NEW YORK – The New York Islanders’ long wait to open their new arena is finally over. The victories will have to come later.
Almost four years after winning the tender to build a new home next to Belmont Park, the Islanders opened the doors to UBS Arena on Saturday night. The Calgary Flames were the Islanders’ first home opponent this season after the team spent the first 6.5 weeks of the season playing 13 road games.
“It’s a beautiful building,” said Lonny Lehman, a first season pass holder from East Meadow, New York, a short drive from the Coliseum. “[Looking forward to] just have a home again. … It has been a long time coming. Our politicians have let us down. Fortunately our new owners have kept us here and they are going to have a good following. “
The $ 1.1 billion building is the culmination of a campaign started more than a decade ago by former Islanders owner Charles Wang. First came the lighthouse project proposed in 2007 which was part of a redevelopment plan but went nowhere. Then voters in Nassau County rejected an attempt to secure public funding for a new arena four years later, and the unpopular move to Brooklyn in 2015 finally saw the team split the home games between the Barclays Center. and the Coliseum.
Now the new arena is here and the years of uncertainty over the team’s future are over. The team itself this season? Well that could be a different story.
The Islanders, who advanced to the NHL semifinals last season, returned home in last place in the Metro Division, and Calgary gave them a rough welcome to New York. Andrew Mangiapane scored two power play goals as the Flames claimed a 5-2 victory.
Brad Richardson, Trevor Lewis and Johnny Gaudreau also scored and Noah Hanifin collected two assists to help Calgary extend their points streak to five games (3-0-2). Jacob Markstrom stopped 34 shots for the road team. Brock Nelson scored twice for the shorthanded Islanders, who missed seven players and lost their fifth in a row. Semyon Varlamov made 26 saves.
Away from the product on ice, fans were buzzing in and around the complex. Lehman also congratulated Islanders owners Scott Malkin and Jon Ledecky, saying, “They are fantastic. [NFL’s New York] Jets. “
Tickets for the home opening were sold out months in advance and there was a waiting list for season tickets. Vendors were posting tickets to the first game for $ 230 for the cheapest seats in the area at over $ 800 on StubHub.com hours before the puck fell.
The UBS Arena has a capacity of 17,250, which is more than the 13,917 at the renovated Coliseum and the 15,795 at the Barclays Center.
“It’s awesome,” said Jason Saltsberg. “It’s definitely a lot more luxurious than the Colosseum was. Everything is going in the right direction. As soon as they announced the arena, the team seemed to pass the milestone and everything is happening at the same time and c ‘is fantastic. “
The Islanders went 5-6-2 in their first road game, including four straight losses. Twenty-five of their next 36 games will be at home, and they don’t play more than two consecutive road games until a four-game trip Jan. 4-11.
“Hopefully they can bring the Cup home,” said Holly Baratta, who bought season tickets for the final Coliseum season but couldn’t use them due to limited seating due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The players had the chance to practice on the ice at the new rink on Thursday and were impressed.
“It really blew me away,” said Mathew Barzal of the Islanders. “I walked right in, saw the gym, saw the dining hall and couldn’t wait to see more. The whole facility and the rink and the way it was laid out was so upscale. … We really are a lucky bunch. “
The Associated Press contributed to this report.