A Look Back on the Islanders’ Former Homes

Unlike baseball which have two grossly subpar facilities, none of the 32 NHL arenas are “bad” places to watch a game.  All have some merit.

Interestingly, the New York Islanders played in two different barns prior to their move to the state-of-the-art UBS Arena.  The Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum was a former dump that was made a lot better thanks to a $100 million renovation.  And the Barclays Center in Brooklyn was a beautiful arena, but was bad for hockey.

Let’s take a trip to the not too distant past and take a look at these now-defunct Islanders’ arenas.

Barclays Center

Brooklyn, NY
Opened 2012
Capacity (hockey) 15,795
Games attended: 1
Last visited: 2020

Nice Place…

The Barclays Center is a gorgeous facility.  It uses a tasteful dark brown and grey motif and has a fantastic HD videoboard.  The Oculus above the main entrance with its LCD screen is quite impressive and unique in stadium design. Nice touches like planting the Ebbets Field flagpole at the corner of Atlantic and Flatbush helped give it a sense of place.  And they sell wonderful (albeit expensive) local delicacies in the concession stands.

…But Not for Hockey

It’s flaw was that it wasn’t built for hockey.  During the building stage, they decided not to build it as a multi-sport facility, and instead focused on basketball and concerts. As such, this state-of-the-art building was a horrible place for pucks in many seats.

Barclays Center
Barclays wasn’t built for hockey. Everything was off center, including a scoreboard that hung over the blue line

The scoreboard sat over a blue line rather than center ice.  Many of the seats did not allow for full views of the ice.  Hell, some seats at one end of the upper deck had no view of one of the goals!  That’s a VERY obstructed view.

Poor fan support

Not only that, but there was also a real lack of fan support.  The Islanders have a proud and loyal base on Long Island (yes, Brooklyn is technically part of Long Island; but a tomato is technically a fruit).  Many didn’t follow the team to Brooklyn given traffic or the hassle of taking the train for a weeknight game.  And the team was unable to build much a new fan base with the Brooklyn hipsters.

In the end, the Islanders got kicked out and moved back to the Nassau Coliseum on a full-time basis in 2020-21

As it turns out, I saw one of the last hockey games played here.  I would have taken some souvenirs had I known that at the time. 

Barclays took “obstructed view” to a new level: one of the goals wasn’t visible from all seats.


Uniondale, New York 
Opened 1972
Renovated 2017
Capacity 13,917
Games attended: 1
Last visited: 2020

The Nassau Coliseum had a reputation for being a bare-bones dump. But that’s not true anymore.  If it were bigger, the Isles might have stayed.

New York Islanders 960x400
Fans wore vintage jerseys while attending a vintage rink

A Throwback

There were only 32 luxury suites, and they sit above the upper deck of seats, and not in between the lower and upper bowls.  There was no Club Level.  As such, the upper-level seats were the closest to the ice in the NHL.  This proximity of “the real fans” created more energy in the building despite its low seating capacity; unlike most larger rinks, this place felt full even if there were only 13,000 people there.  Attendees tended to be older, long-time supporters (often wearing vintage New York Islanders jerseys) making it a savvier, albeit cynical, crowd.

The renovations helped with some sore spots. 

With the reduced capacity, every fan got more room.  Washrooms were doubled.  A VIP area was added beneath part of the lower bowl.  And the new exterior, with the façade featuring 4,700 aluminum fins, looked a hell of a lot sharper than the old Soviet-style concrete design.

But she was still flawed

Concourses were still cramped, and concessions were surprising inefficient with long lines and poor throughput (at least on the night that I attended).  Unless you lived/worked in Nassau or Suffolk county, getting there was a pain; the rink is 30 miles from NYC and it was easier with a car since public transit involves a rail line and a bus through dodgy Hempstead, or the LIRR and an Uber.  And there was very little within walking distance other than a Marriott and a few fast-food joints, meaning the pre-game scene was lacking.

Despite all that, it reminded us of a simpler time in pro sports.  In a weird way, I’m sad to see her go.

New York Islanders 1350x800
A barn with a glorious past. It lacked many amenities even post-renovation, but was the most intimate NHL venue.

Here’s to making new memories in Elmont.


Rating California’s Former NFL Venues

In 2021, the public finally got to see an NFL game in L.A’s $5 billion SoFi Stadium. Raider fans were treated to the $1.9 billion Allegiant Stadium. Both were significant upgrades to their old homes and both land in the top 6 in terms of current NFL venues.

But the old ones all had memorable qualities. And I’d hate for my experiences there to be relegated to the dustbin of history. So in order, from worst to “best”, here are my original reviews for Cali’s three most recently retired NFL stadia.


Oakland Coliseum logo
Former home of the Oakland Raiders.
Former Ranking: 30/31
Location: Oakland, CA
Opened: 1966; Retired: 2019
Capacity: 56,057
3rd best weather of 23 outdoor venues
Games attended: 1 football (almost 20 baseball)
Last visited: 2019
Oakland Coliseum 960x400


I finally mustered up the courage to see a game in the Black Hole before the team moved to Vegas. This truly was (and likely still is) the scariest fan base in sports. It was like looking into a dystopian future: a drunken brigade of hairy, menacing, intimidating belligerents wearing skulls and spikes. And that’s just the women.

