Brand-new Belmont Park Arena to be ready for Isles’ use during 2021 season
Construction halted, but 'ready to go again', according to owner
The New York Islanders aren’t any closer to returning to the ice than they were when the NHL paused its season due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic on March 12.
But construction on the Brooklyn/Long Island-based franchise’s new $1.3 billion multi-purpose arena in Elmont, N.Y., may be ready to resume as part of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s multi-phased re-open plan.
The Islanders, who played what many believe to be their final game ever at Downtown’s Barclays Center on March 3, were sent home from Calgary, Alberta ahead of their March 12 game with the Flames amid growing concerns surrounding the spread of COVID-19.
The team’s players haven’t been able to practice together or meet since returning to New York, and the NHL is still not sure when or if the 2019-20 campaign will continue.
According to an ESPN report, however, the Isles’ future home, which the team fully intends to move into for the start of the 2021-22 season, is still on schedule to open on time despite laying dormant since March 27.
As part of Phase 1 of his plan to re-open the economy, Cuomo indicated that restarting major construction projects, including the Isles’ new arena, albeit with strict health guidelines, could happen soon.
“The governor has given some indication that selective construction will start up again in some time frame. So we’re ready to go again,” Isles Majority Owner Jon Ledecky said.
“We’re working with the contractors,” he added. “Obviously, the most important thing is that you adhere to social distancing and you make sure the people on site are taking care of themselves. It’s an open-air site, still, so we’re hopeful that we’ll be able to start the construction again when it’s appropriate.”
Cuomo announced back in February that the Isles would play all of their games for the 2020-21 season in Uniondale, N.Y., home of the renovated Nassau Coliseum, which has been splitting home dates with the Barclays Center over the past two years.
The Isles were scheduled to play here in Brooklyn on March 17 vs. Calgary and March 22 vs. Carolina before the pandemic halted sports leagues across the globe.
New York General Manager Lou Lamoriello indicated last month that even if the NHL season did resume, the team would not make up those contests at Barclays, presumably ending the team’s Brooklyn era, which began in 2015, barring something unforeseen.
The Belmont Park Arena, the structure’s tentative name, began construction last September and had been ahead of schedule due to New York’s mild winter before being halted like every other major construction project in the state.
“The Islanders belong on Long Island — and today we start building the state-of-the-art home this team and their fans deserve while generating thousands of jobs and billions in economic activity for the region’s economy,” Cuomo said at the ceremonial ground-breaking.
“At the end of the day this project is about building on two great Long Island traditions —Belmont Park and the Islanders — and making them greater than ever.”
Ledecky has been instrumental in getting this project green-lit and believes the Isles will have their 19,000-seat arena ready to open on schedule.
“The Belmont project is a great one, and we’re very proud of what we’ve accomplished there,” he said.
Isle Have Another: Veteran Isles defenseman Nick Leddy decided to travel back from Long Island to his native Minnesota during the NHL pause, but readily admits that the time away from the ice has left him feeling a bit stir-crazy. “It’s been pretty hard honestly,” Leddy told the team’s website. “I have some (training) stuff at my house but nothing too crazy. If I were to be able to get out it would be better because at least you can get out of the house a little bit and do things. It’s definitely been hard, but everyone’s been going through it. It’s just what everyone has to do right now.” … The Isles were on a dismal 0-3-4 stretch before their unexpected break and stood just one point out of an Eastern Conference playoff spot. “I think we had a little bit of a lull as a team before the break,” Leddy said. “I think every team goes through that at least once a year. As long as you can limit the amount of games lost. That was a little unfortunate. If we would have kept going and the situation was a little different it was probably good to get that out of the way then so that we could have refocused and gotten back to playing our game the right way.”