New York Islanders take game day entertainment to a whole new level
The team there are preparing for the club’s 50th anniversary in 2022-23
Less than six months after the New York Islanders’ first-ever game against the Calgary Flames, Islanders fans are already enjoying the UBS Arena at Belmont Park in Elmont, NY. After several false starts, games played at Barclays Center in Brooklyn and a global pandemic, the completion of this project has been a long time in coming for NHL fans in New York. Now housed in the team’s new home, the club’s game presentation department seeks to blend the energy of the Nassau Coliseum with the latest industry technology onsite.
“It comes down to making the fans feel at home,” says Ryan Halkett, senior vice president, event presentation and production experience, New York Islanders. “We don’t change our traditions and production model even though we are in a new building.”
Planning Phase: Staff aim for a new arena with a wishlist on site
Geographically, the islanders have come a long way. From 1972 to 2015, the franchise won four Stanley Cups and hung several banners for iconic players in the rafters of Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, NY. The next three seasons, from 2015 to 2018, would take place 27 miles west of the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. During the 2018-19 and 2019-20 seasons, the team split its home games between Uniondale and Brooklyn. In the final season before heading to UBS Arena, the Islanders reached the Eastern Conference Stanley Cup Finals in front of packed crowds at the Coliseum.
Nicknamed “The Old Barn”, the Nassau Coliseum has gradually become an antiquated relic from the organization’s glory days. When it was time to say goodbye, most of the technology was outdated and in desperate need of a refresh.
“Whether it was an older type of playback, a smaller mixer, or an insufficient number of playback machines,” says Halkett, “we were very limited in what we could do. Our team pushed this [control] room farther than it should have been.
After managing old-school Colosseum control room equipment, Halkett and his team knew what they wanted when they moved to UBS Arena. Their wish list of hardware and software drove the team to imagine the desired in-game show.
“[Nassau Coliseum] helped us understand the equipment and capabilities we needed to put on the show we wanted,” he says. “We did so much research when we were at the barn as well as the Barclays Center.”
While still working with the old technology, the game presentation department has started drafting ideas for this year’s show. The practice not only presented a target the crew could aim for, but also provided plenty of time to familiarize themselves with the elements that would be played with a full arsenal of foolproof technology.
“We have different systems in place, so when we got [to UBS Arena], we were a little more familiar,” says Halkett. “There are many examples where the Colosseum was an excellent training and planning ground.”
Technologically, the on-site show is complemented by a substantial amount of Daktronics LEDs (15,000 square feet, 34 million total pixels), IP and HDR-enabled workflows, and a high-quality projection system from panasonic. On the LED side, 45 screens are anchored by a video card suspended in the center comprising 12 screens (eight main ones at nearly 26ft high x 34.5ft wide, four corner screens at 26ft x 3ft) at 5 .9mm. The four underbelly displays at 8ft tall x 23ft wide also measure 5.9mm. In the control room, Diversified has brought together the production tools that enable the improvements. Based in New Jersey, the system integrator has a long-standing relationship with the NHL club.
“Helping the Islanders was one of the first jobs we’ve ever done at Nassau Coliseum,” said Chris Sullivan, vice president, business development, sports and live events, Diversified. “We were really happy to be part of this whole project.”
In a New Home: Game-Day Show Features Familiar Elements, New Activations
After more than four decades with the Islanders at Uniondale, the team’s fans have grown accustomed to a passionate atmosphere on game days. Its unique culture has become synonymous with its fanbase, and anyone familiar with NHL history knows that an Islanders game is a different environment.
In UBS Arena, key focal points offer winks at the fans who make the Islanders what they are, including images of cheering crowds in the spacious lobby and the names of every season ticket holder. inaugural on a wall. In the $1.1 billion arena, attendees will recognize features of the $32 million building in Uniondale: fans singing the national anthem, original goal horns, chants, playing an organ and the beloved Blue and Orange Army in Section 329. In this special group of fans, this venue reinvents a treasured post-game ritual.
“After the victories, [The Blue and Orange Army] put on a big post-game parade that goes from their section outside the building,” says Halkett. “We could never show this [at the Coliseum] because we didn’t have cameras that went to the back of the hall. We had four cameras [one hard, one robo, and two wired]but now we have a 21 camera show [four hards, two wireless, and 15 POVs]. When you add network streams, we have about 30 different angles we can shoot from, and we add four more at ice level.
The full range of equipment changes the way the video card show is captured and cut. In the previous site, following the action was rudimentary and basic, but in UBS Arena fans will experience tighter shots that establish a closer vantage point to the ice. At the final layer, there are additional flourishes that sync game day entertainment.
“We have our projection system [during pregame and intermissions], our exterior displays, and the lighting that triggers the lanterns outside and the lower bowl,” says Halkett. “We have this great matrix [of elements] to complete a single piece that runs on the video card. »
All aspects of the technology were in full swing on Nickelodeon Day, March 19 against the Dallas Stars. Leveraging the intellectual properties of the popular children’s television channel, graphics displayed on the video board and tapes, on-ice projections, in-game prompts and in-person activations were based on programs such as rocket power and Sponge Bob SquarePants.
Constant improvement: Feedback from fans and employees provides opportunities to improve
Despite achieving a high-level atmosphere, the team is still finding its way to optimize productions to the highest level possible. Before the site opened, the production and operations teams worked closely together to bring the systems online. The time frame was further reduced when a private event featuring a Chicago performance was held a day before the first game.
“We didn’t have an optimal schedule before the official opening,” said Brian Jones, lead engineer, UBS Arena. “By the time we were ready to take over the building, we were only 10 days away from our first hockey game.”
With the eventful opener behind them and the final home games of the 2021-22 regular season still on the schedule, it’s all about finding ways to improve. This includes integrating internal and external suggestions.
“We listened a lot to what the fans wanted to enter this new arena,” Halkett said. “Now that we’re here, it’s about listening to how we can do better. I have people at the main entrance after every game who interview 15-30 fans, but we also encourage our staff to provide feedback constantly.
Future-proof foundation: Islanders rely on an advanced control room
Once again in permanent residence, the Islanders are writing a new chapter in their illustrious history. The opening of UBS Arena is timely as next season will mark 50 years of the franchise. The celebration began on Nickelodeon Day, with the waving of a 50th anniversary flag by a longtime season ticket holder during a third-period break. Such activities will continue throughout the 2022-23 campaign and, with fans remaining at the heart of their broadcasts, Halkett and her team, led by Director, Game Presentation Danielle Lewis, will leverage the flexibility of their entire new facility.
“It’s about securing the future,” says Halkett. “We’re going to have that setup this year, but we have to be ready for the new technologies that will come in five years and beyond.”
The New York Islanders will host five more home games this season at UBS Arena: Florida (4/19, 7:30 p.m. ET on MSG+), New York Rangers (4/21, 7:30 p.m., MSG), Carolina (4/24, 1 p.m., MSG+), Washington (4/28, 7 p.m., MSG+) and Tampa Bay (4/29, 7:30 p.m., MSG+2).