Islanders using MetLife Stadium game as ‘inspiration’ to open outdoor rinks at arena

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The New York Islanders are getting a rare chance to play in front of 80,000 people this February when they take on the rival Rangers at MetLife Stadium. 

The Islanders are using the occasion to provide fans more memories each time they come to their home on Long Island.

The team announced Thursday it will open The Park at UBS Arena, a social gathering spot on the grounds of the team’s venue in Belmont Park that will feature two pond hockey rinks fans can enjoy before, during and after Isles games.

One rink will hold 4-on-4 tournaments, while another will hold open skating for the public and hockey clinics for youth. In the surrounding areas of the ice, fans will be able to watch both home and away Islanders games in a spot with a beer garden, heated igloos, food trucks and carnival games.

“We’re pumped,” Islanders Executive Vice President Nick Pizzutello told Fox Business. “This gives the community an opportunity to skate, get on the ice and grow the game … and for all our fans to come out early and bring pregame traditions to UBS Arena.”

Pizzuello said the Feb. 18 matchup against the Rangers in East Rutherford, N.J. was “the inspiration” for the ponds. It’s the Islanders’ second outdoor game ever. They played the Rangers at Yankee Stadium during the Stadium Series in 2014.

“It’s been a team effort. We’ve got scores of people on the Islanders, UBS Arena side, and working with some real experts from groups that put together Super Bowl halftime shows and Super Bowl pregames that are the best in their fields to make this a possibility,” Pizzutello added.

The Park at UBS Arena rendering

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The Islanders have done a total makeover of their home. After spending decades at Nassau Coliseum, moving to Barclays Center in Brooklyn and going back and forth between the two arenas, UBS Arena opened in 2021 to be the primary home of the team. 

It’s the newest home for a professional sports franchise in North America, and it might just be the nicest. But the Isles continue to upgrade it.

“I used to go out to Nassau Coliseum with my dad, and then I started with the organization about two weeks before our first game at Barclays Center, so I’ve seen the whole evolution,” Pizzutello said. “Where we are today at UBS Arena, it’s the nicest arena that I’ve ever been to. This is just another exciting opportunity for our fans to engage with the Islanders, and we can’t wait to bring it to life.”

It’s a full-circle moment for the lifelong Isles fan, but he admits, “It’s even cooler for my pops.”

The ponds will open Dec. 27 before the Islanders host the Pittsburgh Penguins, and Hockey Hall of Famer Pat LaFontaine will be in attendance.

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