The New York Islanders know their audience.
The team’s lease with Empire State Development prohibits tailgating at UBS Arena, the team’s new home next to Belmont Park. Those gatherings were part of the culture at Nassau Coliseum. To compensate — and to maximize revenue potential — UBS Arena has more than two dozen adult beverage points of sale around the building, including 17 bars for the general public and premium ticket holders.
On Saturday night, the arena finally opened its doors to Islanders fans, as New York hosted the Calgary Flames. To fully understand the UBS Arena fan experience, we initiated a sociological investigation: watching the game from all 17 of the arena’s official indoor and outdoor bars.
Please note that there was no imbibing by this reporter while compiling this story, which was perhaps the most challenging aspect of the assignment.
Here’s what opening night at UBS Arena looked like inside the watering holes, some of which certainly make the Islanders’ new home a unique one.
Belmont Hall (5:53 p.m.)
Before we begin the crawl, a word about pricing. The majority of the bars at UBS Arena offer “packaged beer” — you might otherwise know it as “a can” — for $17, which is the same price as a premium cocktail; wine is $18, while “ultra premium cocktails” are $19.
When I attended the ribbon cutting at UBS Arena on Friday, Belmont Hall looked like it would be the hopping pregame spot. It had outdoor space with heaters and picnic tables on the ground level, visible to fans as they walked in through the front entrance. Inside, it looked like a classic craft brewery, including a window dedicated solely to beer sales. Yet it was surprisingly empty save for a few patrons who said they heard about the spot through its association with The Harrison, a popular local eatery in Floral Park. Congrats to those who found it, as there appeared to be a 1:1 ratio of pregamers to employees.
While most of the interior is brick, there are a few walls plastered with sports and music posters. One of the Islanders signs had the names of famous alumni on it. One of those names was John Tavares, who became a franchise pariah after leaving the team as a free agent to sign with the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2018. Erin Longo took notice. The Islanders fan grabbed a Sharpie, walked over to the wall and drew a large black X over his name.
“There,” she said, capping the marker. “Now it’s fixed.”