This steel beam will be carrying plenty of weight.
The Islanders' new $1 billion arena at Belmont Park received a crowning touch Friday, as the final structural beam was hoisted up and installed, with the promise that the building was still on track to open in November 2021, despite a two-month stall because of COVID-19. And though the time of large live events and big crowds may still feel far away, UBS Arena represented a "beacon of hope" for the future, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said.
"This represents what will be a return to normalcy," Bettman said in a news conference at what one day will be center ice. "It gives us a hope and a prospect to focus on for a future that will be bright. What sports and arenas like this represent is people from diverse communities, diverse backgrounds, all coming together in a common rooting sensation and a common goal of being together. It’s what communities and society is all about."
Bettman was joined by a slew of people integral to the development of the project, including Islanders owner John Ledecky, UBS executive vice chairman Brian Hull, Nassau County executive Laura Curran and members of Empire State Development, a state organization tasked with bolstering New York’s economic development. UBS, a Swiss bank, earned the naming rights to the building this summer.
The roof is slated to go up in December. Completion of the building is one of the first phases of a $1.5 billion development at Belmont Park. While UBS Arena will be the centerpiece of the project, the development also will include a hotel and retail. The project has created more than 10,000 construction jobs, said Empire State Development chair Steve Cohen, and, when completed, the whole thing will add around 3,200 jobs to the area — jobs he said would go to local workers.
"Public projects helped our country get out of the Great Depression and they’re going to help New York get out of the COVID recession," Cohen said. "Public works projects give hope in depressing moments and they will build things that improve lives for generations."
Both the arena and the planned Elmont Long Island Rail Road stop will be privately funded, Cohen said — a collaboration by New York Arena Partners, which includes the owners of the Islanders, arena development company Oak View Group and Mets chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon.
On Friday, the parties involved also underlined the need to pay homage to past Islanders’. John Tonelli, Clark Gillies and Butch Goring were all present and signed the steel beam, which was raised shortly before noon. Ledecky joked that they would have to jostle for spots where their banners would hang.
"This, by the way, is more than just a building," said Michael Dowling, CEO of Northwell Health, which has entered into a 10-year sponsorship with the arena. "It’s about what the building represents, especially at a time like this…This is about hope."
Added Eric Gertler, president and CEO of Empire State Development: "Someday soon, the world will get back to normal and we’ll pack the stadium, where we’ll yell and scream alongside our fellow New Yorkers — 19,000 of them — and cheer for the New York Islanders."