Islanders fans who thought they would never get to see a game at Nassau Coliseum again may just have some hope after all.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the last time that Islanders fans saw their team in person was last March 7th. But there is now some optimism that perhaps sometime soon fans could return to Nassau Coliseum to cheer on the Islanders during their final season at “The Barn”. A source tells New York Sports Day that last week New York State officials were at the Coliseum to survey the building as they look for a plan on how to approach opening up the arena to fans.
New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo has been talking about the need to start opening venues while the vaccine rollout is taking place and that includes theatres and sports venues. The state experimented with a pilot program that allowed 7,000 fans to attend each of the two Buffalo Bills home playoff games. The fans had to be tested for the coronavirus prior to the game and it certainly appears that it worked out well.
“There are venues that we want to start to reopen with testing and capacity limitations,” said Cuomo during his press briefing on Monday. “I’m going to be speaking more about that in the coming days. Theatres, arenas.”
So, a four game point streak by the Islanders, including Monday night’s 2-0 win over the Rangers, may not be the only momentum building in Islanders Country.
It’s far from a done deal as this is simply an exploratory situation right now, but while it was believed to be a long shot for Islanders fans or fans of any of the other winter sports teams in the area to attend games until enough people were vaccinated that we reached herd immunity. But with the need to expand economic activity in the state, Cuomo gave the green light for Bills fans and now there is certainly growing optimism that more sports fans, as well as theatre goers, could soon be able to get a test and be part of a socially distanced audience.
As far as the Islanders are concerned, it seems unlikely that there will be another sellout crowd of 13,917 at the Coliseum as the team is set to move to their new home UBS Arena at Belmont Park for next season. So, in the meantime, the hope is that as many fans as possible could start attending games this season and be able to say goodbye, for a second time, to Nassau Coliseum.
How many fans could the Islanders potentially welcome?
The approximately 7,000 fans that attended each of the Bills playoff games represents a little less than 10 percent of the Bills Stadium seating capacity of 71,870. Using that as a barometer for Islanders games, 10 percent of the capacity at Nassau Coliseum would be almost 1,400 fans. If it’s determined that the number could be 25 percent of capacity, then the number of fans allowed would be around 3,500.
In addition to the fans getting tested prior to the games, New York State would have to determine that the Coliseum has the right air filtration system and that the fans in attendance could enter and exit the building safely in a socially distanced fashion. There are other issues including how or even if concession stands could open and how the Islanders would determine who is eligible to buy tickets.
With fairness in mind, the Islanders would really have no choice but to offer seats to season ticket holders first. Depending on what point during the season fans are allowed, if they are at all, is to make sure that each season ticket holder gets to go to at least one game so they should use seniority to go through the season ticket holders and make sure they are all taken care of first. From there, the Islanders should also invite local frontline and essential workers as guests and perhaps make a small number of tickets available to the general public.
Nothing is set in stone yet, but it certainly sounds like the wheels are in motion for the Islanders and the Nassau Coliseum to come up with a plan for fans that New York State can examine and perhaps subsequently approve.