Billy Joel will open the new Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum with a concert on April 5, following a 20-month, $261 million renovation of the 44-year-old arena.
“I’m really looking forward to playing the opening,” Joel said Monday. “I felt a little sad about playing the final show [at the original Nassau Coliseum]. It was the end of an era in a way, like Long Island had grown up.”
Though Joel says he hasn’t started planning the reopening yet, he said some surprise guests are possible for the show, which will mark his 33rd appearance at the arena. “When we played the final show, we had Paul Simon and Kevin James stop by, even Gov. [Andrew M.] Cuomo,” Joel said. “I don’t know what we’re going to do, but a few people may be planning on dropping in. When we were talking about the closing, a few people said they might want to be part of [the reopening].”
The Hicksville native said he hopes the revitalized Uniondale arena will become a gathering place for Long Island.
“There’s no better performer suited to reopen the transformed Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum than Long Island’s own Billy Joel,” Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano said in a statement.
Brett Yormark, CEO of Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment, which oversees operations and events at the new Coliseum, said the deal to have Joel open the renovated venue was set two years ago, at the same time as the agreement for him to play the final concert at the original arena.
“We’re going to bring the best of entertainment back to Long Island and it starts with Billy,” Yormark said. “When you think about the most iconic artist from Long Island, the conversation really starts with Billy Joel.”
Tickets for Joel’s April 5 concert are $49.50, $99.50 and $129.50 and go on sale at 10 a.m. Friday through Ticketmaster. American Express cardholders can purchase presale tickets starting at 10 a.m. Thursday. Those who miss out on Joel tickets Friday have another option — Nassau Coliseum’s new All Access Pass membership, which includes a lower-level seat to every event and access to the VIP entrance and premium event level club, as well as exclusive presales for events. Although those memberships also go on sale Friday, Yormark said they are guaranteed to include tickets to the Joel concert.
And Joel’s show will kick off two months of events to introduce Long Islanders to the new Coliseum, which will have a capacity of 14,500 for most concerts, 13,500 for basketball games and 13,000 for hockey games. The new arena will have configurations ranging from 4,000 to 16,000.
“The first couple of months we really want people to sample all the different types of programming that will take place — whether it’s world-class concerts, obviously, boxing, MMA, family shows and the like,” Yormark said. “We’re really going to showcase the diversification of our programming mix and give people a lot to think about. That was pretty much how we opened Barclays Center, and we’re going to do the same out there.”
Though the majority of the renovation work at the Coliseum has been on the interior until now, Yormark said those who drive past the Uniondale site will begin to see major, noticeable changes shortly.
The exterior has already been painted black and panels to redefine the arena’s exterior will begin to be installed in October and November.
“We’re excited about it,” Yormark said. “The place is going to be magnificent. . . . It’s going to have an incredible ‘wow’ effect for the fans.”
Joel, who had complained for years about the Coliseum’s acoustics, said he offered suggestions to Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment about the renovation. “I’m not involved in the architecture,” Joel said, laughing. “But I offered my two cents. . . . Hopefully they’ll listen to the artists. I hope it will be good for all of Long Island.”