Islanders’ fans will be coming to back to Nassau Coliseum for the first time since March 7, 2020.
The team announced on Wednesday afternoon that the March 18 game against the Flyers will be the first one available to a limited number of season-ticket holders. The Islanders also announced they would be hosting 1,000 Northwell Health front-line staff as guests on March 11 against the Devils in appreciation for their work during the COVID-19 pandemic.
"This is another step towards normal," Nassau County Executive Laura Curran told Newsday's Island Ice podcast. "It’s wonderful news, I’m really happy. It’s been an emotional season so far. They’re doing well. But I think having fans in the stands will help. I know we’re starting with 10%. We know that number will go up and go up."
Curran added there is no timetable yet for increasing the limited capacity beyond 10%.
New York state sporting venues with capacities of more than 10,000 are permitted to host at 10% of capacity. For the Coliseum, that would be slightly under 1,400 fans.
No ticket prices were included in an e-mail sent to season-ticket subscribers on Wednesday. But the Islanders did detail "it is intended" each season-ticket holder will have a chance to purchase the limited tickets and priority would be based on membership tenure.
"All fans will be required to wear an approved face covering and provide proof of a negative COVID-19 PCR test taken within 72 hours prior to the event," the Islanders’ e-mail said.
Wednesday’s announcement came after the Islanders’ daily media access and no further statements from team personnel were issued.
"We are excited for the Islanders’ fans that they can again begin to come in and be a part of the Islanders’ experience at the Coliseum," leaseholder Nick Mastroianni II told Newsday via text. "Coliseum ownership is committed to work with the team to help facilitate the best possible experience for the fans as well as the team."
The Islanders became the last of the local teams playing indoors to announce plans for re-admitting fans. The Knicks and Nets both had fans at Madison Square Garden and Barclays Center on Tuesday night.
The Rangers will have fans at the Garden on Friday night. The Devils will bring fans back to Prudential Center on March 2 when they face the Islanders.
But the Coliseum had added logistical issues beyond it’s cramped, antiquated structure.
Mikhail Prokhorov’s Onexim walked away from its lease and shuttered the Coliseum in June. Mastroianni, a Florida-based developer, assumed the lease but workers still needed to be re-hired to securely open the building to the public.
"Onexim broke up with us right in the middle of the pandemic so we had to really scramble to avoid foreclosure, to avoid bankruptcy court," Curran said. "Happily, we got an operator in there very quickly so that operator can then start that rehiring and get all those pieces in place.
"It’s going as well as it possibly could be considering all of the hurdles and obstacles we faced," Curran added. "I have full faith in the operator to do a good job."
Curran said any delay in re-admitting fans was in deference to doing things correctly.
"They’re going to do it as safely as possible and that everything is very clear for the fans who come," Curran said. "It’s really good news and I think we all need some good news right now. It seems like that light at the end of the tunnel has been there for so long and we keep going closer and closer but not quite reaching it. This is a significant step forward to feeling normal again. To doing those fun things again."
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