A shifty cast of characters greeted you on the walk from the BART with shopping cart bacon dogs and cold beer for sale. The tailgate scene in the Oakland Coliseum parking lot was aggressive. The stadium itself was a relatively charmless concrete multi-purpose circular bowl with incredibly cramped concessions, not nearly enough washrooms and a Soviet design ethos. To also accommodate baseball, sightlines were compromised and the infield dirt was in play. The only thing “nice” was the weather, which is normally so.

Oakland Raiders
The Coliseum was an ugly stadium with an unruly fanbase that created the most unique atmosphere in the NFL

And yet in an age where everything is so pristine and polished, it was a thrilling change of pace. Like bungee jumping, Oakland Raider games were exhilarating experiences. The Vegas stadium will likely be nicer (it’d be hard to not be), but it can only hope to match the Mad Max vibe of a game here.


LA Coliseum logo
Former home of the Los Angeles Rams
Former Ranking: 25/31
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Opened: 1923; Last renovated 2016
Retired for NFL Football: 2019
Capacity: 77,500
2nd best weather of 23 outdoor venues
Games attended: 1
Last visited: 2019
Los Angeles Rams 960x400


I came not expecting much. But there was a surprising sense of “cool” to the renovated Coliseum. I’m glad I made it here before So-Fi Stadium opens up.

This is the only stadium to host two Olympics. It was home to the first Super Bowl, a World Series and a papal mass. It finally underwent a fairly extensive renovation which included all new seats, more aisles, 650 video screens, more suites and reduced seating capacity. And they restored the peristyle, giving it a renewed sense of grandeur. While I can’t compare it to the old, the results felt solid.

You needed to walk through a low-ceiling vomitorium to reach the seating bowl, but you then felt a burst of energy seeing field for the first time. Many concessions were handled in food tents to help disperse crowds from the cramped concourses. And the beautiful weather that I enjoyed for my game is common.

The Rams crowd inside was more stereotypical SoCal chill with a little Hispanic flair. The stadium borders some gritty, working-class neighborhoods, but I never felt unsafe given Game Day crowds. Traffic in and out could be harsh, and parking was stupid expensive (like $100) if you sought something close to the field. I took the Metro (with a discretely concealed six pack for tailgating) and found it pleasantly easy (other than the fact that I was likely sitting in some homeless guy’s urine).

Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum
The old peristyle reminded you that the place has history, but the renovations put the stadium squarely in the 21st Century.

The impressive renovations should help keep this classic stadium in fine operation even once the Rams leave and cede it entirely to the USC Trojans. You won’t be able to see a pro game here anymore, but make it a college stadium bucket lister.


Dignity Health Sports Park
Former home of the Los Angeles Chargers
Former Ranking: 18 out of 31
Location: Carson, CA
Opened 2003; Retired for NFL football 2019
Capacity: 30,000
The best weather of the 23 outdoor venues
Games attended: 1
Last visited: 2019
Los Angeles Chargers 960x400


This was a pleasant surprise. I expected this to feel much weirder than it was; instead it kind of made me wish all NFL stadiums were this tiny.

The Chargers regrettably left San Diego after not being able to get the public funding needed for a new stadium. Instead they decided to become the 12th most popular team in LA (after the Lakers, Dodgers, Angels, Rams, Clippers, USC Trojans, Kings, Ducks, LA Galaxy, UCLA Bruins, and LAFC). Los Angeles greeted them with all the enthusiasm of one awaiting a proctologist visit, and San Diego disowned them for leaving. As such, it’s a team without a fanbase.

Ownership tried to grow its LA cred by moving to a small soccer stadium until their new stadium is built. Alas, the Chargers struggled to sell out even this tiny venue, and the majority of fans cheered for the visiting team.

It was a cool place to watch a game. Like watching U2 play at a House of Blues, you got a big league product in an intimate space. But the cool came at a price. Tickets were well above average, good craft beers were $17, and parking was exorbitant.

On the flip side, you were virtually guaranteed to be sitting in glorious SoCal fall weather – the best in football.  The park itself was quite nice: large shade canopies kept things ridiculously comfortable, the videoboards were solid, the seats themselves were nice, and the concourses were wide and filled with good choices. Lines for food, beer and washroom breaks always moved because crowds were half the size. Traffic in and (especially) out was a lot easier to deal with given the smaller crowd. And every seat was close. It felt like a modern NFL stadium but with only the lower bowl.

LA Chargers
After seeing the NFL in a tiny stadium, I almost wish all games were in places this size.

We may never experience something like this again. I’m glad I had a chance to do it.

As for their replacements

The sports purist in me wants to deride them as being shameless money grabs. The “Pragmatic Me” admonishes them for being over-the-top palaces that make little sense given how infrequently they would be used. But the sports fan in me says, “Hey, that’s not my $7 billion.” Both SoFi and Allegiant are freakin amazing pieces of architecture, solid places to watch a game, and land significantly higher on the list than these three mediocre now-defunct NFL buildings. Progress is good.