By Cameron Albert and Spencer Wirkkala
At the parking lot of Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum, Dean Dibo cracks open a Coors Light. He’s dressed in his orange and blue Islanders jersey and a smile from ear to ear. His team is back where they belong.
The last time Dibo saw the Islanders play regularly in Uniondale was in 2014 before his team moved to the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, NY. The Islanders called Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum home since their birth in 1972. Starting with the upcoming playoffs, the team are once again, Long Islanders.
“It sucks having to take the train into Brooklyn by myself,” Dibo said. “Here we get to tailgate before the game which has always been a part of going to a game.”
In addition to the 2019-20 playoffs, the Islanders will play the entirety of the 2020-21 regular season at the Coliseum. This will help keep the team on Long Island until their stadium in Belmont finishes construction.
A petition, shared from the Islanders to fans via email, called for support for the team’s proposed move to Belmont. The nearly 13,000 people who signed the petition got their wish on February 29th when Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that Belmont Park will be ready for the team for the 2021-22 NHL season.
The move to Brooklyn five years ago took a serious toll on the fan base. Amongst the NHL, the Islanders have finished in the bottom three in attendance every year since being at the Barclays Center. The 2017-18 season saw the team average a league worst attendance of 12,002, nearly a 22% drop from their final season in Uniondale.
“I was at a bar and overheard two guys talking about how one of them got free Islanders tickets, but decided to just not go upon finding out they were in Brooklyn,” Islanders fan Sean Valent said.
With the Islanders future home in Belmont set to open for the 2021-22 NHL season, the team is promoting the opportunity of priority seating and placement in the new stadium for those who have season tickets for next year. This will, in turn, see bigger crowds in Uniondale.
“The fact that the team will play a full year at the Coliseum before moving into their new home will help the transition go much smoother,” eyesonisles.com editor, Matt O’Leary said. “Everyone from the players to the fans is excited about it.”
Expected to be finished in October 2021, the stadium in Belmont will have a capacity of 17,113. Fans can watch the stadium being built via a live site cam on nhl.com.