Sean McSwiggan and his sister, Tara, were Brooklyn bound on a 4:50 p.m. LIRR train from Massapequa Tuesday. At a little after 6, they were out front of Barclays Center, ready to see the Islanders play. But they can’t wait until they’re Elmont-bound to see them play at a new arena.
The news flash came earlier in the day that Empire State Development had selected the Islanders’ proposal to build an 18,000-seat arena at Belmont Park. They will be returning to Long Island after playing from 1972 to 2015 at Nassau Coliseum. The McSwiggans were among several fans from the Island attending the game against Detroit who reacted with sheer joy.
“I love it,” said Sean, a junior at Misericordia University in Pennsylvania. “Back to Long Island. It’s where they belong. It’s going to be a hockey-based arena. It’s going to be amazing. It’ll feel like the Coliseum all over again.”
Tara, a kindergarten teacher in Massapequa, likes the logistical advantage.
“This is like such a commute,” she said. “We leave at what time, 4:30, just to get to a game. It’ll be easy to drive . . . It’s just an easier commute, besides having them back there. They’re a Long Island team.”
Indeed, the team will be closer to its primary fan base, which should be able to get home earlier from night games, another common complaint.
“I’m very excited,” said West Hempstead’s Amy Zaum, attending with Robert Weinstein, a friend from Floral Park, who was equally excited. “All my friends who live out east that can’t get to these games will be coming back,” she added.
Fans will once again be able to tailgate in outdoor lots.
“It’s now 6; no time to drink some beers tailgating, because you can’t do it in a parking garage,” Hauppauge’s Jim Starace said. “So having that atmosphere would be great.”
The Islanders are still scheduled to play next season at Barclays, which has some obstructed views. They entered Tuesday averaging an NHL-worst 11,642 fans.
“I think it’ll be better for the players and (there will be) a lot more fans,” Mastic’s Alex Walden said.
Smithtown’s Aidan Buzard agrees. He said, “Coming on the train is really difficult. There really isn’t a lot of parking here. So I think it would bring in a lot of revenue, and also it’s good for the people from Long Island.”