Belmont is officially a full go for the New York Islanders.
New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo marshalled the groundbreaking ceremony for a new NHL arena — the new home of the Islanders — on Monday afternoon at Belmont Park in Elmont, N Y.
“How great a day is this?” the Governor asked. “I’m an old Queens boy… and you would look at this site [Belmont Park] and you wonder ‘why doesn’t someone do something with this site?’ Today is a different day, my friends.”
It was Cuomo, along with Islanders captain Anders Lee, owner Jon Ledecky, general manager Lou Lamoriello, and NHL commissioner Gary Bettman among others, to put the first ceremonial shovels in the ground.
The multi-use arena to seat 19,000 spectators will cost $1.3 billion in private funding and is expected to be completed in time for the start of the 2021-22 NHL season.
The arena will be the headliner of a 43-acre project that will also feature a 250-room hotel and a shopping center.
For the time being, the Islanders will continue splitting their home games between the Barclays Center in Brooklyn and their original home, the Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale.
During the groundbreaking ceremony, however, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman confirmed that the Islanders will play seven more games at the Coliseum this season, upping the total to 28 for the 2019-20 season.
The Islanders moved away from the crumbling Coliseum in 2015 — which underwent extensive renovations following their exit — signing a 25-year lease with the Barclays Center before the relationship between the team and venue deteriorated.
An Islanders fan base unwilling to make the trek out to Brooklyn yielded NHL-low attendance numbers — forcing Barclays Center management to find a way to opt out of the deal.
Facing relocation, the Islanders won the bid to develop the land next to Belmont Park in December of 2017 — a victory that kept the franchise in New York.
“The arena is carefully designed for hockey fans. Every seat will have great sightlines,” Empire State Development acting commissioner Eric Gertler said. “The arena will be about you, the fans. you will remain the focus of the team and every detail will be crafted to ensure you have the possible experience.”
Since then, extensive environmental impact statements led by Empire State Development and opposition from the residents of Floral Park pushed the groundbreaking ceremony back. It was originally set for the summer.
“It’s always been our obligation to do right by the fans,” Islanders owner Jon Ledecky said. “And that’s what this arena is about… All of you here will hopefully remember this day.”
“We can’t wait for the first puck to be dropped for the 2021-22 Islanders season.”