The first sporting event at the renovated Nassau Coliseum in December 2016 will be an NCAA college basketball game featuring top-ranked University of Kentucky, according to officials at Brooklyn's Barclays Center.
The announcement by Barclays chief executive Brett Yormark, who will oversee the Coliseum project, comes as March Madness begins Thursday with the undefeated Wildcats a No. 1 seed in the Midwest region and the presumptive favorite to win another 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 NCAA conferences to bring their tournaments to the arena. "It's a validation of the market in Long Island for college sports."
Yormark said it was too soon to know whom Kentucky will play but said the game will be nationally televised.
In a statement Thursday, Kentucky head 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 said the refurbished Coliseum would "attract powerhouse teams from around the country and turn what will be a spectacular building into a hub for exciting college basketball."
Calipari, a friend of Yormark, attended a 2013 news conference trumpeting the Coliseum renovation.
In November 2017, the Coliseum will also host a four-team "Long Island Hoops Classic" tournament 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," said County Executive Edward Mangano.
Long Island Events Center, the Forest City Ratner Cos. management team that runs the 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, ice-skating rink and retail space.
The NHL New York Islanders, who are moving to Barclays next season, will play six pre- and regular season games at the renovated Coliseum.
Construction is expected to take between 15 to 18 months.