By Peter Schwartz
» More Columns
Late last season, my family and I went to an Islanders game at the Nassau Coliseum for the final time.
As we drove into the parking lot, I reminded my younger son, Jared, who was 4 years old at the time, that the Islanders would be moving to Brooklyn next season.
“Why can’t they just stay here?” he asked.
Good question Jared!
But fast forward to Monday. My family and I made our first trip together to the Barclays Center to see the Islanders’ 4-2 victory over Winnipeg. On the way out, I asked Jared, now 5 years old, if he liked the whole experience of going to the Barclays Center.
“It’s heaven,” he said.
Heaven? I asked him what he meant.
“Dad … we were at an Islanders game. That’s heaven,” he said.
There you go! The bottom line in the whole saga of the Islanders moving to Brooklyn is that it’s sad to have seen them leave the Coliseum, but they now play in a beautiful state-of-the-art arena just 30 miles west. The Islanders never should have left Long Island, but it could have been worse. They could have moved out of town completely.
I had the opportunity to attend the Islanders’ first two regular season games at Barclays Center. For Friday’s opener, I went as a member of the media and then on Monday I attended as a fan. After going to both games, I have a ton of thoughts on the Islanders’ new home.
Comparisons to the Coliseum are unfair because a new arena in the parking lot next to the “old barn” would have been a big change, so let’s accept the Barclays Center for what it is and that is a spectacular new arena that has some quirks for hockey.
Overall, I think the Barclays Center will be a good experience for Islanders fans. It all starts with the commute and that is one of the biggest adjustments, especially for those like me coming from Long Island.
On Friday, there were some issues with delays for fans getting to and from Atlantic Terminal. It seemed like things were better on Monday. I saw a number of LIRR workers keeping track of how many people were on the trains, so give them a chance to survey how things are going and getting to Barclays Center on the LIRR will be as smooth and easy as getting to Madison Square Garden.
When it works, and that’s most of the time, it’s very relaxing and exciting to take a train to a game. I really like Barclays Center, even with it being retrofitted for hockey. Sitting in press seating on Friday, I felt that the building was loud and lively. I don’t believe for a second that the game was really sold out, but the fans that were there provided a really good atmosphere.
On Monday, the crowd wasn’t as big but the fans certainly went home happy. Given that there was no school because of Columbus Day, there were a lot more kids in attendance and that always makes for a fun game to be at. I can tell you that my kids had a great time watching the game and enjoying the amenities. My 9-year-old son, Bradley, loves getting to the games early for warmups and he had the chance to do that for the first time on Monday. Jared enjoyed getting his face painted and both of my boys felt like a kid in a candy shop when they visited the team store and brought home some souvenirs.
By the way, there is a spectacular candy store as well in the Barclays Center. Speaking of food, Islanders fans will quickly realize that things are different in Brooklyn. The arena has a plethora of choices when it comes to dining at the game that should satisfy just about everyone.
In the aftermath of Islanders fans protesting the new goal horn, the dismissal of Sparky and the Ice Girls, and the black third jerseys, I’ll jump in with a bit of nitpicking as well. Maybe we missed it, but it was hard to find “healthy” food choices. My wife, Sheryl, and I were hoping for a nice salad but couldn’t find any so we settled on sandwiches. I also had a knish that may have been the best ballpark/arena food item I’ve ever had. I also went on a search for a cup of real coffee for my wife but all I could find was a Starbucks stand. I asked a few Barclays Center people where I could get a cup of coffee and they all said they didn’t know.
And not to beat the “I miss the Coliseum” thing to death, but Bradley and I shared a pretzel on Monday and we both agreed that while it was good, we really miss the pretzel twist at the old barn. If I could make one request to the Barclays Center people about food it would be to try and offer those Coliseum pretzels!
Now, as for the actual seats in the arena, there are, of course, some issues. Barclays Center was not built with hockey in mind, so it had to be retrofitted. On Friday, I watched from the press seating in sections 212 and 213. That’s on the end of the arena that does not have any obstructed views, so it was good. The other side of the building has the now-infamous obstructed- and limited-view seats that offer either no view or a partial view of the goal on that side of the ice.
My family and I had very good seats on Monday as we were seven rows off the ice. Now those seats do not fit into everyone’s budget, but they offer a great view of the ice and come with some amazing amenities and perks. But, there are great seats all over the building at various price ranges, so there is something for everyone.
Just keep a few things in mind: the hallways in the upper bowl tend to get congested, especially behind the goals, so be ready for that and to get to the bathrooms quickly after a period ends. The lower bowl has a lot more room in the concourse, so if that’s important to you then the extra few bucks for a ticket might be worth it.
As far as the obstructed view seats go, the tickets are clearly marked so know what you’re buying! I really like Barclays Center. Because of logistics, I don’t think I’ll get to as many games there as I did at the Coliseum, but there’s no question I’ll continue to go to games. The Islanders, and their fans, have waited a long time for a modern arena with all the bells and whistles and Barclays Center delivers.
Yeah, the scoreboard hangs over the blue line, but it’s amazing. The opening video presentation is pretty cool. I would have preferred all of the division and conference championship banners to have made the move, but the consolidated banners are nice. I would have liked the retired numbers to have been laid out a little neater and maybe alongside the Stanley Cup banners, but you can’t have everything.
The bottom line is that I still have my hockey team in town. Yeah there are some bad seats in the place, but the solution is to just buy a seat with no obstruction. Sure, it takes longer to get there, but the commute to Kansas City is a lot longer.
At the end of the day, we all had a great time. My wife and I enjoyed the day and our kids went home with smiles on their faces. Aside from the Islanders’ win, that was the best part of the afternoon.
I asked Bradley if he enjoyed the whole Barclays Center experience. After thinking about it for a few seconds he gave an appropriate answer for Islanders fans. “YES YES YES!!!!!!”
To many Islanders fans, Barclays Center will never feel like the Nassau Coliseum and that’s understandable. But the Islanders’ new home is terrific for a number of reasons. It has all the amenities that you are looking for in a new arena as well as the most important aspect of all: it houses a pretty good hockey team.
But in true Islanders fan nitpicking fashion, “heaven” needs a better pretzel, a cup of coffee, and a few more Stanley Cup banners.
Don’t forget to follow Pete on Twitter at @pschwartzcbsfan. You can also follow @NYIslanders and @barclayscenter