Wealth management service UBS secured 20-year naming rights to the New York Islanders' new arena at Belmont Park, a $1.5 billion project that is expected to be ready for the team to move in for the 2021-22 season.
It's the culmination of a decades-long saga for the Islanders, who will finally have a long-term solution in Long Island after a brief stint in Brooklyn.
"If you look at a franchise where fans have been put through a more difficult process, there aren't many that compare to the Islanders," said Tim Leiweke, the CEO of the Oak View Group, which is overseeing the project.
"It's been one of the longest struggles for a sports team in this country to try to find predictability and try to find a place that they can call home. It's shocking, because if you take a step back, there are 10 million people who live in Long Island. It's the fourth-largest city in the United States -- if it was its own city. And yet, it never had comfort, it never had predictability, and the fans always had to deal with great uncertainty."
That should change with this new arena, which is expected to generate approximately $25 billion in economic activity, including 10,000 construction jobs and 3,000 permanent jobs. There is an additional $100 million investment in transit and infrastructure, including the first newly constructed Long Island Railroad station in almost 50 years.
"In terms of timing, we think it's a fantastic time to have a commitment to New York and the U.S. in terms of thinking about the impact of restarting our economy," said Tom Naratil, president of UBS Americas. "The size of this project -- with both temporary employment and permanent employment -- within the New York metropolitan area is very, very exciting."
UBS Arena at Belmont Park aims to have 30% of permanent jobs filled by people from the surrounding area, and 30% of construction dollars will be reserved for state-certified minority and female-owned businesses, with 6% earmarked for service-disabled, veteran-owned businesses.
Oak View Group also secured naming rights this month for Seattle's arena. Climate Pledge Arena in Seattle, which is also scheduled to open in 2021-22, and UBS Arena at Belmont Park represent the two most expensive arenas ever built for NHL games.
"In each market, there's a story to be told about the scars left behind -- the [NBA's] Sonics leaving Seattle, and the Islanders, for 40 years, trying to find a home," Leiweke said. "I'm fascinated by that story. If I'm an Islanders fan, I just went from the most unpredictable to the most predictable because of the commitment these guys made to privatize this building and build something special."
Leiweke noted that the fact these projects are moving forward during a global pandemic should inspire hope that sports and arenas can come back.
The Islanders' new arena will hold 17,000 for NHL games and 19,000 for concerts. It is expected to host more than 150 events annually.
"UBS Arena will stand as a beacon of strength, resilience, achievement and community, and we look forward to celebrating this milestone with our loyal fans," Islanders co-owner Jon Ledecky said in a statement. "We're thrilled to be partners with UBS on this transformational project that will be so important to the New York economy for decades."