The Islanders have arrived home sweet home.

The last time the Islanders skated off their home rink after a game that mattered, it was amid a flurry of beer and water bottles, shoes, and a pair of eyeglasses thrown onto the ice by ecstatic fans celebrating an overtime win over the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals in June. Ray Larkin attended the first New York Islanders game as an eighth-grader with his family. It was October 1972 at Nassau County Coliseum, and Larkin would go on to attend hundreds more games there over the following five decades, the most of them as a season ticket holder.

But, after spending all those days and nights in that tiny, sparsely furnished location, Larkin’s circumstances altered radically on Saturday. He and his wife, Sue Larkin, assisted their beloved Islanders in ushering in the next chapter of Islanders hockey in the sleek, new UBS Arena at Belmont Park, a place so sumptuous and sophisticated that fans habituated to the drab old structure wondered whether they had entered the wrong facility.

In 1972, he witnessed the Atlanta Flames, forerunners of Saturday’s visiting club, the Calgary Flames, whose centre, Brad Richardson, became the first player to score in the new arena.

Richardson’s goal at 4:05 of the first period lifted Calgary to a 5-2 victory in the first game at UBS Arena in Elmont, N.Y., while the Islanders, who were without five regulars due to the Covid-19 protocol, played their first home game of the season after 13 on the road.

“It was a rough 24 hours because of the Covid issue,” said Islanders coach Barry Trotz. “However, it was a fantastic environment.” When you’re out on the ice, this is a new school facility that seems old school.”
It wasn’t the most dignified way to bid farewell to the stadium, which had hosted four Stanley Cup championship seasons and helped to brand the club and its fans with its rugged and devoted personality.

The new $1.1 billion arena is nestled close to the Belmont Park racetrack, roughly seven miles west of the original structure and only a few furlongs from the Queens-Nassau County line.

It can accommodate around 17,000 hockey fans and is a sparkling example of the most recent developments in sports arena construction, with a few allusions to the old barn that helped make the Islanders experience so distinct for the majority of the previous 50 years.

The roof hangs low, just a few feet higher than the original one in Uniondale, to help reproduce the smaller venue’s hovering, hot atmosphere, and the banners that hang from it recall all the grandeur that the Islanders generated in the old facility.

Murals and banners commemorating the building’s glory days are scattered throughout, along with additional touches designed to make die-hard fans happy. There’s even an Area 329 on the 200 level that recreates the legendary section that has housed many of their most ardent followers throughout the years. It includes unupholstered chairs and rails that allow you to stand easily during games.

“I can’t believe they did this,” said Phil Fairbanks, a season ticket holder in Section 329 from Newburgh, N.Y. “It began in the old place with us simply chanting and having fun, and I think they created this to have some of the original atmosphere.”

The arena’s developers are convinced that any lingering nostalgia for the ancient coliseum will be soon replaced by delight over comfy seats, clean surfaces, enough of room in the concourses, and enough bars and eateries to keep guests spending long after they have entered the facility.

“What we’re trying to do is construct another iconic facility that’s part of the fabric of New York City,” said Tim Leiweke, CEO of the Oak View Group, a co-developer and operator of the arena. “We are more than simply Nassau.” “We’re the New York Metro.”

The brickwork on the façade pays homage to the local racecourse, allowing the modern structure to fit in with the older surroundings. However, the construction resembles Citi Field, the home of the New York Mets, which is not unexpected given that Jeff Wilpon, the former co-owner of the Mets who constructed that stadium, is also a co-developer of UBS Arena.

Fans enter a magnificent hall, the cost of which is estimated to be over $50 million. It has two murals that show iconic scenes of New York, Long Island, Belmont Racetrack, and the Islanders, all focused on the Stanley Cup trophy.

There will be activities other than hockey. The venue will also hold concerts. and Leiweke stated that the Islanders, as owners, will receive significant financial benefits from those dates, as opposed to Nassau County Coliseum, which the club does not control.

According to Leiweke, the stadium has more restroom space per capita of consumers than any other arena of its kind. That is sure to resonate with many fans, particularly those who have missed goals due to lengthy queues.

“You couldn’t go into the restrooms at the previous place,” said Thomas Beyer, 58, a businessman who now resides in Rye, New York. “That structure was wonderful, but it had served its purpose. “It’s time to move on.”

The players’ amenities are superb, as are practically all modern arenas created to pamper sportsmen. The Islanders have a small locker room where they change out of their civilian clothing, as well as a larger locker room where they change into their equipment. Aquatic therapy facilities, a classroom with stadium seating and a huge video board, weight rooms, and cafeteria facilities are all nearby.

Lou Lamoriello, the Islanders’ president and general manager, was heavily engaged in the design of all places where players and staff congregate, according to Leiweke. A digital ribbon message board in the locker area allows Trotz, the coach, to emphasise any messages for the players.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here