NYCB Live Home Of The Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum – New York Islanders
Photos by Sean MacDonald, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.71
NYCB Live, Home Of The Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum 1255 Hempstead Turnpike Uniondale, NY 11553
Year Opened: 1972
For the Isles, You Can Go Back Home
Back in 2015, the New York Islanders relocated to Barclays Center in a move that was immediately pegged as a disaster. For three seasons, the Islanders played in front of smaller and smaller crowds while their former home, Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum, underwent significant renovations, as well as a rebranding to NYCB Live, home of the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. As the Barclays experiment continued to fail, it became clear that a return to Long Island was in the team’s best interests. This 2018-19 season, the team has split their games between the two venues, but they expect to play all their games at Nassau for the next two seasons, while a new arena is built in Elmont, just eight miles away. So how does the improved Coliseum rate for hockey? We went to a game to find out.
Food & Beverage 4
The concession stands all have some food that is labelled “Long Island Taste,” with Smokin’ Al’s BBQ and the Roast Sandwich House the most tempting options. Mexican and Greek stands are also found along the concourse. The main problem here is that prices are what you would pay in Manhattan, with chicken tenders going for $14, a $12 cheeseburger, and a $7 hot dog at Nathan’s. Typical stadium fare includes french fries, pretzels, and popcorn (each $7), while chips and candy are $6.
Pepsi products are $6 for a small soda or bottle of water and $13 (yes thirteen dollars) for a souvenir cup. Beer ranges from $14-$16 depending on whether you want can or draft, domestic or craft. Either way, you are getting the shaft.
Nassau Coliseum is the last of the old barns. There are no suites here to push the upper deck into nosebleed territory, so fans are right on top of the action and a buzz is heard constantly during the action. This is the way sports used to be before corporate money sent the real fans upstairs and left many stadiums devoid of atmosphere. The organ is playing, Sparky the Dragon is tossing t-shirts, and the joint is jumping when the Islanders are playing well.
There are three levels of seating: the double-digit sections closest to the ice (10 rows), the 100 level (10 rows), and the 200 level (16 rows). So if you are in the third row of the 200 level, you are only 23 rows from the ice; that is usually a lower-level seat in a new rink. Note that along the sides, the first row of seats by the glass is row AA, and there is some space between the seats and the glass that other fans use to walk through to get to their seats.
There is an inner walkway between the 100s and 200s that allows you to easily move around the rink without having to access the concourse, which can be very crowded during intermissions. The wood panels along this walkway are quite attractive and lend an air of gravitas to the facility.
Dozens of banners honor past Islander greats as well as all of their titles, including those four Stanley Cups back in the early 1980s. Some banners for ABA stars are also hanging from the rafters, along with one celebrating Billy Joel’s 34 sold out shows.
Stanley Cup Banners, Photo by Sean MacDonald, Stadium Journey
There is nothing within walking distance other than a McDonald’s, Chipotle, and Starbucks across Hempstead Turnpike. Just north of the arena is Westbury, where you can find your typical chain eateries such as Buffalo Wild Wings, TGI Fridays, and Applebee’s. A more local option in that area is Canz Bar and Grill; you should be able to deduce that this establishment is similar to Hooters. There were two scantily clad ladies at the game I attended handing out free drink coupons, so keep your eyes open.
In between Westbury and the rink is Museum Row, which includes a children’s museum, one dedicated to firefighters and the Cradle of Aviation. Meanwhile, Hofstra University is just a short walk west, and sometimes you can see a college basketball game in the afternoon before the Islanders play in the evening.
Islander fans are usually excellent, but they did not sell out the game I attended, which featured a top team from the Western Conference. As well, those that were sitting in my area were quite negative, despite their team being atop the Metropolitan Division. With such a small capacity, I’d like to see Islander fans embracing this temporary move to Nassau Coliseum by selling out every game.
If you have a car, getting to the Coliseum is not difficult, though at rush hour you can expect over an hour to travel the 30 miles. Public transit is not reliable or efficient; you generally need to take the Long Island Rail Road to Hempstead Station, from where Nice Bus 70, 71, or 72 take you the rest of the way.
There is no wait to get in, but once inside, you will find the concourse to be crowded both before the game and during the intermission. Concession lines and restrooms are also very crowded; so that it is unlikely you could do both during a single intermission.
Return on Investment 4
The Islanders do employ variable pricing, but for the cheaper games, the value cannot be beaten. The best seats are actually in the lower rows of the 200 sections and can be had for less than $50 for less desirable opponents. Be aware that the top few rows have their view of the scoreboard obstructed by the roof.
If you choose to drive, parking is $25, but it can be avoided as you can park on residential streets across the Hempstead Turnpike.
With food also being quite costly, the ROI is not ideal, but still excellent for this old barn and a first-place team.
The banners merit a point, as do the overall renovations.
One excellent touch in keeping with the name of the venue is the eight empty seats scattered around the seating bowl. Each seat is marked with a patch and a plaque that pay homage to the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and Coast Guard, as well as prisoners of war, those missing in action and the more than 500 Long Islanders who lost their lives on September 11, 2001.
There is nothing like this arena left in the NHL, so if you want to travel back in time, hockey-wise at least, a trip to Long Island should be in your plans in the next two seasons.