For the first 43 seasons in team history, most Islanders fans drove to home games at Nassau Coliseum. Then, after 43 years of driving to Nassau Coliseum, most Islanders fans then had to get on a Long Island Railroad train and transfer at Jamaica to get to Barclays Center in Brooklyn. Now, after a part time return to the Coliseum in 2018, the Islanders are playing all of their home games this season at “The Barn”, so fans are once again driving to Islanders games.
Next season, the Islanders are moving to their new home UBS Arena at Belmont Park and Islanders fans are already trying to figure out how they will commute to games because there will be options.
Parking at UBS Arena:
As UBS Arena construction continues, so does the parking layout on the campus at Belmont Park.
“You can see we’ve begun construction (of a parking garage) across the street,” said Oak View Group CEO Tim Leiweke while standing on what will be the VIP parking area during a media tour of UBS Arena last week.
(VIP Parking Area at UBS Arena)
“Eventually that will be a parking garage (with 1,500 spaces) and 350,000 square feet of retail. “We have another 1,300 parking spaces (next to the arena) and 2,600 parking spaces on the other side of the racetrack. There’s 5,500 parking spaces on site which makes it fairly unique for an arena on the east coast.”
If you think 5,500 parking spaces is a big downsize from the Nassau Coliseum, think again. There are 5,800 parking spots in Uniondale so the number of spaces at UBS Arena is just about the same. The mass transportation options should more than make up for the difference in 300 or so parking spaces.
One of the most common questions that fans have been asking about UBS Arena is the parking situation. The level of concern from fans intensified after two drive-thru swag giveaway events at UBS Arena on January 16th and on February 13th. Many fans took to social media to complain about how long the line of cars was that stretched from the entrance to the parking lot, down Hempstead Turnpike, and onto the Cross Island Parkway. When I brought this to the attention of someone in the Islanders organization, I was told something that should alleviate the fears of many fans.
The Hempstead Turnpike exits won’t be the only way to access UBS Arena off of the Cross Island Parkway. The separate “Belmont Racetrack” that have only been used on Belmont Stakes day will be open for Islanders games and other events at UBS Arena. That means there will be additional access to the parking lots than just the Hempstead Turnpike exit ramps. Also keep in mind that you’ll be able to get into the parking lots directly off of Hempstead Turnpike without travelling on the Cross Island.
Uber and Lyft:
For fans that would prefer not to drive themselves to and from UBS Arena or take the LIRR, there will be an Uber/Lyft transportation center in-between UBS Arena and the Belmont Park racetrack.
Long Island Railroad:
During the media tour last week, reporters were taken to one of the terraces at UBS Arena where you can see a plaza area being constructed between the arena and the racetrack. Beyond the racetrack, you can see the brand-new Elmont Long Island Railroad station that is currently under construction. The first new LIRR station to be build in nearly 50 years, comes with a price tag of $105 million with the arena developers picking up $97 million (92 percent of the total cost) while the state will chip in $8 million.
(Photo of Elmont Station Rendering Courtesy of MTA)
The Elmont Station will be a permanent stop on the Long Island Rail Road’s mainline between the Queens Village and Bellerose stations. It will be an added option to the current LIRR station at Belmont Park that has only been used on days when there has been racing.
“The existing train station will be active going back to Jamaica from the day we open so we’ll actually have two train stations working at the same time,” said Michael Sciortino, Senior Vice-President Operations and Assistant General Manager of UBS Arena.
Here are some important things for fans to know about the new LIRR station for the Islanders’ first season at UBS Arena:
*The new station will have two platforms running east and west but only one platform will be completed for the 2021-22 season. The eastbound platform is expected to be ready for opening night this fall while the westbound platform is scheduled to be finished at the end of 2022.
*For the first season at UBS Arena Islanders fans coming from East of the Elmont station will have to get off at Jamaica and transfer to the train that will arrive at the existing LIRR station right next to the arena and Belmont Park. Coming back east, you’ll be able to take the mainline train from the Elmont station.
*Fans from the west including Penn Station in New York City will be able to take an eastbound train to the new Elmont Station before games. After games, fans going back west will have to get on a train at the existing Belmont Park LIRR station and then transfer at Jamaica.
Shuttle Buses/Entertainment Walkway/Plaza:
Once fans arrive at the new Elmont Station, they can either take electric shuttle buses over to UBS Arena or they can take an approximate ten-minute walk via a covered entertainment walkway wired for sound that will connect the Elmont Station with the plaza at the arena.
“If it’s an Islanders game, you’ll hear pre-game and post-game,” said Leiweke. “If it’s a concert, we’ll tap into music of the radio station for that artist. We’ll make that an adventure. It’s 9 minutes and 40 seconds from the Long Island Railroad station to right here.”
(Plaza Area and Existing LIRR Station)
The plaza connecting UBS Arena to the covered entertainment walkway will be extended and there will be space for 5,000 people on Islanders gamedays for pre-game and post-game events as well as for other shows at the arena and events that take place at Belmont Park.
“This is a great activation campus for both us and Belmont Park,” said Leiweke. “It’s a good covered walk (from the new LIRR station) and we’re trying to think through how we can connect the whole campus so we can access all the parking, but we think twenty to thirty percent of our fans for music and for Islanders games will come from Long Island Railroad.”
Here’s the bottom line about getting to and from UBS Arena…
Will there be traffic on the Cross Island Parkway at rush hour when the Islanders have a game that night?
The answer is yes.
Will there be a bit of a learning curve when it comes to taking the LIRR to an event at UBS Arena?
Once again, the answer is yes.
There is always going to be an adjustment period for fans when a new arena or stadium opens up and that includes both getting to and from the game as well as learning how to get around the building. But when it comes to UBS Arena, there’s a lot of time, effort and money going into ensuring that the fans will have an enjoyable experience in terms of access to parking and the commute via the Long Island Rail Road.
It’s been a long journey for the Islanders and their fans to get a new permanent home on Long Island. Don’t let the line and the wait at those drive-thru events make you nervous. Between being able to drive to UBS Arena and having two different LIRR stations to choose from, fans will have options in getting to the new address for Islanders Country.