The New York Islanders of the National Hockey League (NHL) welcomed fans to the new UBS Arena in November 2021. The multipurpose venue is the home base for the Islanders, and it will also host music and entertainment events throughout the year. Located in Nassau County, N.Y., the arena is part of a larger redevelopment program that involves converting 43 acres of land around the Belmont Park racetrack into a premier sports and hospitality destination. After playing home games at Nassau Coliseum for half a century, the Islanders now have the opportunity to play in an arena built specifically for hockey.
The new, 745,000 ft² multipurpose venue has a seating capacity of 17,255 fans for hockey and 18,500 attendees for other events. A 23,000 ft2 NHL locker room and player campus is also part of the arena. The interior spaces on the event level include dressing areas and lounges for performing artists, spaces for the home and visiting hockey teams, and a green room.
The arena’s exterior incorporates elements inspired by historic and modern landmarks in New York such as Central Park, Ebbets Field, and Grand Central Terminal. Sitting snugly behind the historic Belmont Park racetrack in Elmont, and just to the east of Queens, N.Y., the new $1.1 billion project looks modest from the outside. The facade was made from five types of material: thin bricks, insulated metal panels, glazed curtainwall, louvres, and approximately 1200 glass-fiber-reinforced concrete (GFRC) panels. The multicolored brickwork on the facade is a nod to the architecture of the nearby racetrack, enabling the new building to blend in with its historic surroundings. To achieve the facade’s distinctive look, the thin brick was placed in several patterns, including running bond, soldier course, and herringbone patterns. The different colors of thin bricks associated with the different patterns create visual interest across the five-story facade.
The project was designed with thermal performance and reduced energy usage in mind. The precast concrete technology met these requirements through the use of continuous, edge-to-edge insulation. This aspect of the design proved to be a challenge because numerous changes in plane were used to create recessed accent areas within the panels. Meticulous design and execution in production of the panels resulted in achieving the design goals regarding thermal performance. “Careful, diligent, and thoughtful coordination was required between the design team, contractor, and subcontractors to ensure seamless integration between the five unique facade types, all while maintaining a continuous insulation philosophy,” says Gary Storm, PE, senior principal, Thornton Tomasetti.
The UBS Arena is expected to achieve LEED certification for building design and construction. It also aims to become a zero-waste facility with sustainable features such as renewable-energy technology and reduced water and electricity consumption.
Elevating the Fan Experience
“UBS Arena represents the future of the event-venue industry and will be one of the top arenas for hockey and entertainment in the country,” says Jason Carmello, principal, Populous. The new facility features the largest scoreboard in New York state, with two levels of high-resolution LED ribbon boards. It can be placed above the ice for a hockey game or fully retracted to accommodate special events. In addition, the facility is equipped with advanced technologies such as 12 all-player tracking cameras, ice mapping, and projection systems. Large LED screens and televisions are installed throughout the facility to enhance the fan experience.
UBS Arena treats fans to exemplary sightlines during hockey games, true to the Islanders’ vision to create a space meant for hockey, not adapted to it. The project team created hockey-specific sightlines by strategically designing the precast concrete seating bowl to be closer to the ice so that fans feel that they are on top of the action.
The concert experience for fans is enhanced by a cutting-edge sound system and the presence of sound-absorptive material throughout the seating bowl. A true standout feature of UBS Arena is its superior acoustics. Several architectural elements limit reverberation time and echoes. These include the use of absorptive materials on vertical surfaces to soak up the sound. Additionally, unlike the hard plastic seating common in stadiums and ballparks, UBS Arena features upholstered seating. This seating is more comfortable for fans, and it helps ensure that the arena’s acoustics during sound checks and reduced-capacity events as the same quality as during full-capacity events.
Designed for music but built for hockey, the arena is set to be one of the most operationally efficient venues in the world.