Schwartz: The Islanders Are Ready To Rock The (Enhanced) Barn

When Islanders fans departed the Nassau Coliseum after the final regular season game as well as the final playoff game in 2015, the hope was that the move to Brooklyn was just temporary and that there would be a day that the team would return to Long Island and maybe even the Coliseum that was set to undergo a massive renovation.

Four seasons later, those dreams will come true this Saturday when the Islanders return to NYCB Live, home of the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum to host Columbus in the first of 21 home games to be played there this season. The plan is to split time over the next few seasons between the renovated barn and Barclays Center, but the new hope for Islanders fans is that the team will just play all home games at the Coliseum until the proposed new arena by Belmont Park is completed.

But before the Islanders could take to the Coliseum ice for practice this Friday and the game on Saturday, there had to be enhancements made to the Coliseum to make it NHL compliant. New York State committed $6 million with specific investments in ice plant redundancy and dehumidification as well as media and broadcast cabling infrastructure. The Islanders chipped in with $4 million to renovate the locker rooms and other parts of the team campus.

Those enhancements were on display during a media tour on Wednesday that featured a pair of Islanders legends as special guests.

“I’m very excited,” said former Islanders star Bobby Nystrom who scored the overtime goal in 1980 to give the Islanders their first Stanley Cup. “I think it’s just a really great thing for the fans. They’re going to come in here and they’re going to be rocking and they’re going to be cheering this team on.”

The renovations between 2015 and 2017 as well as the hockey enhancements has given the Coliseum an amazing face-lift while still retaining the feel of the “old” Coliseum. While the team benches as well as the locker room locations are reversed from before the Islanders left and the Islanders will shoot twice to the opposite end of the ice that fans have been accustomed to, the building is ready to host NHL hockey again and that’s what the fans have been waiting for.

One thing that didn’t change is that the fans are literally right on top of the ice from every seat in the house.

“You forget how great the sight lines are in this building,” said former Islanders winger Clark Gillies. “The YES YES YES people will be up there and it’s going to be so perfect for the fans to get back here and watch their team at the Coliseum.”

As part of the festivities on Saturday, fans are encouraged to arrive early for a free pre-game celebration on the NYCB Live plaza (weather permitting) with Nystrom and Gillies on hand to meet the fans and sign autographs. There will also be inflatable games, an exterior beer garden, swag giveaways and music.

But aside from the Islanders returning to play at the Coliseum, the biggest thing that many fans are excited about is the opportunity to tailgate in the parking lots which has not been an option in Brooklyn.

“They’re missing that big time,” said Gillies. “They can’t wait to get over here and there will be a lot of people getting here early and they’ll be out there having a couple of pops and getting ready for the opening face-off.”

The plaza event will begin at 430pm but the parking lots will open at 4pm so that the fans can get an early start on blasting “LET’S GO ISLANDERS” on their car horns for the first time, other than pre-season games, in four seasons.

Then, let the tailgating begin!

“Clark and I had an opportunity to tailgate one other time,” said Nystrom. “We were throwing the football around and we had such a great time. I never realized how much fun it is to tailgate before a game. We had a blast.”

This Saturday is going to be very emotional for everything involved with the Islanders and that goes from everyone in the organization, the players, the coaches, and most of all the fans. Going to Islanders games at the Nassau Coliseum was always very special and now that feeling is going to be back for 21 regular season home games this season and maybe even the playoffs.

The exterior of the building is different and the amenities inside the building have been enchanted. All of the seats are new and there’s actually a center hung scoreboard for Islanders fans to enjoy again. After all of the renovations and enhancements, the Nassau Coliseum has a different look but most importantly it still feels like the Nassau Coliseum.

For the Islanders players that have never played in that building, get ready for something really cool on Saturday because you’re going to hear that building rock and shake from the dressing room before the game. There may only be 13,900 seats at the Coliseum now but the arena is going to sound like there are 30,000 fans there.

Welcome home Islanders!

About the Author

Peter Schwartz

Peter Schwartz is a contributor covering the Islanders for NY Sports Day while also writing about general sports in the New York/New Jersey area. In addition to his column, Peter also hosts his “Schwartz On Sports” podcast as he interviews players, coaches, and other sports personalities. He is also currently a sports anchor for WFAN Radio, CBS Sports Radio, and WCBS 880 radio while also serving as the public address announcer for the New York Cosmos soccer club.

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