New York Islanders no longer to shuttle between rinks


New York Islanders new arena Image: NHL/NY Islanders

The professional ice hockey team based in the New York metropolitan area – the New York Islanders – will play all of its home games at Long Island’s Nassau Coliseum in US during the 2020-21 campaign before it moves to a new arena at Belmont Park in San Diego, US, the following season.

This was disclosed by the New York Governor, Andrew Cuomo, at a press conference held recently. This announcement has come as a huge relief for the ‘Isles’.

The New York Islanders of the National Hockey League (NHL) played at the Nassau Coliseum from 1972 to 2015 before moving to Brooklyn’s Barclays Center in New York.

This means that the Islanders will no longer have to shuttle between Barclays Center and Nassau Coliseum. After they play three final home games at Barclays Center in March, the Islanders will be able to call the Nassau Coliseum their one and only home until their new arena at Belmont Park goes on stream.

It also means that any and all home playoff games this year and all 41 home games next season will be played at the ‘barn’ that lends a distinct home-ice advantage for the Islanders.

“We’ve been working to get the Islanders back to Long Island. Why? Because that’s where they belong. The Islanders playing off Long Island just never sat well with me,” Cuomo asserted. He was instrumental in bringing the ‘Isles’ back to the ‘barn’.

Tickets for potential 2019-20 home playoff games and 2020-21 regular-season games at the Nassau Coliseum went on sale following the Governor’s announcement.

The ‘Isles’ compete in the National Hockey League (NHL). The Nassau Coliseum is a multifunction indoor arena in Uniondale, New York, east of New York City. It serves as the home ground of New York Islanders.

The Islanders broke ground on the $1.3bn (£1.02bn/€1.17bn) Belmont Park redevelopment project, which will be anchored by a new 19,000-seat arena, in September. While work is underway in the new arena, the team so long was splitting home games between Barclays Center, where it has played since 2015, and the Nassau Coliseum, its previous home of over 30 years.

In 2015, the team began playing home games exclusively at Barclays Center, which is also the home facility of the National Basketball Association (NBA’s) Brooklyn Nets. The Islanders then struck a deal to play a number of games at the Nassau Coliseum starting from the 2018-19 seasons.

Since the ‘Isles’ have spent a considerable amount of time at the Nassau Coliseum, Long Island is viewed as the Islanders’ natural home and this season the team will play a total of 28 regular-season games at the stadium, with the rest of the games to be played at Barclays Center.

The team will now spend the full 2020-21 season at the Nassau Coliseum, returning to Long Island a year ahead of schedule. The Islanders will also play any home play-off games this season and next season at the Nassau Coliseum.

The whole development has been made possible after $6m funded by the State to reconfigure Nassau Coliseum made the venue meet minimum NHL standards. The revamp work included renovating team locker rooms, new cabling infrastructure and modern broadcast media equipment, additional dehumidification measures, ice-plant redundancy systems and upgrading the building’s heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning system.

Stated Cuomo, “The Islanders have always been Long Island’s team, and I’m proud to announce this iconic sports franchise will be coming home for good – one year ahead of schedule. This long-awaited homecoming will bring the Islanders back to their passionate fan base while generating energy and excitement from Long Islanders for the new Belmont Park Arena opening next year.”

Co-owner of the New York Islanders Jon Ledecky remarked, “We are looking forward to playing all of our games next season at the Nassau Coliseum before we move to our new home at Belmont Park, both of which have been made possible by Governor Cuomo and Commissioner Bettman.”

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman added, “As the National Hockey League looks forward to the Islanders’ move to Belmont Park Arena for the 2021-22 NHL season, thanks to the State’s investment and upgrades to the facility and the commitment of Islanders ownership, we have now determined that the best option during this period of transition is for the club to play all of its regular-season home games next season and any home Stanley Cup Playoff games this and next season at Nassau Coliseum at NYCB Live.”

Bettman further stated, “We thank Barclays Center for playing host to the Islanders over the past five years and thank Islanders fans for their patience and loyalty while the League and the club work together with the State of New York to build the new home this proud franchise needs and deserves.”

