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Even with long trip, UBS Arena opening came down to the wire

Fans arrive for the Islanders' first game at

Fans arrive for the Islanders' first game at UBS Arena on Saturday. Credit: Craig Ruttle

The Islanders opened the season with a franchise-record 13-game road trip to allow time for the $1.1 billion UBS Arena to be completed. It was nearly a longer trip.

Oak View Group CEO Tim Leiweke, the arena developer, told Newsday on Sunday that his company and Islanders ownership paid "a significant, multi-million-dollar fee [to general contractor AECOM Hunt] to accelerate the schedule to try to keep the guys off the road."

"When we did it, we knew we were going to be in a position where we didn’t have what you would love, the luxury of two weeks to train everybody," Leiweke said. "We had one night to train everybody."

The Islanders opened UBS Arena with a 5-2 loss to the Flames on Saturday night. Leiweke rated the smoothness of operations as a "five" for the opener and was hoping for a "seven or an eight" on Sunday.

Leiweke reported UBS Arena concessions did a remarkably high volume of nearly $1 million for food and beverages on Saturday. He expected that number would be lower after the first game, which would help with the long lines on Saturday.

He said there already are discussions to open a third stand for the Shaquille O’Neal-owned Big Chicken to meet demand.

Leiweke also addressed the long lines at the Islanders’ team store, which he said flows better when there are buyers and not browsers. He said there were too many browsers on Saturday.

As for the parking and traffic issues at UBS, Leiweke said much of that will be alleviated when drivers become more familiar with the directions and arena staff begins to better direct parkers to the correct lots.

"We’ll learn a lot more [Sunday]," he said. "It’s a better night for us to really test that system because at least they’ve had one game under their belt. If we still are having congestion problems getting the parking lot emptied in two weeks, then we’ve got to keep on dreaming up some additional solutions. We’ll know in two weeks, but we’re keeping an eye on it."

New York Sports