The Coliseum prior to renovations
|Full name||NYCB Live: Home of the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum|
|Address||1255 Hempstead Turnpike|
|Location||Uniondale, New York|
|Public transit||Nassau Inter-County Express: N70, N71, N72|
|Operator||Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment|
|Capacity||Ice hockey: 13,917|
|Field size||410,000 sq ft (38,000 m2)|
Daktronics Inc. (1984–2015)
Daktronics Inc. (2017–present)
|Broke ground||January 20, 1969|
|Opened||February 11, 1972|
|Expanded||1976, 1983, 2017|
|Reopened||March 31, 2017 (renovations)|
|Construction cost||US$32 million|
($223 million in 2019 dollars)
|Architect||Welton Becket and Associates|
|Structural engineer||Severud Associates|
|General contractor||Irwin Schlef|
|New York Islanders (NHL) (1972–2015, part-time 2018–2020, 2020-2021)|
New York Nets (ABA/NBA) (1972–1977)
New York Sets/Apples (WTT) (1974–1977)
Long Island Tomahawks (NLL) (1975)
New York Arrows (MISL) (1978–1984)
New York Express (MISL) (1986–1987)
New York Saints (NLL) (1989–2003)
Long Island Jawz (RHI) (1996)
New York Dragons (AFL) (2001–2008)
New York Titans (NLL) (2007)
Long Island Nets (NBA G League) (2017–present)
New York Open (ATP) (2018–present)
New York Riptide (NLL) (2019–present)
The Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum (commonly known as the Nassau Coliseum or The Coliseum, branded as NYCB Live: Home of the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum for sponsorship reasons) is a multi-purpose indoor arena in Uniondale, New York, east of New York City. The Coliseum is approximately 7 miles (11 km) east of the eastern limits of the Borough of Queens of New York City, and is located next to the Meadowbrook Parkway.
Opened in 1972, the Coliseum occupies 63 acres (25 ha) of Mitchel Field, a former Army airfield, later an Air Force base. The facility is located in the Town of Hempstead, within the Uniondale 11553 ZIP code. The Coliseum is used for sporting events, concerts, large exhibitions and shows as well as trade shows—44,000 square feet (4,100 m2) at the main arena, 60,000 at the Expo Center. In 2015, the arena was temporarily closed for a major renovation which was completed in April 2017.
The New York Islanders of the National Hockey League (NHL) played at the Coliseum from 1972 to 2015 before moving to Brooklyn's Barclays Center. After the move proved to be commercially unsuccessful, the team split its home schedule between Barclays and the renovated Coliseum in 2018 and 2019. Starting in 2020, the Islanders will play full-time at the Coliseum until at least 2021, after the completion of its new Belmont Park Arena. It was the former home of the New York Nets of the American Basketball Association (ABA) and National Basketball Association (which now plays at Barclays as the Brooklyn Nets) from 1972 to 1977. In 2017, the venue became the new home of the Brooklyn Nets' NBA G League team, the Long Island Nets.
The Coliseum originally had a capacity of 13,000 to 15,000 depending on the event, and in the early 1980s the maximum capacity was increased to around 18,000. Before closing for renovations in 2015 the Coliseum seated 16,170 for hockey, up to 18,511 for concerts and 17,686 for boxing. Those renovations resulted in drastically reduced capacities: 13,917 for hockey and 16,500 for basketball.
The Coliseum was home to the New York Nets of the American Basketball Association, and later the National Basketball Association, from 1972 to 1977. The first event at the Coliseum was a Nets game against the Pittsburgh Condors on February 11, 1972.
The Nets won two ABA Championships in the Coliseum, with Hall of Famer Julius Erving headlining the team. In 1973–74 the Nets defeated the Utah Stars in five games to capture their first title. The Nets then captured the final American Basketball Association Championship in 1976, defeating the Denver Nuggets in six games. Following the 1976 season the Nets joined the National Basketball Association as part of the ABA–NBA merger. After their first season in the NBA, the Nets moved to New Jersey. The New Jersey Nets played four seasons at the Rutgers Athletic Center before completion of the Meadowlands Arena at the Meadowlands Sports Complex.
The Coliseum also hosted the New York Arrows and later the New York Express of the original Major Indoor Soccer League. The Arrows, which existed as a franchise from 1978 to 1984, won the first four MISL championships. The short-lived New York Express played part of the 1986–87 season, ending operations before the All-Star break with financial troubles and a 3-23 record.
