New York Islanders Are Finally Home in $1 Billion UBS Arena at Belmont Park Complex
The new venue features 45 HDR-capable displays installed by Daktronics
Given the gradual deterioration of the Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, NY, the New York Islanders and their devout fanbase have yearned for a place to call home. On Friday, Nov. 19, the $1 billion UBS Arena was officially opened with a ribbon-cutting ceremony before the NHL team’s first two home games of the season vs. Calgary on Nov. 20 and Toronto on Nov. 21.
“This is as fine a venue that there is in the world,” said NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman at the ceremony. “No detail was overlooked. This franchise has never been in better shape, and their future has never been brighter than it is right now.”
The behemoth was built next to the grounds of Belmont Park, and the racetrack’s history and character greatly influenced its aesthetics. Adorning UBS Arena, 1920s-style artwork features August Belmont Jr. (builder of the racetrack) and Edward Brown (the first African-American to win the Belmont Stakes); faux wooden structures in the main atrium echo the track’s buildings. The arena’s concourse resembles an old-fashioned subway station with the intricate tilework and archways. On the building’s exterior, a 20th-century look mixes with the seafaring culture of Long Island, and oxidized copper harks back to buildings like the Statue of Liberty or the Asbury Park Convention Hall.
The arena’s interior features an impressive effort by Daktronics. A total of 45 HDR-capable displays light up the lower bowl, accounting for more than 34 million pixels and more than 15,000 sq. ft. of LED real estate. The venue’s centerpiece, the LED centerhung is raised and lowered via a 90,000-lb. hoist.
The videoboard comprises 12 LED displays at 5.9 mm: each main display at nearly 26 ft. high by 34.5 ft. wide and four corner displays measuring 26 ft. high by 3 ft. wide. The four underbelly displays, 8 ft. high by 23 ft. wide, are also at 5.9 mm. In the locker room, the team has its own 360-degree display at 3.9 mm that can feature different elements. The in-venue production team controls and drives these displays via Daktronics’ Show Control system, including Live Clips and Live Server.
The LED features accentuate the in-venue experience, but to get everything installed, Daktronics relied on a relationship with the Islanders that dates to 1999. Back then, the company helped the NHL organization install displays at Nassau Coliseum and later add new ones when the franchise renovated the Nassau Coliseum in 2015. For UBS Arena, Daktronics got started in May 2020.
“We began immediately to work on the overall design for all of the LED displays, hoist systems, and control systems along with scoring and timing,” explains Aaron Shephard, senior project manager, live events, Daktronics. “The entire design process was completed in late 2020, with manufacturing and product shipment in April 2021. The onsite installation took place over several months as each new section of the arena became available.”
To get to opening night, Daktronics had to sidestep issues related to COVID-19. Since the project was started two months after the beginning of the pandemic, a lot of precautions were taken for those working onsite. Despite the obstacles, Shephard, Installation Supervisor Arron Ludwig, and Technical Service Engineer Zach Kress worked alongside subcontractors Northshore Neon, Banna Electric, and LEB Electric to finish the job.
“A project of this size and complexity naturally has several challenges,” says Shephard, “but one that was difficult for any team to anticipate was moving the project forward through the height of the COVID pandemic. This threw a lot of delays into the mix and forced the completion date into late December, but additional hours and resources brought the project back to the opening date of Nov. 20.”
The ribbon-cutting ceremony was highlighted by remarks from folks who made it possible, including Bettman, New York Governor Kathy Hochul, and Oak View Group CEO Tim Leiweke.
“We had the great privilege of building seven of these arenas around the world, including the opening of Climate Pledge Arena in Seattle a few weeks ago,” said Leiweke. “We found a way to get through the greatest health crisis in the history of construction, and we’ll finally be able to give the Islanders a home that they’ve been striving towards for the last 30 years.”
Overall, UBS Arena required passion, patience, and dedication for everyone involved. It is one of the league’s newest crown jewels and becomes an addition to the professional sports scene in the New York metropolitan area.
“We’re extremely proud of our entire team consisting of design engineers, installation technicians, sign installers, and electricians,” says Shephard. “It was truly an all-hands-on-deck effort to achieve what we now have today. We’re also honored to continue our relationship with the Islanders through the construction of UBS Arena.
Stay tuned in the coming months for a more detailed look at the technology of UBS Arena.