It's finally happened. The Islanders have a new home on Long Island: UBS Arena at Belmont Park.
Nassau Coliseum had been in deterioriation for decades. While beloved by fans for its sight lines and seat-rumbling atmosphere during big games, nearly everything else was outdated - from the concourse to the amenities, you name it.
The saga to get the Islanders to their new home would hit a number of snags during years of uncertainty.
Development plans, political infighting, ownership changes, a move to Brooklyn, a move back to Nassau - and a global pandemic - here's a look at the twists and turns on the Islanders' road to Belmont.
VIDEO: Isles ready for new UBS Arena after rocky road to Belmont
Timeline of UBS Arena process.
BREAKING GROUND IN ELMONT Officials finally broke ground on the new arena in September 2019 following all of the drama and false starts.
"It shows that Nassau County is not the land of 'no,' but we are in the business of building for the future. We can build great things," Nassau County Executive Laura Curran said at the time.
VIDEO: Arena Groundbreaking Ceremony
New York Islanders co-owner Jon Ledecky speaks during the "topping off" ceremony of the New York Islanders new home, the UBS Arena at Belmont Park. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
LEDECKY: A SALUTE TO NEW YORK
Islanders co-owner Jon Ledecky has been a champion of the Belmont project. He calls the flourishes of the new UBS Arena a "salute to New York."
"This was a fanbase in search of a home for two decades, really," Ledecky told News 12. "The sell-by date of the Nassau Coliseum came and went a long time ago. This is an A+ arena."
1-ON-1 INTERVIEW: Islanders owner Jon Ledecky on UBS Arena ahead of opener
This was a fanbase in search of a home for two decades, really.
Ledecky says fans had a huge impact on the look and feel of the arena.
“This is their building. They feel like they built it. That's the best thing an owner in sports can ask for,” says Ledecky. “The major spaces we built here -- the fans said, ‘Jon, don't make it a corporate suit building. We are Islander fans. We want to be able to celebrate together.’”
Ledecky told News 12's Kevin Maher that he was able to incorporate the “best of the best” practices from other teams in the league.
VIDEO: Ledecky says Islanders fans will feel at home at UBS Arena
FIRST TIME ON THE ICE
The team got their first chance to take the ice two days before opening during a practice.
"To walk around place for the first time and see what everything's about and see how hard everyone's been working on this place ... it's going to be really great, I'm excited for everyone to get in here," said captain Anders Lee.
"Absolutely blew me away," star forward Mat Barzal said.
VIDEO: The Islanders practice on the UBS arena ice for the first time
CUTTING THE RIBBON
Islanders co-owner Jon Ledecky, Gov. Kathy Hochul, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, Nassau County Executive Laura Curran and other officials cut the ribbon at UBS Arena the day before the first game.
"This truly is transformative and this is now the epicenter of fun and cool in Long Island," Hochul said.
"I hope we have delivered to the fans, the greatest fans in the National Hockey League," Ledecky says. "You deserve this home, and you now have it."
"No longer is Long Island the land of no, we are the land of 'Yes! Yes! Yes!'" said Nassau County Executive Laura Curran.
VIDEO: Hochul, Ledecky cut ribbon at UBS Arena
Islanders "Sign Guy" Patrick Dowd awaits the opening of UBS Arena. (News 12/Brian Heyman)
EXCITEMENT IN THE AIR
Though prominently posted signs in the UBS Arena parking lot forbid tailgating and honking, fans were out there hours before gametime to celebrate the grand opening.
“I want to walk around – feel the energy. Feel the excitement. Feel the arena,” said Patrick Dowd, the Islanders “Sign Guy.”
Jason Petty, of Islip, told News 12 the opening of the new arena is a special moment in the team’s history.
“This is it. The cement that we are here to stay, and we mean business,” he said.
VIDEO: Isles Fans Wait to Get in to First UBS Arena Game
The New York Islanders face the Calgary Flames in the first game at the UBS Arena at Belmont Park. (News 12/Brian Heyman)
TEARS OF JOY
Islanders fans filled the arena for opening night - a mixture of excitement, relief and near disbelief the Islanders finally had their new home at Belmont.
"I cannot believe it's real," one fan told News 12 through tears.
“It’s everyone’s first time being here," one fan chuckled asking for directions to the brand-new concourse.
The Islanders' opponent in this first game at UBS Arena: the Calgary Flames, fitting since the then-Atlanta Flames played in the Islanders' first game at Nassau Coliseum back in 1972.
This first game wasn't without hiccups. The Islanders were without six players due to COVID-19 protocol. Islanders captain Anders Lee, longtime Islanders forward Josh Bailey and shutdown defenseman Adam Pelech were among those missing. And the Islanders went down 2-0 before Brock Nelson scored in anticlimactic fashion, as the goal was initially blown off. Play continued until review determined Nelson's goal good. He would score again before the Islanders ultimately fell to the Flames 5-2.
Despite the loss, simply seeing the team make it to UBS Arena was the real victory.