When UBS Arena opens this fall, it will mark the end of a thirty-year journey for the Islanders and their fans to find a new permanent home on Long Island. But while the magnificent new arena being built next to Belmont Park will give the Islanders and everyone in Islanders Country the state-of-the-art home that they have been waiting patiently for, the centerpiece of a $1.5 billion project that will also include retail space on the Belmont Park campus is also going to host a wide variety of other sporting events and concerts.
With an already crowded arena scene in the New York/New Jersey area that includes Madison Square Garden, Barclays Center, Prudential Center and the Islanders’ current home Nassau Coliseum, one might wonder why it’s possible for a new arena to not only be built with private money but also already have a master plan in place to be successful.
“As life has gone on, some questioned our judgement on building another arena in (the New York/New Jersey area),” said Oak View Group CEO Tim Leiweke during a media tour of UBS Arena last week. “But as it turns out, Long Island and the population base we will serve is about ten million people. If we were a stand-alone community here on Long Island, we’d be the fifth largest city in the United States. That not only plays well for the Islanders and music, it plays well for other sports.”
Oak View Group, a global sports and entertainment company, is leading the development and operations of UBS Arena and is partnering with the Islanders and Sterling Project Development on the arena and the surrounding redevelopment. UBS Arena will be the home of college basketball as they are already in discussions with multiple schools. Oak View Group will also bid on NCAA events and will utilize the company’s partnership with Silver Lake, one of the owners of UFC, to bring professional mixed martial arts events to the Islanders’ new home.
And that’s not all because UBS Arena will also host events like Disney on Ice, WWE, and boxing.
“All of those other things are very important to us,” said Leiweke. “At the core, the dates, the design and the function of this building starts with the Islanders and music.”
The management team describes the building as being “Made For Music, Built For Hockey” so concerts will be a huge part of UBS Arena. Thus far, two concerts have already been announced with country music star Eric Church set to play UBS Arena this December 4th while The Weeknd, the first concert that was announced, and will take the stage on April 7th, 2022. There will be more on-sale dates, including the first few weeks of bands and artists, that will be announced in the near future.
In terms of the building’s schedule, you can already pencil in 41 Islanders regular season games along with pre-season games and potential playoff games. Then you have the other sporting events and family shows along with plans for a lot of concerts.
“We like the fact that we have a good clear calendar,” said Leiweke. “I think we’ll do sixty nights of music here. We’ve got 45 nights already locked down. It’s going to be one of the top five music buildings in the country. It’s going to be a really good place for music.”
But the one question that seems to be on the mind of so many people is what artist or band will play the first ever concert at UBS Arena and perhaps be the event that opens up the building?
Will it be Long Island’s Billy Joel?
Will it be someone else with Long Island or New York area ties?
“We’re close,” said Leiweke when asked about the identity of the first musical act. “We’re excited as se begin to announce and roll out all of the artists that are playing the building. We will have world-class events and this management team, which is the most experienced management team I’ve seen in my forty years, they’re going to go after every major sporting event we can bid on because it helps drive the economy here.”
In a little more than six months, Leiweke expects that there will be 17,000 passionate Islanders fans that will pack UBS Arena for the home opener. We already know a couple of the concerts that will take place at the Islanders’ new home and we’ll soon find out about more of the musical acts that will fill the 19,000 seats for standing concerts and 17,000 seats for concerts in the round.
One thing is for sure…when the Islanders aren’t playing, chances are that UBS Arena will still be busy on most nights because the wheels are in motion for the new building to be a major player when it comes to other sporting events and concerts.