Officials Talk Design of $1.3B NY Arena


Construction of New York’s $1.3 billion UBS Arena—slated to be the new home of the National Hockey League’s New York Islanders—is in full swing prompting commentary of what officials call the league’s first hockey-specific arena design.

Developer Oak View Group said that it tasked design firm Populous with keeping the nostalgia of the iconic Nassau Coliseum, an arena that opened in 1972 with a modest capacity of 13,917.

“We are taking the lower bowl from Nassau (Coliseum) and moving it over, we are taking the ceiling height. We are recreating an intimate experience,” said Jon Ledecky, Islanders co-owner, in an interview with Forbes. “With all these new arenas, the intimacy is lost. We have a vision of a modern-day arena with amenities, but a throwback to the great arenas of the past.”

The new 690,000-square-foot building pays homage in design and acoustics, in particular, with a ceiling only three feet higher than the Coliseum’s (coming in at 93 feet) and a large lower bowl that is said to be the steepest that modern codes allow, designed to amplify noise (though sound absorbing panels are in place for concerts).

UBS is slated for a capacity of 17,000 and will have a supporters’ section more closely associated with soccer stadiums than hockey arenas.

Other modernized spaces include 56 suites and amenities as well as more spacious concourses—though a smaller locker room to foster “camaraderie” that was a request of General Manager Lou Lamoriello.

And, on the outside, a brick facade is slated to complement Belmont Park, within which the arena sits and aims to pay homage to “classic New York.”

One tweak made during construction prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic was a the addition of a few million dollars for the HVAC system, which includes four air shafts and the largest ventilation system ever put into an arena, according to officials, which aims to add 80% more air circulation.

Project Background

Starting in July 2017, New York’s Empire State Development Board released a request for proposals for the Belmont Park area’s redevelopment. By December, the Islanders group was awarded development rights and Gov. Andrew Cuomo officially announced the intentions of the project.

The month after, Cuomo brokered a deal so that the Islanders can play half their scheduled games at the Nassau Coliseum and the Barclays Center while construction takes place at the future arena. During this time, the state also began working on an environmental review of the project.

In October 2018, a timeline for the project was released, revealing that construction could be completed as early as October 2021. And as expected, by December 2018, the state released a Draft Environmental Impact Statement, highlighting potential traffic issues as a result of the project.

By July of 2020, Cuomo announced that a new Long Island Rail Road station would be added to the main line, connecting the north parking lot of Belmont.

Also announced prior to the recent construction approvals, the state Public Authorities Control Board reportedly approved ESD’s acquisition of the Belmont property from the state Franchise Oversight Board, the agency that oversees the New York Racing Association and all activity at Belmont. However, the Oversight Board still needs to approve the state’s environmental review.

The firm spearheading the privately funded project is New York Arena Partners, a joint venture between Sterling Equities, the Scott Malkin Group, Madison Square Garden and the Oak View Group. The current design team includes JRDC Architects, Populous and Stantec.

The project is expected to create 3,200 jobs in the area, promising nearby residents that 30% of the workforce will be made up of people who live within a 4-mile radius.

Design and Construction

Slated to be built over 43 acres of vacant state-owned property behind the Belmont Park racetrack, the development project will feature a 19,000-seat arena and a 250-room hotel paired with 350,000 square feet of various shopping opportunities and restaurants. The project also includes the construction of parking amenities.

The development will also feature a new full-time station for the Long Island Rail Road. Construction for this portion of the project will be 92% covered by developers and is expected to total $105 million.

The project is being developed by the New York Arena Partners, a partnership of the Islanders and the New York Mets along with the Oak View Group. Of the $1.3 billion estimated cost, developers are slated to pay out $955 million.

OKG’s CEO Tim Lewicke has said that the architecture of the arena will pay homage to historic New York landmarks, including the neighboring Belmont Racetrack, Grand Central Terminal, Prospect Park Boathouse and Park Avenue Armory.

The surrounding Belmont Park campus is slated to feature 315,000 square feet of retail and hotel space.

The ESD announced a unanimous vote approving the construction in September of last year, with the groundbreaking taking place soon after.

Construction was halted at the end of March 2020 because of the pandemic, but picked back up at the end of May. Steel components began being erected in August.

As far as the naming rights, official financial terms were not disclosed, but Sportico reports that over the 20-year deal, UBS will pay the team a minimum of $275 million.

The venue is slated to host more than 150 annual events and, in addition to the projected 3,000 permanent jobs, is slated to create about 10,000 construction jobs.

Moreover, 30% of the permanent jobs are reserved for people from the surrounding area, along with 30% of the construction budget reserved for minority- and women-owned business and 6% reserved for service-disabled veteran-owned businesses.

The arena is also being built with the goal of a LEED V4 certification and is slated to open this fall.


Tagged categories: Commercial / Architectural; Commercial Construction; Design; Good Technical Practice; NA; North America; Ongoing projects; Stadiums/Sports Facilities

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