Heaping lavish praise on Governor Cuomo, he further said, “We would not be here today without the energy, the commitment, and the efforts of Governor Cuomo. We wouldn’t be here if Belmont wasn’t coming out of the ground. We wouldn’t be here if the improvements weren’t made for this facility so that the Islanders could play here until Belmont is ready.”

Belmont Park is all set to be completed in time for the 2021-22 NHL season. The development will generate 10,000 construction jobs and support 3,200 full-time jobs once the venue gets rolling. Cuomo informed that “construction is on schedule”.

“Things will be normal. Having two rinks is not normal in the NHL. The atmosphere at the Nassau Coliseum is worth 10-12 points over the course of a season. So, getting back to normal will be good,” said New York Islanders coach Barry Trotz.

The NHL allowed the Islanders to play their first-round playoff series at the Nassau Coliseum last year, but they had to move to Barclays Center for the second round.

It was way back in December 2017 that Cuomo announced that the Islanders would build the new arena at Belmont Park. He also stated that the ‘Isles’ will return to Long Island full-time for the 2021-22 NHL season, and since then the State has worked overtime to expedite the Islanders’ homecoming. The efforts paid off in early 2018, when the Governor announced that the team would play a dozen games at the Nassau Coliseum during the 2018-19 seasons. Six months later, eight additional home games at the Nassau Coliseum were added, reflecting the high demand for the original twelve Nassau Coliseum games.

Governor Cuomo further expanded on those efforts in September 2019, when he announced at the Belmont Park Arena groundbreaking that the team would play 28 games — or 68 percent of all home games — at the Nassau Coliseum during the 2019-20 seasons.

The new Belmont Park Arena construction work is picking up pace with the concrete foundation finished and structural steel erection nearly 20 percent complete. To date, more than 330,000 cubic yards of soil have been excavated from the site, the entire 15,000 cubic yard concrete foundation has been poured, and approximately 20 percent of the project’s structural steel beams have been set up. Apart from this, PSEG Long Island (Long Island power authority) has made steady progress on upgrading Belmont Park’s electrical infrastructure to support the new development and the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) has started design work on the new Elmont Station, which will be majorly funded by the arena developer through a public-private partnership mode and is the first new, full-time LIRR commuter station built in decades.

Empire State Development Acting Commissioner and President and CEO-Designate Eric Gertler noted, “The Islanders have been an integral part of Long Island since 1972, and I am thrilled to see this franchise return home — both as the head of New York’s economic development agency and as a lifelong hockey fan. Thanks to Governor Cuomo’s vision and leadership, the Islanders are building a state-of-the-art, permanent home in Long Island, while generating thousands of jobs and billions in economic development, and today’s announcement further supports those efforts.”

The privately-funded $1.3 billion Belmont Redevelopment Project will come up with a 250-room hotel and 350,000 square foot retail village, in addition to a 19,000-seat arena for the Islanders and other events. Besides, the construction activities are projected to generate an economic impact of $2.7 billion, while the operations of the new arena, hotel, and retail village are expected to generate annual economic impacts of $858 million.

Bettman explained that the Nassau Coliseum is “not a major league facility.” The Nassau Coliseum can fit in just 13,917 spectators compared to Barclays Center’s capacity of 15,795 and does not boast nearly as many executive suites.

But, he pointed out that better attendance at the Nassau Coliseum and the Islanders’ commitment to making it a “tenable situation” should they advance deep in the playoffs led to Governor Cuomo announcing that the ‘Isles’ will play all of its home games at Long Island’s Nassau Coliseum during the 2020-21 campaign before it moves to a new venue at Belmont Park.

“Some money was put into upgrading elements of the building, but I also have an understanding with [Islanders co-owner] Scott Malkin that — because we’ll all agree this is not a major-league facility — as an interim facility, if we have to make temporary adjustments, the Islanders will do it,” Bettman said.

“For example, if we’re deep into the playoffs —if that happens, we may have to erect some temporary facilities in the parking lot to accommodate the media and certain VIP hospitality and make sure our fans are accommodated with food options and restroom facilities. So we’re mindful of the magnitude our events can take on as the season progresses,” he sized up.

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