In NCAA Division I men's college basketball, the Coliseum hosted the ECAC Metro Region Tournament organized by the Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) in 1978, 1979, 1980, and 1981. It also has hosted first- and second-round games of the NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Tournament in 1982, 1994, and 2001.
The New York Sets of World Team Tennis played their first match at Nassau Coliseum on May 7, 1974, and won the WTT championships in 1976. The team changed its name to the New York Apples for the 1977 season, and played 12 of its 22 home matches at Madison Square Garden and the Felt Forum, repeating as champions. Prior to the 1978 season, the Apples announced that they would leave the Coliseum and play all their home matches in the Madison Square Garden complex.
The New York Raiders, intended by the fledgling World Hockey Association to be their flagship franchise, was slated to play in the new Nassau Coliseum in 1972–73. However, the Nassau County government did not consider the WHA a fully professional league and wanted nothing to do with the Raiders. Nassau County retained William Shea to get an NHL team to play in the new building. The NHL responded by hastily awarding a franchise to Long Island—the New York Islanders—which forced the Raiders to play in Madison Square Garden, in the shadow of the New York Rangers. On October 7, 1972, the first Islanders game in Nassau Coliseum was played as the Atlanta Flames visited the Islanders. Flames forward Morris Stefaniw scored the first NHL goal in the building at 6:56 of the first period, while Ed Westfall scored the first goal for the Islanders, as the Flames won the game 3–2. The first Islanders' home win at the arena was on October 12, 1972, where they defeated the Los Angeles Kings 3–2. The Islanders' first playoff win at the arena came on April 20, 1975, where they defeated the Pittsburgh Penguins 4–2. On April 22, 1976, the Islanders earned their first playoff series victory at the arena by defeating the Buffalo Sabres 3–2, and winning the series 4–2.
On February 8, 1983, the arena hosted the 35th National Hockey League All-Star Game, during which Wayne Gretzky scored four goals in the third period and was honored as the game's most valuable player.
The Islanders were 11–1 in Stanley Cup Finals games at the Coliseum. Their only loss was a 1–0 setback in Game 1 in 1984 to the Edmonton Oilers. Islanders fans nicknamed the arena "Fort Neverlose" in honor of the team's strong home record during the finals.
The Coliseum was home to the New York Saints of the National Lacrosse League from 1989 to 2003. In 2007, it was home to four of the New York Titans National Lacrosse League team's eight home games (along with Madison Square Garden).
The Nassau Coliseum hosted minor league hockey prior to the awarding of the Islanders franchise, an event that was brought back in 2005, when the Islanders-affiliated Bridgeport Sound Tigers of the American Hockey League (AHL) played two "home" games at the Coliseum in the absence of NHL hockey due to the 2004–05 NHL lockout. On April 17–18, 2009, the Sound Tigers played two of their home playoff games against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins at the Coliseum due to a scheduling conflict at the Arena at Harbor Yard in Bridgeport, Connecticut, the team's home.
On February 24–25, 2006, the Coliseum hosted the 44th NYSPHSAA Wrestling Championships. It was just the third time the annual event has been held on Long Island. Selling 17,755 tickets over three sessions, it broke (and still holds) the NYSPHSAA wrestling tournament attendance record.
On April 25, 2015, the final Islanders game at Nassau Coliseum was held, Game 6 of their first round playoff series against the Washington Capitals. The game was won by the Islanders 3-1, forcing a Game 7 in Washington. Islanders' Nikolay Kulemin scored the final NHL game-winning goal at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum at 10:33 of the third period, a wrist shot against Braden Holtby. The Islanders' Cal Clutterbuck scored the final NHL goal at the Coliseum, an empty net goal that put the Islanders up 3-1 at 19:07 of the 3rd period. However, the Islanders were denied entry into the second round of the playoffs as they lost Game 7 of the series to the Capitals in Washington two nights later, thus making Game 6 the final major-league sporting event held at the Coliseum until the Islanders return three years later.
On November 5, 2015, the Nets announced their new NBA D-League team, the Long Island Nets, would play at the renovated Coliseum starting in 2017 (the team played their first season at their parent team's home, the Barclays Center).
