We end 2019 with a countdown of the five biggest stories of the year on Arena Digest, as chosen by editors and partially based on page views. Today, #2: Construction begins on a New York Islanders arena at Belmont Park.
Years of planning led up to a consequential 2019 for the New York Islanders, who received final approvals on their Belmont Park arena project, clearing the way for the launch of construction.
The Islanders have been planning an arena project that will incorporate the venue into a larger mixed-use development concept. Estimated at $1.26-billion, the development on state land at Belmont Park will be anchored by the new arena. The project is led by New York Arena Partners, which includes Islanders ownership, Sterling Project Development (controlled by New York Mets owners), and arena developer Oak View Group. The project’s current scope calls for a 19,000-capacity arena to be the centerpiece of surrounding development that includes a 250-room hotel, 350,000 square feet of retail space, and more.
Project officials spent considerable time working their way through the approvals process, receiving final state approvals in August. That cleared the way for a groundbreaking ceremony the following month, allowing the Islanders to continue their push to complete the arena in time for the 2021-22 NHL season. More exact details on the project should emerge as construction unfolds, but the Islanders are already thinking about what amenities the venue will offer, with a particular emphasis on ensuring that state-of-the-art technology features are included in the arena.
For the Islanders, the construction of a new arena should solve what has been a long-running facilities challenge. A 2015 move to Brooklyn’s Barclays Center–which was originally designed for the NBA, not NHL–did not prove to be a sustainable solution. Meanwhile, the Islanders’ return to their former home–Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum–for a partial home schedule has prompted plenty of enthusiasm from the team’s Long Island fan base, but the venue is not conducive to modern NHL standards, even when taking into account renovations that were completed after the Islanders’ previous departure. The Islanders have been splitting home games between the two arenas since the 2018-19 season, a precursor to their eventual move into the new Belmont Park arena.
As it stands, the arena continues to make progress, as an ongoing legal challenge has not stopped construction work from taking place. That puts the Islanders on the path to moving into their new home, which should be a boost to the franchise once it opens.
Renderings courtesy New York Arena Partners LLC.