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What music, sports fans can expect at UBS Arena in Elmont

An artist's rendering shows the VIP Lobby at

An artist's rendering shows the VIP Lobby at the UBS Arena. Credit: New York Islanders

Many Long Islanders will get their first glimpse inside Elmont’s new UBS Arena when it opens Saturday for its inaugural hockey game between the Islanders and the Calgary Flames. Others will see the venue a week later, when Harry Styles performs the first concert there on Nov. 28.

"Made for Music, Built for Hockey," is the UBS Arena’s slogan — and fans are about to put it to the test.

Judging by a recent sneak preview of the venue, the $1 billion, 19,000-capacity UBS Arena aims to provide not just a state-of-the-art home for the Islanders but a vibrant, only-in-New-York experience that caters to fans’ every need. The bowl has been designed with clear sightlines and a relatively intimate feel even up in the back rows. There are private suites and clubs for those with the coin, but also spacious bars where rank-and-file ticket holders can gather and watch the action. Multiple food markets should cut down on long wait times, as should the 68 restrooms.The venue also boasts that it has the highest-resolution scoreboard display -- 34 million pixels across four sides that each measure 42' by 27' -- of any arena in the New York metro area.

And everywhere, eventgoers will see decorations, finishes and little details inspired by New York landmarks, including the neighboring Belmont Park racetrack, Grand Central Terminal and posh Manhattan nightspots like the Plaza Hotel's Oak Room and the King Cole Bar at the St. Regis Hotel.

"We built this with hundreds of feedback points from each and every fan," Islanders co-owner Jon Ledecky said, citing many an evening spent talking with patrons at the team's home games. "’Inclusion’ was the word that our fan base said. We want everyone to feel that they can participate and be a part of it."

ROAD TO OPENING

Plans for the UBS Arena have been percolating for years under different names and with different visions. The real momentum came in 2017, when the Islanders — then based at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center — won a bid for a 43-acre parcel of land at Belmont Park. Construction began in 2019 with private funding from New York Arena Partners, a joint venture between the owners of the Islanders; Jeff Wilpon, former Chief Operating Officer of the New York Mets (now a partner in Sterling Project Development, the arena project manager) ; and the Oak View Group, an arena development company. In 2020, the Switzerland-based investment bank UBS secured naming rights to the arena for 20 years in a deal reportedly worth $350 million.

"The interesting thing about this new arena is that it’s very expensive," said Joel Maxcy, head of the Sports Business Department at Drexel University’s LeBow College of Business. "It seems to have a lot of bells and whistles. It’s kind of a luxury place to watch hockey, which is ultimately what they want."

Tim Leiweke, CEO of the Oak View Group, puts it a different way. "I like to call it ‘comfortable," Leiweke said. "If you’re sitting there for a hockey game or a concert, we want you to feel like you’re right on top of the ice or the stage."

ARENA ATTRACTIONS

If you’ve recently driven by the UBS Arena, you’ve already seen its classic-looking exterior -- a combination of brick and patina-green steel with arched windows that echo those of Belmont Park next door. The four lighthouses atop the building’s corners are a distinctive touch that Leiweke hopes will become a visual signature. "When everyone sees this, you won’t even have to see the name, you’ll know it’s the UBS Arena," he said.

One of the first thing fans will notice is the Heineken Terrace, an open-air gathering spot above the arena’s main entrance on the east. It’s one of two outdoor areas at the venue that will be open to any ticket holder — no premium access required. Overlooking the parking lot, with Belmont Park visible on the left, the Heineken Terrace seems like a perfect place to hang out and holler down to any late-arriving friends.

Inside, just beyond the magnetometers, the lobby known as the Great Hall sets a decidedly New York tone. The polished stone flooring and wood panelinglook less like an arena and more like 30 Rockefeller Center. Up high are two massive murals, one featuring iconic figures with local ties (Thomas Edison, The Wright Brothers, Secretariat), the other a testament to "The Exhilaration of Achievement" that depicts construction workers, performing artists and of course the Islanders.

The concourse, done up in white subway tile, features 13 food markets and six concession stands. That should make for quick one-stop shopping, according to Michael Sciortino, the venue’s senior vice president. "You won’t have to go here for your hot dog and over here for your drink," he said.

The bowl itself, which will hold 17,250 guests for hockey, 18,000 for basketball and somewhere in the 15,000-19,000 range for concerts, feels fairly cozy despite its size. Sightlines seem clear, with few obvious obstructions. The several dozen opera-box suites should be relatively unobtrusive from other vantage points.

"We only have 40 suites in the bowl," Leiweke said. "That’s what makes the bowl so intimate for the Islanders and for music. We got rid of those disruptions that a lot of suites create, and we figured out different ways."

HOSPITALITY EXPERIENCES

If you can afford the yearly fees, take your pick from the arena's five clubs and lounges and more than 140 boxes and suites. The 11,000-square-foot Dime Club, for instance, runs $10,000 and offers views of the bowl from the bar. The Verizon Lounge, already sold out despite its $15,000 price tag, will serve "signature cocktails." The UBS Club, featuring gold-painted alcoves, wood paneling and velvet curtains that open onto private seating areas, runs $260,000. (Those clubs offer "right of first refusal" on tickets -- meaning if there's a game or a concert, tickets are yours to purchase if you choose.) Up at the highest end is the Spotlight Club, which looks into the tunnel where the Islanders emerge onto the ice, and the 18 Spotlight Suites that start at $540,000 and include tickets to any event.

"Stadiums used to be more bare-bones when they were built 20 years ago," said Maxcy. Today, he added, "They're offering more amenities, more things to pay for. The customers they're after are looking for exclusivity."

For most fans, the heart of the UBS Arena will probably be the Tailgate Bar, a welcoming space on the north side of the bowl with an almost bird’s-eye view of the action. Though tricked out with classy lighting fixtures — white orbs suspended in gold harnesses from the ceiling — the Tailgate Bar is clearly made for bellying up. The two bars (divided by a market) are set back from foot-traffic and feature roomy counters, plenty of standing-around area and several large television sets. (Overall, the arena features 731 televisions and 40 LED boards, making it unlikely you’ll miss a great play or your favorite song.)

MODERN AMENITIES

Overall, the byword at the UBS Arena is convenience. Shuttles will pick up eventgoers from the Long Island Rail Road's Queens Village and new Elmont stations. (The old Belmont Park station now sits just about at the arena's front door.) Northwest of the venue is a designated ride-share pickup and drop-off area. Cashless options will be available for every purchase, from parking to food to merchandise. There are 12 restrooms designed for families and three "sensory rooms" for guests with PTSD, epilepsy or other sensory concerns; the arena's Guest Services kiosks will provide sensory bags with noise-canceling headphones, fidget tools and a feeling thermometer.

And in case you have concerns about air quality during the pandemic, the arena promises a state-of-the art HVAC system with MERV-13 filters and a dedicated engineering team to monitor ventilation. (According to Sciortino, the UBS Arena will have roughly 80% more fresh air than most venues.) Guests age 12 and up will be required to provide proof of full vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test per New York State Department of Health guidelines; mask requirements will also follow both national and local regulatory guidelines. A no-bag policy will be implemented to limit contact with security staff, according to the venue's website.

Islanders co-owner Ledecky said he will be out in the parking lot on opening night, monitoring traffic and making sure patrons are able to come and go easily. "I want them to appreciate that they’re at home," he said. "It’s going to be bumpy in the beginning. We’re going to learn lessons in the beginning. But over time, it’s going to be fantastic."

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