The seating capacity for hockey during the life of the arena has been:
- 13,571 (1972–1973)
- 14,665 (1972–1973)
- 14,865 (1973–1976)
- 15,317 (1976–1978)
- 14,995 (1978–1980)
- 15,008 (1980–1981)
- 15,230 (1982–1983)
- 15,850 (1983–1984)
- 16,002 (1984–1986)
- 16,270 (1986–1987)
- 16,297 (1987–2001)
- 16,234 (2001–2009)
- 16,250 (2009–2012)
- 16,170 (2012–2015)
- 13,917 (2017–present)
Elvis Presley performed four sold-out concerts at the Nassau Coliseum on June 22, 23 & 24, 1973. His last Coliseum appearance was on July 19, 1975. Six days following Presley's death, a summer tour was scheduled to begin at the Coliseum on August 22, 1977. Tickets for the show have become collectors items. The Beach Boys performed to a sold-out audience on June 19, 1974. Their tour promoted the recently released Holland album and featured a set list of recent songs as well as several of their early 60's hits. They were joined onstage by Elton John and Paul Simon for the encore performance. David Bowie performed a radio broadcast from there during his Isolar Tour, in support of the album Station to Station. A heavily circulated bootleg of the concert saw official release in 2010 as part of the 2010 reissue of the album, and in 2017 as a separate release, Live Nassau Coliseum '76. Queen played at the Coliseum in February 1977 during their A Day at the Races Tour. The band used footage of their performance of "Tie Your Mother Down" in the song's promotional film.
Led Zeppelin played three nights at the Nassau Coliseum on their 1975 North American Tour. During the second night, February 13, Ronnie Wood of the Faces and The Rolling Stones joined the band for a rousing rendition of "Communication Breakdown." High quality soundboard recordings of the band's performances on February 13 and 14 have surfaced on bootlegs.
The Coliseum was one of only two venues in the United States where Pink Floyd mounted their limited run of shows for The Wall Tour. The group performed five concerts from February 24 through 28, 1980 one of which was filmed and only appeared as an underground tape. In August 1988, they recorded and filmed the Delicate Sound of Thunder over four nights at the Coliseum. They first played the venue in June 1975 on their Wish You Were Here Tour.
Live on Long Island 04–18–80 by The Marshall Tucker Band was the original lineup's final concert and the final recording of bassist and founding member Tommy Caldwell, who died just ten days later in an automobile accident. Tommy Caldwell is pictured on the album cover. The Coliseum album was the first to feature a complete concert from the original band. However, the album wasn't released until 26 years later. The band was touring in support of their album Tenth at the time, and the recording features the songs "It Takes Time" and "Cattle Drive" from that release as well as classics such as "Heard It in a Love Song", "Searchin' for a Rainbow" and "Can't You See".
Billy Joel has a "retired number" banner hanging from the rafters, along with those of Islander greats, to commemorate his many sold-out Coliseum shows. His "retired number" is 69. One of Joel's concerts from his 1982 tour at the Coliseum was recorded for a 1983 HBO concert special and VHS release, Billy Joel: Live From Long Island.
Bruce Springsteen has performed at the arena numerous times, most notably during a three-night stand in December 1980. A number of songs from these shows were part of his 1986 live album, Live/1975–85, and the show of December 31 was released in full as Nassau Coliseum, New York 1980 in 2015.
Supertramp performed at the Coliseum on their final tour with Roger Hodgson in 1983 in support of their ...Famous Last Words... album. Styx performed at the Coliseum on their final tour with the band's classic lineup in 1983 in support of their Kilroy Was Here album before guitarist Tommy Shaw quit towards the end of the tour (they also played on the Main Event/Pieces of Eight Tour, Grand Decathlon/Cornerstone Tour and Paradise Theatre tours as well prior to it). The 1986 live album Finyl Vinyl by Rainbow features a rendition of the song "Can't Happen Here" which was recorded at Nassau Coliseum in 1981.
The 1987 home video Cliff 'Em All features a rendition of the song "Master of Puppets" by Metallica, filmed at Nassau Coliseum on April 28, 1986 (while the band was opening a show for Ozzy Osbourne)..
Both The Grateful Dead and Phish frequently played the Coliseum, concerts yielding live albums in both cases: Go to Nassau, Wake Up to Find Out, Dick's Picks Volume 13, Spring 1990: So Glad You Made It, Spring 1990 (album), Spring 1990 (The Other One) by the Dead; and three installments of the Live Phish Series—4–2–98, 4–3–98 and 2-28-03.
