Officials ‘top off’ new Islanders arena at Belmont Park

Robert Pelaez
UBS Arena, future home to the Islanders, is expected to be completed before the 2021-22 NHL season, according to officials. (Photo courtesy of the New York Islanders)

Government officials from Nassau County gathered for a topping off event at the future site of UBS Arena and home of the New York Islanders hockey team on Friday.

The event, announced by Gov. Andrew Cuomo Friday morning, featured Islanders co-owner Jon Ledecky,  National Hockey League Commissioner Gary Bettman, Empire State Development Board Chair Steven M. Cohen, Nassau County Executive Laura Curran, state Sen. Anna Kaplan (D-Great Neck) and others to place the highest steel beam atop the arena, anticipated to open ahead of the 2021-22 NHL season.

“The Islanders are Long Island’s team and they deserve a permanent home here among their fans,” Cuomo said on Friday. “Today, we are taking another major step toward making that a reality, while building a brighter future for all New Yorkers.”

The project includes a 19,000-seat arena for the Islanders, 350,000 square feet of shops and restaurants, a hotel containing 250 rooms and parking on 43 acres of vacant state-owned property at Belmont Park.

Curran, an Islanders fan, said Friday was “a great day” for the island and showed that the county continues to grow and resume construction after being forced to pause due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“This project is bringing Nassau a world-class arena that will generate thousands of jobs and billions in economic activity, and the first full-time Long Island Rail Road station in almost 50 years,” Curran said. “Say goodbye to the Land of No – we’re growing again, we’re building again, and the Isles are coming home for good.”

Kaplan, who represents the 7th Senate District, which encompasses most of the north shore of Nassau County ranging from Great Neck to Glen Cove and as far south as Mineola and Garden City Park, was also pleased with the progress being made on the new stadium despite the hardships the pandemic has caused.

“The rise of the Islanders’ new home at Belmont is a reminder of the big things New Yorkers can accomplish when we come together toward a common purpose, even during challenging times,” Kaplan said. “I’m so proud to have the Islanders coming home to my district, and I’m grateful for Governor Cuomo and all the workers whose vision and efforts are making it happen.”

Cuomo, who was in attendance for last year’s groundbreaking ceremony at Belmont in September, touted the resiliency of New Yorkers bouncing back from the pandemic and said the project will help boost the economy on the island.

“In New York, we have repeatedly shown that we can deliver big projects despite the odds – and in the face of delays related to the coronavirus pandemic, the Belmont team stepped up to keep this transformational project on schedule,” Cuomo said. “This arena will boost our economy and is evidence – in steel and concrete – that New York will build back better from this crisis.”

Empire State Development, the state agency in charge of the project, was caught up in litigation with the Village of Floral Park due to concerns surrounding the projects that village officials claimed were not adequately answered.

A state Supreme  Court justice denied an application submitted by the village and local civic groups in an attempt to overturn state approvals granted for the development of the arena in May.

“The Belmont project will drive economic growth on Long Island and provide a world-class facility for the New York Islanders to call home, and this important milestone is a testament to the extraordinary progress underway,” Cohen said.

Northwell Health, New York’s largest health care provider and private employer, announced last week that it would enter into a 10-year founding sponsorship deal with the team and its new stadium. Northwell President and CEO Michael Dowling said he was “proud to align” the company with the state’s soon-to-be premier sports and entertainment venue.

“New York, and especially Long Island, is home to thousands of our patients as well as our employees,” Dowling said. “With 25,000 employees living near UBS Arena alone, this partnership allows us to reinforce our commitment to serving the community and we look forward to developing future health and wellness programming with UBS Arena and the New York Islanders.”

Bettman touted the work of Islanders’ owners Ledecky and Scott Malkin, along with the Oak View Group, in  putting together an arena during uncertain times.

“No one – particularly the loyal fans of the Islanders – can wait until the team skates onto the ice of the spectacular UBS Arena,” Bettman said.

“UBS Arena is proud to serve as a beacon of hope for the community and New York’s economy,” Ledecky said.

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