NY Sports Day

Schwartz: Nassau Coliseum Is Ready For A Busy Day

Changeovers from one sporting event to another in the same day is nothing new, especially in the New York/New Jersey are where it happens all the time at Madison Square Garden and the Prudential Center.  It used to happen from time to time at the Nassau Coliseum, but not since the building re-opened in 2017 after undergoing renovations.    

But this Saturday, the building now called NYCB Live, Home Of The Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum, is going to have two sporting events in the same day for the first time in a long time.

At 1pm, the Islanders will host the Washington Capitals and then the turf will be rolled out as the New York Riptide lacrosse team will host the Georgia Swarm at 730pm.  When the National Lacrosse League was looking to place an expansion team in the New York area for the 2019-20 season, the GF Sports ownership group was awarded a franchise that would play at the Coliseum.  With the Islanders still playing games at “The Barn” until the Belmont Park Arena is completed, the Coliseum was ready to get back into the changeover business. 

“This was one of the things that we hoped that we would be able to do,” said Nick Vaerewyck, Senior Vice-President of Programming and Business Operations at the Coliseum.  “Honestly, it helps us maximize our dates and do two events in one day.  It helps us with date availability for the teams and giving them the best dates possible.”

The last time that I can remember there being a changeover in the Coliseum was on April 28th, 2002.  The New York Dragons of the Arena Football Team had a game scheduled to start at 1pm, but when the Islanders/Maple Leafs playoff series was extended to a sixth game, it forced a doubleheader day in Uniondale.  The Dragons game was moved up to a noon kickoff while the Islanders and Maple Leafs face-off was set for 8pm.

This Saturday, the changeover will be a lot easier because both games are played within the dasher boards and the glass.

“They’re within the same footprint and the same netting needs to be up so the process of doing a changeover from hockey to lacrosse is really a quick one in comparisons to other ones that we do,” said Vaerewyck.  “With hockey into lacrosse, it’s really just getting the turf down and making a few other changes and generally the building is ready to go after a quick clean.”

Since the building re-opened with a Billy Joel concert on April 5th, 2017, the Coliseum has hosted a plethora of events including the Islanders, Long Island Nets, concerts and family shows, but the quickest changeovers have always been done when there have been different events on back to back days.  It would be a bit more complex to change from hockey to basketball or the other way around like at the Garden when the Rangers and Knicks play the same day, but in this case, the Coliseum will only need a few more sets of hands to help out.    

“There is a little bit of extra staff that we bring in mainly to make sure that we’re doing a full clean of the building and making sure that the building is ready for the next event to come in,” said Vaerewyck.

For this conversion to be possible, a few things had to fall into place.  Since the Islanders like to play afternoon games, the NHL gave them a few 1pm face-offs at the Coliseum and since NLL box lacrosse games are generally played at night the Riptide elected to have a 730pm face-off for all of their home games.  Now that there was a perfect storm (no pun intended Riptide!), the Coliseum was able to schedule a pair of doubleheaders.

The second will be on March 7th when the Islanders host Carolina in the afternoon and the Riptide, once again, welcome Georgia to the Coliseum. 

“From a timing standpoint, we’re lucky to have great partners in the Islanders and the Riptide,” said Vaerewyck.  “Everybody worked well together to make sure that we were able to do two games in one day.”

Once the Islanders game ends and the Zamboni has resurfaced the ice, the Coliseum crew will get to work on preparing the building for the Riptide game.  But what happens if the Islanders game goes into overtime or even a shootout?  Will that throw a wrench into the plans for the changeover? 

“No, there’s enough time,” said Vaerewyck with a bit of a laugh.  “I think we’ll be fine.  Obviously, I hope that everything goes the way that it should and the Islanders get a win in regulation but our guys are ready to go with the scenario if that does happen.” 

Saturday’s doubleheader and changeover are part of a really busy week for the Nassau Coliseum, maybe the most hectic since it re-opened.  The Islanders are playing the Red Wings Tuesday night and then the Long Island Nets will host Fort Wayne on Wednesday.  Then on Thursday, the Islanders welcome the Rangers to the Coliseum and that’s followed on Friday night with the Nets hosting Maine.  Then the building’s busy week concludes with Saturday’s doubleheader.

Will Nick sleep?

“I might sleep a little bit,” chuckled Vaerewyck.  “Our guys will definitely be busy. They’ll be happy when Sunday comes and they get a little bit of rest after that doubleheader.”

There won’t be much time to rest.  The Long Island Nets will have three home games next week starting on Monday night against Canton and then next Saturday the Riptide are back in action hosting San Diego while the Raise Your Glass Festival takes place in the Coliseum’s Expo Hall.

Any arena wants to book as many dates as possible and not have too many “dark” days or nights on the calendar.  Business is currently good for the Nassau Coliseum and this week is a perfect example of that with a challenging schedule including Saturday’s doubleheader and changeover. 

And by the way, back on April 28th, 2002, the Dragons beat the Buffalo Destroyers 69-54 during the day and then the Islanders beat the Maple Leafs 5-3 at night to force a 7th game of that series.  We’ll see if that’s good karma for the Islanders and Riptide this Saturday!


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