In March 1990, the country supergroup The Highwaymen performed at the Coliseum. Their performance was recorded and was released on VHS in 1991. On June 11, 12 and 13, 1990,
Nassau has been a mainstay of WWE for over 30 years, and has hosted Raw and SmackDown many times, including the taping of a SmackDown episode where professional wrestler Droz suffered a (untelevised) career-ending injury in 1999. On August 25, 2002, SummerSlam was hosted at the Coliseum. On April 10, 2017, the renovated Coliseum hosted its first episode of Raw. In October 2018, the Coliseum hosted Evolution, the promotion's first all-women's pay-per-view event.
The Coliseum hosted the opening leg of WrestleMania 2 on April 7, 1986. As part of an ambitious plan to have Wrestlemania from three separate venues (also used were the Rosemont Horizon in Chicago and the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena), 16,585 fans saw 4 live matches at the Coliseum with the rest of the event shown to the audience by closed-circuit television. The main event at the Nassau leg was actually a boxing match between Rowdy Roddy Piper and tough-guy actor Mr. T.
The Coliseum was the second-oldest arena in active use by a National Hockey League team (after nearby Madison Square Garden), and until the return of the Winnipeg Jets to the league at the 15,004 seat MTS Centre in Winnipeg, was the smallest arena in the NHL by total seating capacity. The arena had been considered obsolete for many years, and various Islanders owners tried to replace it.
The Lighthouse Project
Team and county officials announced in 2004 a plan called The Lighthouse Project to renovate the Coliseum. The project's centerpiece was a 60-story tower that would look like a lighthouse. Other plans included new housing, athletic facilities, a minor league baseball stadium, restaurants, and a hotel. The project would also add trees, water and other natural elements to the area.
On August 14, 2007, Islanders owner Charles Wang and the Lighthouse Development Group partnered with Rexcorp to create a new plan. The 60-story "lighthouse" evolved into two 31-story buildings connected by a footbridge at the top. The project was transformed from a simple renovation of the Coliseum property into a 150-acre (0.61 km2) transformation of surrounding properties. Plans called for more 2,000 residential units (20% affordable housing), a hotel, a convention center, a sports technology center, 500,000 square feet (46,000 m2) of retail space, and a sports complex next to the renovated Coliseum. The overall project was slated to cost roughly $3.75 billion.
Construction was not planned to begin until at least mid-2009. Nassau County approved the Lighthouse Project in 2006 on a 16–2 vote, and the Draft Environmental Impact Statement was completed after a state-mandated environmental review. The Lighthouse Project was then expected to go before the Town of Hempstead for approval on a change in land zoning. However, the approval was never granted. After the October 2009 deadline passed, the Long Island Press reported the Lighthouse Project's cancellation. Wang has denied the report.
In May 2010, Mets COO Jeff Wilpon had discussions with Wang about constructing an arena for the Islanders near Citi Field. Wilpon has also discussed buying the Islanders. In June 2010, the FanHouse website reported Jeff and Fred Wilpon, the owner of the Mets, began working with real estate firm Jones Lang LaSalle (who also worked on Madison Square Garden's latest renovation) on a feasibility study of a new Islanders arena in Queens. However, a source from Newsday indicated the FanHouse report was not true. There were also reports businessman Nelson Peltz wanted to buy the Islanders and move them to the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
2011 proposal to replace arena
On July 12, 2010, Town Supervisor Kate Murray (R-Hempstead) announced an "alternate zone" for the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum property that downsized the Lighthouse Project to half its proposed size and made the project, according to Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano and the developers, "economically unviable for both the developer and owner of the site." As a result, Wang, Mangano and the developers decided they would no longer pursue the project.
On May 11, 2011, the Islanders and Nassau County executives announced that county residents would vote on a referendum for approval of a $400 million public bond issue for a new plan to replace the Coliseum. The plan, including the construction of a new $350 million arena as well as a $50 million minor league baseball ballpark nearby, was presented by Wang as a last-ditch effort to keep the Islanders on Long Island. However, voters in Nassau County rejected a proposal by a 57% to 43% margin on August 1, 2011.
On October 24, 2012, the Islanders announced the team would move to the Barclays Center in Brooklyn after their lease expired at the end of the 2014–2015 season. The Islanders played their final game at the Coliseum on April 25, 2015, beating the Washington Capitals 3-1 in game 6 of the first round of the playoffs against the Washington Capitals forcing a Game 7, held in and won by Washington, ending the Isles' run at the Coliseum; in Game 6 Cal Clutterbuck of the Islanders scored the final NHL goal in the building, an empty netter at 19:07 of the third period.
