The social media posts generated by Long Islanders at the very first Islanders game at the new UBS Arena, the linchpin in a $1.3 billion transformation of Belmont Park, came fast and furious on Saturday, showing an excitement not seen since the Islanders’ four straight Stanley Cup wins in the early ’80s. The state-of-the-art arena is indeed a crown jewel of the New York metropolitan area sports scene.
“Today is a monumental day for New York and the Islanders as we cut the ribbon on the world-class new UBS Arena,” Gov. Kathy Hochul said last week. “This is the first step in the newly redeveloped Belmont Park, which will serve as an internationally recognized destination for sports, entertainment, retail and hospitality.”
It was only a few years ago that the home of the Islanders was a real question mark. The team had moved out of the Nassau Coliseum in the Hub for the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, and Long Island fans largely hated the venue, not only because of the distance they had to travel for games — it could be a four-hour round trip from points out East to Brooklyn and back — but also because the venue was made not for hockey, but for basketball.
The new UBS Arena, finished on time and on budget, was constructed specifically for the Islanders, in Elmont, on Nassau County’s border with Queens, making it convenient for hockey fans from both Long Island and New York City.
At the same time, the revitalization of Belmont Park is, no doubt, a boon for Long Island. The project, which will also include a 350,000-square-foot entertainment and retail complex, a 250-room hotel and a community center in the future, is expected to create 10,000 jobs and generate $2.7 billion in economic activity when all is said and done. By 2024, the project is projected to sustain 3,200 full-time jobs, produce $858 million in annual economic activity and generate tens of millions of dollars in new yearly tax revenue for the region.
We recognize that not everyone in Elmont is happy. Local residents have said they worry about increased traffic caused by the arena. Planners, however, have worked to mitigate traffic, building a new Long Island Rail Road station in Elmont, the first new full-time station in 50 years.
Overall, the UBS Arena is a win-win for Long Islanders, whether or not you’re an Islanders fan.