It’s possible that some random Islanders fans may have honked their car horns here and there while driving past the site of UBS Arena since the groundbreaking in September of 2019. But, for the record, it should be noted that the Islanders’ future home at Belmont Park was officially christened with honks of “Let’s Go Islanders” on Saturday when the team held a drive-thru swag pickup at UBS Arena. It’s one thing to see photos and videos of the arena under construction on-line, but with a chance for an organized drive past the site to check it out, Islanders fans showed up in big numbers.
The Islanders did a great job of engaging with the fans on social media and with drive-thru swag pickups during the playoffs at their Northwell Health Ice Center practice facility and they are picking up where they left off this season as there are currently no fans allowed at games because of the on-going coronavirus pandemic. Saturday’s event was created to celebrate Monday’s home opener against the Boston Bruins at Nassau Coliseum and it brought many fans together in a safe and fun way.
The route for the drive-thru began across the street from UBS Arena at Belmont Park at gate 14 off of Hempstead Turnpike. A number of cars lined up along Hempstead Turnpike to wait for entry into the event and those cars that came off of Cross Island Parkway exit for Hempstead Turnpike east could get a clear up-close view of UBS Arena as they made the right turn towards the entrance to the parking lot.
Cars were directed around the parking lot in an orderly fashion towards the tunnel that runs under Hempstead Turnpike towards the arena and racetrack. At the tunnel entrance, the Islanders’ mascot Sparky, wearing a white Islanders jersey and a mask (yes even a dragon has to take precautions these days), greeted fans as they took turns belting out the “Let’s Go Islanders” honk on their car horns.
When fans arrived at the other side of the tunnel, UBS Arena was on the left and on the right were two magnificent Islanders ice sculptures created by Long Island City based Okamoto Studio. One sculpture was the Islanders’ primary logo and the other sculpture was the Islanders’ third jersey/Stadium Series logo. Once past the sculptures, the fans were directed to drive their car towards a specific pick-up station where they were given a car flag, rally towels, an aerial photo card of UBS Arena, and a 2020-21 schedule card.
Nassau Coliseum will be eerily empty and quiet on Monday when the Islanders take on the Bruins. The lower bowl seats will be tarped or occupied by cardboard cutouts of fans that were purchased with proceeds going to the Islanders Children’s Foundation. But while there will be your typical music, sound effects, and public address announcements, the sounds of 13,917 screaming fans will be missing. But while we wait for the pandemic to wind down with maybe the hope of the Islanders being able to welcome some fans at some point this season, there is clearly an excitement in the air for the organization and the fan base.
Coming off a berth in the Eastern Conference Final and UBS Arena set to open for the 2021-22 season, the Islanders are still finding ways to engage with their fan base and Saturday’s event was a perfect example of that. I’m sure the fans appreciated the free swag and the chance to see the arena, Sparky and those ice sculptures, but it was also the first time in a long time that Islanders Country was able to take part in a long-honored tradition….
For the first time at the team’s new home (yeah, I’ll take it upon myself to make that declaration!), Islanders fans were able to honk their horns to “Let’s Go Islanders”. There could likely be more of these types of events, but now the countdown is on to when the fans can, hopefully, honk their horns at the first home game at UBS Arena next season.