The New York Islanders’ new home has a name.
The National Hockey League team has entered into a naming rights agreement with financial services firm UBS. The deal will last at least twenty years and will pay the team a minimum of $275 million, according to a person familiar with the terms. The source was granted anonymity because the matter is private.
The nearly 19,000-seat arena is scheduled to be completed in time for the 2021-22 season. It’s the centerpiece of a $1.3 billion sports-and-entertainment development on the land adjacent to Belmont Racetrack, home of what is usually the third leg of horse racing’s Triple Crown.
“Our fans have been waiting 40 years for a modern building,” Islanders part owner Jonathan Ledecky said in an interview.
The advanced design, Ledecky said, will allow the building to fill multiple roles. While the Islanders will be whats known as the anchor tenant, Ledecky said the myriad music acts are a de facto second tenant for the facility.
“We’ve built this for music but it’s made for hockey,” he said, noting that the road managers of bands like Depeche Mode were asked for input into things like acoustic design.
The facility will feature the highest resolution scoreboard in New York, bars with views of the ice and a Long Island Railroad station with direct service to Manhattan.
The arena, and the revenue opportunities that it presents, should buoy the Islanders, who were averaging 12,810 fans at the Nassau Coliseum this season—second worst in the National Hockey League—before the COVID-19 pandemic put the season on hold. The NHL is scheduled to resume its season by starting the playoffs on July 30 in two hub cities, Edmonton and Toronto.
The privately financed development is being funded by New York Arena Partners, an umbrella group comprised of the owners of the Islanders, New York Mets chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon, and Tim Leiweke’s Oak View Group, a Los Angeles-based arena development firm that is concurrently overseeing the $900 million renovation of Key Arena in Seattle and the construction of a $338 million sports and entertainment on-campus venue at the University of Texas at Austin.
Leiweke said one-third of UBS Arena’s suites have already been sold. He also said the arena would generate more premium revenue than all other area facilities except for Madison Square Garden.
“The Garden is God,” he said.
Ledecky, meantime, said he was repeatedly checking his mobile phone to see a steady stream of ticket deposits from Islanders fans.
UBS Arena is projected to cost $955 million, and is the linchpin of the mixed-use development that will include retail components on 43 acres owned by the state of New York. Leiweke said there may be some cost overruns, though he wasn’t specific.
As for COVID, Leiweke said he’s been spending much of his time with Oak View’s Wellness Task Force and engineers focused on air circulation and purification.
“When you’re in the business I’m in—and you’re building—you gotta think ahead of what people think,” he said. “By the time we open this arena, with new technology and science, people will feel comfortable they can be anywhere in the building.”
Switzerland-based UBS has a strong sports presence, largely in Europe. The companies sports-related deals includes Lewis Hamilton’s F1 team, a handful of track & field events, and the Spengler Cup, a Swiss ice hockey event that draws some of the best players in the world.
(Updates with comments from Islanders part owner Jon Ledecky and Oak View Group’s Tim Leiweke throughout.)