BY BENJAMIN FANG
The construction of UBS Arena at Belmont Park, the new home of the New York Islanders, reached a significant milestone on Friday. Last month, state officials gathered with Islanders ownership, supporters and partners to celebrate the topping off of the $1.3 billion stadium.
With the installation of the highest steel beam at the facility, the project is now on pace to open ahead of the 2021-2022 National Hockey League (NHL) season. Eric Gertler, president and CEO of Empire State Development, said the ceremony marks a major step forward in bringing the Islanders home.
“I know it’s tough to picture, especially after everything we’ve gone through over the last seven months, but someday soon, the world will get back to normal,” he said. “We will pack this stadium, where we will yell and scream alongside our fellow New Yorkers, 19,000 of them, and cheer for the New York Islanders.”
The construction for the stadium was paused for two months when COVID-19 struck, but the union workers made up the time to put the project back on schedule. First announced in December 2017, UBS Arena is the centerpiece of the $1.3 billion Belmont Park Redevelopment Project, which is converting 43 acres of underused parking lots at the site into a sports and hospitality destination.
The second and third phases of the redevelopment plan will bring a hotel, office space and retail village to Belmont Park. The MTA will also build a new Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) station at Elmont, with the arena developers paying for the majority of the station. According to state officials, the Elmont stop will be the first new LIRR station built in decades.
“This will be a home fit for a storied franchise,” said Steve Cohen, board chair of Empire State Development. “A team that won four Stanley Cups and is poised for more.”
According to Cohen, the project is creating 10,000 construction jobs and generating $2.7 billion in economic activity. Once the project is complete, the developments are expected to create 3,200 permanent full-time jobs, produce $858 million in annual economic activity, and generate tens of millions of dollars in new annual tax revenue for the state.
Cohen, a longtime hockey fan, said the Islanders belong on Long Island because the team is “connected to the identity and pride” of the area.
“Generations of families from the island grew up watching games played by the Islanders in a stadium on Long Island,” he said. “I have no doubt the Islanders will have great success in this new home.”