NY Sports Day

Schwartz: Islanders Building A World Class Team To Operate Belmont Park Arena

During these unprecedented times, the Islanders are preparing to hit the ice at a time of the year when hockey is not traditionally played. 

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the NHL season was suspended in mid-March but now the Islanders are gearing up to resume their season at a hub city (reportedly Las Vegas) where they know they will return to play in a qualifying round playoff series against the Florida Panthers.  In a perfect world for the team and their fans, and this is not exactly a perfect world we’re living in right now, the Islanders would go on a run to win the Stanley Cup in an empty arena and figure out a way to celebrate back home on Long Island.  From there, the Islanders just have to figure out where they’re playing home games next season and then the long and winding road towards finding a permanent, world-class, and spectacular new home…ON LONG ISLAND…will finally come to an end which will create a new beginning. 

The 19,000 seat Belmont Park Arena, a privately funded project by New York Arena Partners and a joint partnership between Oak View Group, the Islanders, and Jeff Wilpon, is currently under construction along side the Belmont Park Racetrack and the management group for the arena is coming together as fast as the Islanders new home is rising from the ground.   On Wednesday, the arena’s executive team grew by five with the naming of Tom Pistore as President of Commercial Operations, Hank Abate as President of Arena Operations, Charles Groneman as Chief Financial Officer, Zachary Klein as General Counsel, and Lea del Rosario as Senior Vice President of Human Resources.

As the Islanders’ new home is taking shape, a team of executives with a wealth of experience is in place.

“This is going to be a world class venue with a top executive team,” said Tim Leiweke, CEO of Oak View Group.  “Tom and Hank are highly respected throughout the industry and the perfect choices to lead us.”

Pistore brings a resume that includes more than twenty years of experience with Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment Partnership where he worked with four different sports leagues.  Prior to joining the Belmont Park Arena team, he was a business advisor to the Islanders as a senior consultant.

(Tom Pistore)

“I’d like to thank ownership for the privilege of joining this once in a lifetime project,” said Pistore.  “Belmont Park Arena is going to be an iconic venue that will transform the way fans view sports and live entertainment.”

In Abate, the Belmont Park Arena gains an executive with over 40 years of experience including his current role as President of Oak View Group Facilities, a position that he will remain at as well.  He was also Executive Vice President of Venue Management for The Madison Square Garden Company and also spent twenty years working for SMG Facility Management.

(Hank Abate)

“I’ve opened venues across the country and Belmont Park Arena will be second to none,” said Abate.  “This arena has been thoughtfully designed for the fans, artists and athletes that will call it home.’

The other executives that have been hired also bring a tremendous amount of experience to Belmont Park Arena.  Groneman will manage all finance and accounting functions for Belmont Park Arena and the Islanders and his experience includes being the Chief Financial Officer of Tao Group Hospitality.  Klein had been promoted to General Counsel by the Islanders earlier this year and will oversee all legal matters for both the arena and the team.  And del Rosario will be the Senior Vice President of Human Resources with the responsibility of talent and culture at both organizations.

The Islanders’ quest for a permanent new home has been quite the journey but the end of the game is now in sight.  As Long Island and New York State continues to navigate through the pandemic and as the team readies itself for a run at Lord Stanley and one final chapter to what seems as a never ending arena saga with the indefinite closing of Nassau Coliseum, there is the future that is all coming together in Elmont.  It’s hard not to get excited when you see the photos of progress and the live web cam of the arena construction.  In fact, the arena is expected to reach a significant construction milestone shortly with the expected “topping off” of the building by the end of the summer meaning the final pieces of steel for the structure will be put in place.

And it’s clear that the Islanders aren’t going to just have a world class management team leading the on-ice product but they’re also going to have some of the best in the business operating and managing their new home at Belmont Park Arena. 

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