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Ready or not, UBS Arena will be set for Islanders' home opener on Saturday

UBS Arena in Elmont will open on Saturday, Nov. 20 when the New York Islanders face off against the Calgary Flames, Newsday's Rafer Guzmán got an early look at the new arena. Credit: Howard Schnapp, Johnny Milano

UBS Arena will be ready for its grand opening on Saturday night — if for no other reason than it must be.

Tim Leiweke said his message to everyone who asks about the impending deadline is, "Don’t panic."

Leiweke knows from opening night deadlines as CEO of the Oak View Group, the arena development company that most recently debuted the Seattle Kraken’s remade Climate Pledge Arena.

"Jon [Ledecky] was like, ‘Oh, my God, we’re not going to make it,’" Leiweke recalled Wednesday, referring to the Islanders’ co-owner, as he gave a tour to a small group of reporters.

"I said, ‘Jon, we’re going to make it. We have no choice. We’re going to make it.’ . . . We have a lot of work to do in the next three days, but we think everything will ultimately be ready to go."

The building will get a couple of test drives first. On Thursday, the Islanders will practice there for the first time.

On Friday, about 5,000 guests — including arena construction workers and their families — will attend a charity event and concert.

Then comes the moment the franchise and its fans have been anticipating for decades, as the Islanders host the Calgary Flames on Saturday night before a full house of about 17,500.

Even with many finishing details left to be done and dozens of workers still on the job on Wednesday, it was evident the gleaming new building should feel like a visit to the Land of Oz for fans accustomed to Nassau Coliseum and even the Barclays Center.

UBS Arena is a different world, featuring vast open spaces for socializing, eating, drinking and buying stuff. Speaking of which, after Leiweke walked through the team store, he imagined what fans’ reactions to it will be.

"This is pretty amazing," he said. "You think about an Islanders fan walking into that team store, they’re going to look around and go, ‘This can’t be for us.’ Honestly, they’ll be in denial: ‘No, no, no. We must we someplace else, or there must be a mistake here.’

"They’ve gone from over here, I could call it ‘the outhouse,’ to the penthouse, because if you look at this, it’s as nice as anything I’ve ever seen."

Leiweke noted on several occasions the special — and in many cases very expensive — design touches co-owner Scott Malkin requested and got, starting with the Great Hall through which most fans will enter.

The behind-the-scenes features include a warren of luxury accommodations for musicians and their entourages to help attract concerts in a crowded local arena scene.

For most fans, the most important thing will be how the arena works as a hockey venue, especially compared to the Coliseum’s famously friendly sightlines.

Leiweke said the ceiling is almost identical in height to that of the Coliseum, even though there are 4,000 more seats. That was accomplished by having the middle and upper levels jut out rather than go straight up to the roof.

"It was a little bit challenging," Leiweke said of the project, "because Scott and his partners have always been very driven in seeing this arena is just as good as Climate Pledge Arena — and it is."

New York Sports