Skip to main content

Featured Post

Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park graphic: what's built/what's coming + FAQ (pinned post)

Principal of new Belmont arena expects at least 60 concerts a year. Given hype and results for Barclays and Coliseum, that's doubtful.

At 10/7/20 article in Newsday about a media tour, Islanders' $1 billion UBS Arena at Belmont Park beginning to take shape, contains this caption, connected to a video:
Oak View Group chief executive Tim Leiweke on Wednesday afternoon guided three Newsday journalists on the first media tour of the UBS Arena site, the upcoming home of the New York Islanders and what he expects will be at least 60 concerts a year.
(Emphasis added)

It's not implausible that the new arena, expected to open in Fall 2021--though permissions for large gatherings remain unclear--will corral the main market for concerts on Long Island, especially for big acts.

Arena designers, with lots of space to work with, have lots of backstage for acts, plus have eight loading docks for easier load-in, compared with a tight fit like the Barclays Center (or Madison Square Garden).

Is 60 concerts a year realistic? Surely the new arena's first year, as with the Barclays Center's debut, will offer a bump, as both audience members and performers embrace a new building, and arena managers take steps to lure acts, even offering discounts (as did Barclays).

But otherwise there are reasons for doubt, including the record for both Barclays and the Nassau Coliseum.

State review: concert numbers unclear

As I wrote in Gotham Gazette, quoting the state's own Final Environmental Impact Statement Project Description chapter, the Belmont operators, New York Arena Partners (NYAP) expect events of various sizes:
In addition to the approximately 44 to 60 New York Islanders home games, NYAP envisions approximately 145 non-NHL arena event days annually, including: approximately 50 marquee concert/entertainment event days that would fully utilize the arena’s space (approximately 19,000 seats); approximately 65 large to medium event days (utilizing between 6,000 and 11,500 seats), such as Disney on Ice, Cirque Du Soleil, E-Sports, or high school sports; and approximately 30 small or non-ticketed event days (3,500 seats or fewer).
Could the estimate of 60 concerts be achived within the mix of "50 marquee" events and "65 large to medium event days"? Possibly, but let's drill down.

Is 60 concerts realistic?

Based on the record of other venues, as well as the hype beforehand, 60 concerts will be a challenge.

Consider the record of the Barclays Center's first four fiscal years. In the first "year," which started with eight Jay-Z concerts on 9/28/12, was actually nine-plus months, with 50 concerts, which would pro-rate to more than 60 concerts over 12 months.

In the first full year, 2013-14, the arena hosted 55 concerts, as I wrote in March 2017, quoting a report to bond buyers. (Excerpt at right.) After that, the arena hosted, in respective years, 36 and 47 concerts.

Based on that record, a consistent schedule of 60 concerts seems doubtful, at least after the first year.

Note that annual concert attendance at Barclays averaged between 9,711 and 11,944, which suggests that the equivalent at Belmont would be many "large to medium event days," not marquee events.

Nassau Coliseum record

The revamped Nassau Coliseum certainly didn't meet expectations. As I wrote in a 1/21/19 op-ed for the Daily News, after more than 21 months of arena operations
In their 2013 winning bid to renovate the antiquated Coliseum and then operate it, Forest City and partners projected that it would host 309 events per year, including 57 concerts...
The Coliseum, county officials say in promoting plans to redevelop the surrounding acreage, hosted “over 200 events” in its first 12 months, not 309. Since reopening in April 2017, it hosted just 35 concerts, according to my count.

That should be reason for concern. 

Competition from the Coliseum?

As I wrote in 2019, the new arena significantly threatens the Coliseum's future. The Socioeconomic Conditions chapter of the Envrionment Review, without a market study, claimed:

The Nassau Coliseum and the Barclays Center, as far as sporting events are concerned, are expected to continue operations without major disturbances after the proposed arena opens because the Nassau Coliseum has already shifted away from hockey use... the Nassau Coliseum would continue to focus on smaller-scale events than those hosted at the Barclays Center and the proposed arena.
I also queried BSE Global, then the arena operator, which responded:
We have and continue to focus on making NYCB LIVE, home of the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum a top destination for world-renowned sports and entertainment, while also offering content unique to the Long Island market.

Now, of course, BSE Global's successor, Onexim, has given up on the arena operating company; the lease is now held by immigrant investors recruited by the U.S. Immigration Fund, which is negotating with the building's owner, Nassau County, about re-opening the arena.

Newsday reported 9/8/2020 that Nassau Coliseum would become music venue under new partnership, citing plans by the owners of the Islanders and their arena developer, Leiweke's Oak View Group, to "downsize the Nassau Coliseum into a music theater," akin to Radio City Music Hall. 

That's not unrealistic, but surely would could cut into the "65 large to medium event days" projected for the UBS arena, and thus undermine the optimistic predictions about concerts.

Bottom line: if the Coliseum closes, the projections for the new arena are somewhat more realistic--though, to me, still dubious--but if it remains open, those projections are likely undermined.

Comments