New Belmont Arena Brings Back Memories of Long Ago
Tuesday, September 24, 2019

    The announcement that Belmont Park will be the new home of the New York Islanders brings back memories from 51 or 52 years ago for this veteran observer.

    In 1967 or '68, the Islanders were set to announce the building of the Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale in the center of Nassau County and wanted to make the announcement in the team's program, as opposed to the media. I was working at the Suffolk Sun in Deer Park at the time when sports editor Larry Conroy came to me and told me that Islanders' owner Roy Boe and president Lou Carnesecca (former St. John's University basketball coach) wanted a reporter from our paper to handle the program story. Conroy elected me for the job.

    I met the two in their offices and spent an hour or so gathering all the info, and I wound up announcing the birth of the Coliseum a short time later. At the time, the Islanders were playing at the Commack Arena, a dump of a building which the Long Island Ducks also used as home ice. 

    The Coliseum opened in 1972 located on 63 acres of Mitchel Field, a former Army airfield which also brings back many memories for me. First, during World War II, my father, an Army Captain, was stationed there for a time; second, it is right across the road from my alma mater, Hofstra University, which was Hofstra College in those days; third, it is right up the street from the former site of Roosevelt Raceway, the harness track where I and my buddies learned what wagering on equines was all about; and fourth, it's just a few miles east of Belmont Park, where, with two high school buddies, I watched my first thoroughbred race on a Wednesday during the first week of June in 1957, two days before we became part of the final graduating class from Woodmere High School. 

    You can bet that many of the Islanders' players will be spending many off-the-ice hours enjoying the races at one of the great racetracks in the world. Like I did. 

    The Coliseum gained a great deal of notoriety in the '70s because it also became the home of the (ABA and NBA) New York Nets and their All-World star, Julius Irving. The Islanders played there exclusively from '72 to 2015 and again part-time in 2018 after the building received a major renovation.  

    I'm hurt that the latest owner of the Islanders didn't call and ask me to write the story of the building of the new Coliseum at Belmont Park. I guess nobody told him I wrote the first story five decades ago.    


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