The New York Islanders and the NHL's Seattle expansion franchise said their respective arena construction projects remain on schedule despite the coronavirus pandemic and are still expected to be open beginning in the 2021-22 season.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said this week that restarting construction projects, with strict health guidelines, is in Phase 1 of his plan to reopen the state's economy. Work on the Islanders' Belmont Park arena project was stopped on March 27 as part of the state's prohibition of non-essential construction during the coronavirus shutdown.
"The governor has given some indication that selective construction will start up again in some time frame. So we're ready to go again," Islanders co-owner Jon Ledecky told ESPN on Wednesday. "We're working with the contractors. Obviously, the most important thing is that you adhere to social distancing and you make sure the people on site are taking care of themselves. It's an open-air site, still, so we're hopeful that we'll be able to start the construction again when it's appropriate."
Ground was broken in September 2019 on the estimated $1.3 billion project in Elmont, New York, with the NHL's 2021-22 season as the target opening date.
Ledecky said that the mild winter in New York helped the project's progress. "The Belmont project is a great one, and we're very proud of what we've accomplished there," he said.
In Seattle, the $930 million reconstruction of Key Arena continued almost unabated by the pandemic. According to the Seattle Times, the "the project's status as a government facility because the city owns the venue" as well as the construction having reached a critical juncture were the reasons it was allowed to continue. Work on the team's practice facility at Northgate Mall, meanwhile, was halted.
"We were an exemption under the governor's rules for essential construction. We shut down for just two days in order to do a deep clean of the site and to put in some other measures," Katie Townsend, vice president of corporate communications for NHL Seattle, told ESPN.
Those measures included the creation of another entrance into the site for construction workers, so they didn't have to all come through the same entrance.
When the state's stay-at-home orders began being implemented in March, the construction work had dug down into the bowl of the arena while the roof -- which is the original roof at Key Arena, weighing 44 million pounds -- was being supported by temporary steel columns.
"The next stage is that you dig up and reattach the Y-columns so you can remove the temporary steel. When this started, we were at the process, beginning to dig up. That's one of the reasons it was critical for us to continue, because the roof was being held up by temporary steel columns. They're completely safe -- they've been earthquake tested -- but they're not intended for long-term use," said Townsend.
NHL Seattle has also been monitoring whether access to, and acquisition of, their supplies or materials would be impacted by the pandemic. "So far, that hasn't been the case," said Townsend.
The arena remains on schedule to open for Seattle's inaugural NHL season in 2021-22.
"We haven't lost any time, and at the moment there's no change to our schedule. I think it's something where we have to have contingency plans, and be working on them, but we don't foresee it being a change in our schedule," said Townsend.