By Peter Schwartz
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Wednesday was quite a day for a couple of New York sports venues. One originally opened in 1972 and is undergoing a massive transformation. The other opened for business in 2009 but will have some new features this year.
My day started with a media tour of the Nassau Coliseum renovations.
Despite rumors that nothing has been going on, it’s clear that the Coliseum is well on its way to being transformed into a beautiful new arena that will host hundreds of events each year.
“When this is completed, it will be one of the great structures in this country in terms of the way it looks inside and outside,” said Bruce Ratner, executive chairman of Forest City Ratner Companies.
The assembled media was given a look and some insight into what has already been done and what the new Coliseum will look like when it’s expected to be finished in March 2017.
The box office lobby, concourse restrooms and concession stands, back-of-house areas and event-level clubs have already been demolished, and most of the seats have been ripped out. The work was supposed to start in August but was pushed back three months and began in November.
When the new building opens, it will feature premium finishes on the concourse, including terrazzo flooring and a new ceiling, all new fixed bowl seats, more bathrooms and more portable concession stands. The expanded food and beverage offerings will feature the best of Long Island’s culinary landscape.
In terms of seating capacity, the new Nassau Coliseum will seat 13,000 for hockey, 13,500 for basketball, 14,500 for standard concerts and the ability to flex up. The bowl will also have the ability for an intimate theater seating capacity of 4,000 guests.
We already know the first sports tenant will be the NBA D-League’s Long Island Nets. There are also plans to bring arena football, college basketball and boxing to Uniondale to go along with the anticipated slate of concerts and family shows.
Rumors persist that the Islanders could one day return to their longtime home, but for now, the plan is for some cameo appearances. The expectation is that the Islanders will play two preseason games and four regular-season games at the new Coliseum.
“Then stay tuned for what occurs after that,” said Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano.
What does that mean?
“Everybody can draw their own conclusions,” said Mangano. “The statement of fact is that there will be six Islanders games here. Who knows what the future holds?”
While the permanent or even the limited return of the Islanders is still up for debate, as the NHL would have to approve the six games per season, there is still the plan to have an AHL team at the renovated Coliseum.
Could it be the Islanders’ farm team that is currently in Bridgeport?
“With respect to an AHL team, there’s new ownership of the Islanders (coming this summer), and there will be discussions of that after the new ownership takes place,” said Ratner.
Maybe this is wishful thinking on my part, but I watched Ratner and Mangano very carefully when they were speaking on Wednesday.
Whether it was Ratner trying to evade the Islanders questions or Mangano telling us to stay tuned, I’m convinced, more than ever, that there is a very good chance that the Islanders will one day come back.
From a tour of the Coliseum’s major face-lift, I hopped in my car and made the 20-mile trip to Citi Field. With the start of the 2016 baseball season upon us, the Mets held a press event on Wednesday to unveil what’s “New For 2016” in Flushing.
Invited guests gathered at Citi Field to see some of the new features including “Coca Cola Corner,” which is the new name for what used to be the “Pepsi Porch.” The new full-color LED Coca Cola sign was unveiled, and it features video capabilities. The area also has experiences such as a unique interactive, multiscreen gaming wall, bean bag toss games, a giant chair and a lounge area.
After last season’s run to the World Series, Citi Field figures to be the place to be in 2016 with ticket sales through the roof.
“It’s awesome,” said Mark Fine, the Mets’ senior director of marketing. “It’s going to be a great vibe in the ballpark this year. We’re way ahead of where we were in terms of sales last year so it’s going to be fantastic.”
There was also a presentation about the 2016 promotions including “Free Shirt Fridays,” Saturday postgame concerts and fireworks, “Family Sundays,” the 1986 championship weekend celebration, and the Mike Piazza jersey retirement weekend celebration.
Some of the giveaways include a Noah Syndergaard-en gnome on April 30 and a Yoenis Cespedes compression sleeve on July 3rd.
“When we signed Cespedes, we immediately put that out there,” said Fine. “It’s just a natural.”
Another portion of the event was to present some of the new culinary offerings in the ballpark this season. Among the additions for 2016 is a spicy fried chicken sandwich from Christina Tosi’s Milk Bar, Dan and John’s Wings, stuffed meatballs from Rao’s Specialty Foods, Mr. Met’s Kids Kitchen, and shakes from Mister Softee.
Sounds like another delicious season at Citi Field as well as a wonderful new arena to look forward to on Long Island.
Don’t forget to follow Peter on Twitter @pschwartzcbsfan. You can also follow @Nassau_Coliseum, @Mets, and @CitiField.