The first sports event at the renovated Nassau Coliseum in December 2016 will be a college basketball game featuring the University of Kentucky, according to officials at the Barclays Center.
The announcement by Barclays chief executive Brett Yormark, who will oversee the Coliseum project, comes as March Madness continued Thursday with the undefeated Wildcats a No. 1 seed in the Midwest Regional and the presumptive favorite to win the NCAA title.
Yormark said the new Coliseum will become a hotbed for "big-market, high-profile" college sports.
"We have the No. 1 team in the country coming to play at the Coliseum," said Yormark, who said he is negotiating with several conferences to bring their tournaments to the arena. "It's a validation of the market in Long Island for college sports."
Yormark said it is too soon to know whom Kentucky will play, but he said the game will be nationally televised.
In a statement Thursday, Kentucky coach John Calipari said he wanted to play the first game at the renovated arena "because I know what the venue's resurgence will mean for the area."
Calipari, a friend of Yormark who attended a 2013 news conference trumpeting the Coliseum renovation, said the refurbished Coliseum will "attract powerhouse teams from around the country.''
In November 2017, the Coliseum will host a four-team "Long Island Hoops Classic" featuring national and regional college basketball teams, Yormark said.
On Jan. 28, 2017, the arena will host "Frozen Island," a two-day college hockey tournament featuring a combination of four teams from the Atlantic Hockey Conference, Hockey East and the Eastern College Athletic Conference.
"Our vision was to bring big-time sports and entertainment to Nassau County," County Executive Edward Mangano said.
Long Island Events Center, the Forest City Ratner Companies management team that runs Barclays Center, is expected to begin renovation of the Coliseum site in August.
The $229-million sports and entertainment complex will include a downsized 13,000-seat arena, an indoor Fillmore Theatre, an amphitheater, up to seven restaurants, a bowling alley, a movie theater, an ice-skating rink and retail space.
Construction is expected to take 15 to 18 months.