has time on his side, though. The Islanders will not play the 2020 playoffs at Nassau Coliseum. Las Vegas might be the host city for the Eastern Conference. The 2020-2021 seasons will not start until at least November or December.

Belmont Park project

The New York Islanders NHL ice hockey franchise has unveiled details of the executive team that will take over the reins of its new arena project at Belmont Park.

New York Arena Partners has named Tom Pistore as President of Commercial Operations and Hank Abate as President of Arena Operations. Pistore and Abate will lead the executive team for the new 19,000-seat arena, which is scheduled to open its gates in time for the 2021-22 NHL seasons.

Charles Groneman will take up the role of the arena’s Chief Financial Officer, while Zachary Klein and Lea del Rosario will take up the mantles of General Counsel and Senior Vice-President of Human Resources, respectively.

Pistore previously served more than 20 years at Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment Partnership, where he worked across four different leagues and led all premium, membership and retail game admission revenues across all product segments.

Abate, who has wealth of industry experience (40 years), will retain his position as President of OVG Facilities when taking up his new role. Abate previously served as Executive Vice-President of Venue Management for the Madison Square Garden Company (MSG), as a senior Vice-President of Global Spectrum, and spent 20 years at SMG Facility Management, where his positions included Senior Vice-President of Arenas and Stadiums.

Tim Leiweke, Chief Executive of Oak View Group, which is in charge of the project, noted, “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. 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.”

Brian Kabatznick, Executive VP, BD & Facilities, Oak View Group International, UK, will be one of the Speakers at the Coliseum Summit EUROPE to be held at Ascot Racecourse in UK.

Groneman had earlier served as Chief Financial Officer for Tao Group Hospitality and also held senior roles at MSG. Klein was promoted to General Counsel for the Islanders earlier in the year, having joined the franchise in September 2016. Del Rosario serves as the Islanders’ Senior Vice-President of Human Resources having joined the team in November last year.

The Islanders’ new arena will form part of the wider Belmont Park repurposing project. The Islanders were forced to apply brakes on the $1.3bn (£1.05bn/€1.16bn) development in March due to the COVID-19 bane.

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