Not long after the Islanders announced their move to Brooklyn, Forest City Enterprises, the owner of Barclays Center, was chosen to perform a study on development possibilities for the Nassau Coliseum site. A request for proposal was issued as a result of this study to transform the arena into a smaller sized venue and its surrounding parking lot into an entertainment hub with theaters, sports bars, and retail.
Four competing proposals were submitted in May 2013, and Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano selected two finalists in July 2013, including one from a group led by Forest City Ratner. Ratner's proposal called for a reduction of the Coliseum's capacity to 13,000 seats and a revamp of the arena's interior and concrete facade designed by SHoP Architects, the firm which designed the Barclays Center, which would cost the group approximately $89 million. As part of his bid, the Islanders would play 6 games per season in the arena, the Brooklyn Nets would play one exhibition game, and a minor league hockey team would call the arena home.
On August 15, 2013, Nassau County announced Forest City had won the bid for the renovation of the Nassau Coliseum and the surrounding property, pending approval from the Nassau legislature and zoning changes from the Hempstead town government. The Nassau County legislature unanimously approved the bid on September 24, 2013.
On April 5, 2017, a Billy Joel concert was the arena's first post-renovation event. Other acts that performed during the new Coliseum's opening week include Stevie Nicks, The Pretenders, Idina Menzel, Lionel Richie, Mariah Carey, and Marc Anthony.
On November 4, 2016, Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment had reached a naming rights deal with New York Community Bank. The deal with the county mandates the inclusion of "Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum" in the arena's name. The cost of the naming rights and the agreement's length were not disclosed.
Belmont Park arena and Islanders temporary return
In late January 2017, Bloomberg News reported via internal sources that Barclays Center was considering dropping the Islanders due to poor attendance and their effects on the venue's profits. The venue has received a poor reception as a hockey arena due to poor sight lines and ice conditions, as Barclays was primarily designed as a basketball arena. Newsday reported that Nassau County executive Edward Mangano had met with Ledecky, and he told the paper the Islanders could return to the renovated Nassau Coliseum. These reports were further elaborated by Long Island Association president Kevin Law in April 2017, who stated that Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment (who manages both venues) was preparing to offer a relocation plan to the team. Law felt that the alternate option of seeking a new arena in Belmont Park was redundant to the renovated Coliseum. The Islanders played a preseason game at the renovated Coliseum on September 17, 2017.
The renovation project reduced the capacity of the arena to 13,900, a level which was believed to be unsustainable for an NHL team; in comparison, the Islanders' average attendance at Barclays is 12,059, the lowest in the NHL (Barclays Center is the second-smallest arena in the NHL based on seating capacity at 15,795, which is around 400 seats fewer than the Coliseum pre-renovation). As such, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman felt that returning wasn't a "viable option" for the Islanders, but noted that the team was "in the process of evaluating what makes the most sense for the franchise and particularly for their fans."
In December 2017, New York Arena Partners (a venture of the Islanders, Oak View Group, and Sterling Equities) won a bid to construct a new, 18,000-seat arena and mixed-used district at Belmont Park, beating a competing proposal by New York City FC for a new soccer stadium. The new arena is projected to be completed in time for the 2021-22 season.
In January 2018, Islanders owner Jon Ledecky revealed on WFAN's Boomer and Gio that he had toured the renovated Coliseum with Bettman and other senior NHL officials. They assessed that the Islanders could play a limited schedule of home games at the Coliseum, but that it wouldn't be sustainable as a full-time venue because of its capacity and diminished amenities (such as few corporate suites) over other newly-built arenas. On January 23, 2018, it was reported that Barclays Center was pushing for a short-term lease under which the Islanders would split their home games between Barclays Center and the Nassau Coliseum until the Belmont Park arena is completed, with the number of games at the Coliseum steadily increasing for each year of the arrangement.
On June 21, 2018, it was announced that the Islanders would play a portion of their home schedule at the Coliseum until the completion of the new arena, with 12 games moved in the 2018-19 season. The number of games during the 2018–19 season at the Coliseum was later increased to 20.
In September 2019, it was announced that in the 2019–20 season, the Islanders would play 28 of their 41 home games at the Coliseum. On February 29, 2020, state governor Andrew Cuomo announced that the Islanders would play any home playoff games of the 2020 playoffs and all 2020–21 season home games at the Coliseum.
The New York Islanders' retired numbers and other banners raised inside the Coliseum, 2009
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