“Welcome Home To Long Island.”
That’s what a placard read, adorned with a New York Islanders logo, atop the podium in which one of the most important announcements in franchise history was made.
In a press conference held on Wednesday morning — with a multitude of dignitaries in attendance including Islanders co-owner John Ledecky, captain John Tavares, alternate captain Cal Clutterbuck and recording artist Billy Joel — the New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo helped reveal that the Islanders have been awarded the right to build a brand-new arena that will cost $1 billion near the site of Belmont Race Track in Elmont, NY.
“For me today, it’s personal. I spent a lot of time growing up on Long Island… The Islanders were the Long Island hockey team. That’s who the Islanders were. And then, they left. And they went to the Barclays Center. It’s nice, but it’s in Brooklyn,” Cuomo said. “The Islanders are from Long Island. And when they left and went to Brooklyn, Long Island lost something. It was sad. Because they were so much a part of the identity and the culture and the character… They left a hole in the heart of Long Island.”
The Islanders moved to Brooklyn in 2015 after 43 years at their original home, the Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, NY.
It was a move simply did not work out. A difficult trek for the epicenter of their fan base and an arena not built for hockey saw low attendance figures and a franchise failing to live up to a big-market status despite playing in New York City.
The Islanders still need to negotiate their way out of the 25-year lease with the Barclays Center, making an opt-out official by Jan. 30.
But for a franchise that hasn’t attained Stanley Cup success since 1983, the news today certainly felt like the largest win in decades.
“This will be the first time in Islanders history that they will be in a world-class facility,” NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said. “Yesterday was the 100th anniversary to the day of the first NHL game being played and what better way to start the next 100 years than to proceed with this great development at Belmont.”
The new arena is expected to hold 18,000 patrons for concerts and special events. It will likely hold 16,500 for NHL games.
A 200-to-250-room hotel, 435,000-square feet of retail space and a cultural center will also be developed by the Islanders, Sterling Project Development and Oak View Group.
While all the bells and whistles will be nice, Long Islanders will be most excited about the arena being just seven miles down Hempstead Tpke. from the old Coliseum.
There will only be parking spots for around 2,000 cars, but the MTA will be extending service to the revamped Belmont LIRR station year-round.
In total, 12,000 construction jobs will be created while the arena is being built. Another 3,100 permanent jobs will be available upon completion.