ELMONT, N.Y. — The New York Islanders have formally moved from “The Old Barn” to “The Stable.”
The latter is a becoming nickname for UBS Arena, the group’s glowing new venue that had its long-awaited grand opening on Saturday. Not solely as a result of the sector neighbors the famed horseracing observe Belmont Park, but in addition as a result of it provides the Islanders and their followers a long-overdue secure house.
For years, the Islanders had been just like the NHL’s nomadic tenants, enjoying within the revered however outdated Nassau Coliseum, dreaming of the bold however failed Lighthouse Challenge, transferring into Brooklyn’s trendy however ill-equipped Barclays Middle, and returning to the renovated however scaled-down Coliseum.
Now, they’ve moved into their endlessly house.
“We have a home now,” Islanders defenseman Scott Mayfield mentioned after the sport. “We kind of talked about it leading up to it, just what guys have gone through as far as Brooklyn, split seasons, closing out the Coliseum twice, all that stuff. It’s special to be home.”
As a result of there’s no place like house, particularly when it’s a state-of-the-art $1.1 billion venue that’s now the crown-jewel of latest NHL arenas. With a makeshift Islanders group enjoying with out 5 regulars positioned in COVID-19 protocol, the night proved to be extra of an actual property success than on-ice triumph because the Calgary Flames gained the opener 5-2.
However a raucous crowd of 17,255 at instances made the brand new digs sound and really feel just like the Coliseum, affectionately referred to as “The Old Barn.”
UBS Arena, 15 miles west of the Coliseum in Uniondale, is situated simply off the ultimate flip and residential stretch of the 1.5-mile observe at Belmont, annual web site of the third leg within the Triple Crown. The sector, that includes a brick exterior lined with arched home windows, combines innovation with a few of the qualities that made the Barn so beloved.
“This is as fine a venue as there is in the world,” NHL commissioner Gary Bettman mentioned throughout Friday’s ribbon-cutting ceremony on the enviornment. “It makes you feel special to be here. Nothing was left to chance. It’s something Long Island has always deserved.”
And one thing the Islanders all the time deserved however at instances appeared would by no means get.
The failed Lighthouse Challenge, a plan to renovate and revitalize the Coliseum and surrounding space, was first proposed in 2004 by Islanders’ late proprietor Charles Wang, who was honored throughout a pregame ceremony.
The Islanders moved in 2015 to Barclays Middle, a not-made-for-hockey enviornment the place followers griped over a comically off-center scoreboard, poor sightlines and transfer-filled practice rides that every one however eradicated driving and the acquainted “Let’s go Islanders!” car-horn honk.
The group finally returned to the renovated 11,000-seat Coliseum part-time starting in 2018, initially splitting house video games between the Barn and Brooklyn whereas their future house went from blueprint to Belmont.
A groundbreaking ceremony was held on the web site of UBS Arena in September 2019, amid lawsuits from the Village of Floral Park searching for to cease building that had been finally tossed. Round-the-clock building continued within the days main to puck drop on Saturday and the doorways opened as scheduled and followers poured in to watch the Islanders play their first house recreation since June 23 after they gained in extra time to pressure Recreation 7 of the Stanley Cup semifinals.
“Going into OT, the building smelled like cigarettes,” Islanders captain Anders Lee mentioned of the Coliseum on the time. “Now it smells like beer.”
There have been no such scents at UBS Arena — suppose new-car odor however in a 700,000-square foot enviornment with 17,000-plus seats, a contemporary sheet of ice and loads of “Welcome Home!” signage.
However the beer definitely flowed, with the venue that includes eight bars providing ice views; 5 high-end golf equipment and lounges, together with the ice-level Highlight Membership the place these lucky to enter can watch the Islanders stroll by way of the tunnel main to the ice; and two out of doors terraces, certainly one of which overlooks a horse paddock.
The acoustics replicated that of the Barn, with low 93-foot ceilings meant to bottle in crowd noise and a scarcity of upper-bowl seating designed to convey followers nearer to the motion and recreate the Coliseum’s frenzied ambiance the place it felt and sounded as in the event that they had been on high of the ice.
“It is a new college constructing that feels old fashioned while you’re out on the ice,” Islanders coach Barry Trotz said. “The followers are there, the acoustics by way of the quantity again on the bench is excellent. The best way they set it up seems to be just like the followers are on high of you similar to the previous Coliseum. So, actually good night time by way of what the followers introduced, what the constructing introduced, and I believe what the gamers introduced.”
The sector opened with a homecoming that included a standing ovation for building employees who constructed the place, a crowd singalong rendition of the nationwide anthem and Islanders alumni conducting a ceremonial puck drop.
Shortly after, it was Calgary’s Brad Richardson who turned the reply to a future hockey trivia query, scoring the constructing’s first aim off an Islanders turnover in their very own zone simply 4:05 in.
Followers practically blew the brand new roof off when Brock Nelson scored the primary Islanders aim with 20 seconds left within the first interval to minimize Calgary’s lead to 2-1, and once more when Nelson netted one other to pull the Islanders inside 3-2 early within the third.
However two empty-net objectives by the Flames sealed the Islanders’ first loss at their new tackle.
The sector’s first house crowd — which included Corridor of Fame jockey and two-time Belmont Stakes winner John Velazquez and U.S. swimmer and 10-time Olympic medalist Katie Ledecky, carrying her medals — left with out the specified consequence, however not earlier than having fun with loads of facilities.
That included 13 meals markets and 6 concession stands to select from. A line stretched down the concourse for Huge Rooster, a series backed by NBA famous person Shaquille O’Neal. There the favored alternative was the “The Islander” rooster sandwich, which incorporates Buffalo sauce, cream cheese, bleu cheese and is served on a blue-and-orange bagel from Blue Line Deli & Bagels, an Islanders-themed bagel store in Huntington.
The brand new enviornment boasts 68 restrooms, together with probably the most ladies’s bogs within the NHL. That’s welcome information for Coliseum-goers all too aware of making the intermission sprint by way of overcrowded concourses solely to wait on lengthy strains on the Barn’s bogs.
As New York’s first enviornment to open within the post-pandemic period, it options HVAC programs with air filtration technology designed to assist get rid of airborne viruses.
The sector contains the primary new Lengthy Island Rail Street practice station in 50 years, with eastbound service from Penn Station accessible for the house opener. Shuttles transported followers from the station and extra distant car parking zone, the place many gathered early regardless of indicators saying no tailgating or honking was allowed.
Some followers had been even greeted within the car parking zone earlier than the sport by group co-owner Jon Ledecky, who was making certain that opening-night site visitors was working easily.
“I told fans I would not be inside, I’d be outside with them,” Ledecky told Newsday. “I’m happy with seeing the experience they’re having. The organized flow is very impressive to me. We’re ready for 18,000 fans.”
The followers will likely be again Sunday for the Islanders’ second recreation at UBS Arena, as they proceed to make themselves proper at house.
Whereas there’s nonetheless loads of unpacking — and extra building — to be achieved, the group’s first night time underneath the brand new roof was successful in every single place however on the scoreboard, which by the way in which is the biggest of any enviornment in New York and completely centered.
“All in all,” Nelson mentioned, “excited to be home and it’s the start of something that’ll be great for us.”