Islanders enjoy financial success this season at new UBS Arena

Islanders enjoy financial success this season at new UBS Arena

The New York Islanders’ first season at UBS Arena may not have been an artistic success on the ice, but it was a huge financial success.

“One of the things that got lost is that the Islanders just went through one of the biggest turnarounds in history from a business perspective,” said Oak general manager Tim Leiweke. View Group (OVG), which has partnered with the Islanders on the new $1.3 billion facility being built adjacent to Belmont Park in Elmont, NY

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“If you look at what they’ve done this year, it’s maybe one of the best two or three turnovers in National Hockey League history. »

The team failed to qualify for the playoffs, but went from the bottom of the league to selling 99% of their tickets, and to the top third in sales of high-end products and merchandise, a added Leiweke in a recent interview.

“Their sponsorship probably tripled or quadrupled a year ago,” Leiweke said, though club and NHL officials didn’t disclose specific dollar amounts. “It was just amazing.”

Every major sports team sees revenue increase with a new facility, but the Islanders’ leap is notable because it comes at the end of a decades-long search to build a new arena in Nassau County. This was privately funded and carried out with the cooperation of the State of New York, which approved the use of the land next to the famous horse racing track. The Islanders had played games in the 12,000-seat Nassau Coliseum after leaving the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

The Islanders have drawn 16,492 for 41 dates this season in a spectacular building that seats 17,255 for hockey. Although this ranks 16th in the 32-team NHL, most teams above them have higher capacity in their buildings for hockey games. The most relevant number is that the Islanders have sold 99% of their tickets, including their total allocation of 11,000 season tickets. Only six teams played at 100% capacity.

The big six did not include the local New York Rangers at 93.5% at Madison Square Garden, nor the New Jersey Devils at 77.2% at the Prudential Center in Newark, NJ.

The Islanders had their highest home attendance average in history, have a long waiting list for season tickets and are set to do it again in 2022-23 as they prepare to celebrate the 50th anniversary season of their NHL expansion.

In the last full pre-COVID season of 2018-19, the Islanders had the NHL’s worst attendance playing at 75.9% capacity, mostly at Barclays Center, where many seats were obstructed for hockey. They had 2,000 season ticket holders in 2017-18, a club official said. Three seasons ago, the Islanders were at an all-time low when total NHL hockey revenue was $5.09 billion.

Commissioner Gary Bettman recently said that despite battling COVID and new variants last season, he expects hockey-related revenue to still be around $5 billion. The Islanders are now a big contributor to that overall figure.

“Our fan base is at the heart of our success,” said Mike Cosentino, senior vice president of sales for the Islanders and OVG. “It was a very special season and turnaround. It’s not short term. Judging by our subscription renewals since the end of the season, it’s a testament to the long-term commitment of our fans.

So far, there have been 82 events in the building since it officially opened on November 20 with the Islanders’ late home opener – a 5-2 loss to the Calgary Flames – of which only half were hockey games. Earlier this year, as coronavirus mask mandates and other health restrictions were lifted, musical acts such as Harry Styles, Dua Lipa, Sebastian Maniscalco and most recently The Eagles also sold out at a much higher capacity. higher by around 19,000. And there’s a high-level performance streak ahead.

Leiweke, whose OVG also opened the renovated Climate Pledge Arena in Seattle last year for NHL Kraken’s expansion, said the pandemic has had its impact, particularly on Long Island.

“I can’t wait to see what arenas look like without COVID. It would be a pleasant experience,” he said. “We are just experiencing a return to normal. We’re just starting to see our gigs return and our schedule for the rest of this year and next year and we’re looking to see perhaps the biggest period of live music in the history of the industry.

After two seasons of narrowly missing out on the Stanley Cup Finals and a three-year playoff streak, the Islanders failed to qualify for the playoffs this season despite going above .500 and 84 points. They played their final game at the old Nassau Coliseum near the end of the 2021 playoffs.

At the start of last season, they were beset by a UBS Arena construction delay and had to open the season with 13 games on the road, losing six. As soon as that ended, at least eight players on their roster tested positive for COVID. A pair of matches were postponed, but others had to be played with a depleted roster.

“It’s hard to do the first 13 games on the road and then get hit by COVID,” Leiweke said. “They were basically playing with an American Hockey League club. It was hard. Unfortunately, the games had to go on. I think it took the life of this team.

“I can’t wait to see what happens next season for the Islanders without COVID.”

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