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Volume 20 No. 42
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Designers plan to make new Nassau shine

The concrete box known as Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum will become a gleaming beacon that speaks to Long Island’s environment while gaining the amenities of newer facilities, according to architects involved in the project.

Gensler and SHoP Architects, the two firms designing the renovation, have more meetings planned for early September in New York, said Peter Wang, one of three Gensler principals working on the project.

The shimmering skin of the new Nassau Coliseum is seen in a rendering of the complex set up for an outdoor concert.
“It’s interesting,” said Ron Turner, Gensler’s director of sports and entertainment and a principal in the company’s Los Angeles office. “I think everyone [in sports architecture] has looked at [renovating] the building at one time or another. It does have good bones.”

SHoP Architects designed Barclays Center’s unique rust-colored exterior and is now responsible for transforming Nassau Coliseum’s bland exterior skin. The redesign covers hundreds of metal panels anchored to the existing concrete facade, augmented by a digital light package to create a shimmering glow at night and bring a sense of depth to the building, said Chris Sharples, a principal with the firm.

The architect’s intent is to develop a greater connection for the arena to Long Island by creating sandy tones that reflect the region’s dunes, wavy beach grasses and bleached sundecks, Sharples said.

The Long Island beach theme will extend inside the arena for the concourse redesign, said Wang, who is no relation to Islanders owner Charles Wang. Gensler is responsible for redesigning the arena’s box office, concourses, seating bowl and premium spaces.

Peter Wang is working on the project along with studio director Linda Jacobs and project manager Sandra Yencho. Together, their sports design experience is limited and they will lean on Turner for project support, Wang said.

The goal is to eliminate the painted concrete and visual clutter on the concourse walls created by hanging banners and sponsorship signs, and instead develop a cohesive plan for graphics, an understated look for branded spaces similar to Barclays Center, Wang said.

The box office itself, “bunkerlike and encased in brick,” will undergo a dramatic change by constructing a glass enclosure with back lighting and video monitors to make it more welcoming for ticket buyers, he said.

The seating bowl will be reduced to 13,000 seats from its 17,696-seat setup. Project officials said it is still too early to determine the premium-seat mix in the new configuration. The arena now has 32 suites and about 100 club seats.

Forest City Ratner Cos., the developer for Barclays Center in Brooklyn, recently won the job to renovate the arena and develop the surrounding property. The $229 million Nassau Events Center project includes about $90 million targeted for the coliseum retrofit.

The 41-year-old arena, home of the New York Islanders and owned by Nassau County, has gone without major improvements for many years. Charles Wang grew weary of the lack of public financial support for his own efforts to renovate the facility and ultimately decided to move the NHL team to Barclays Center starting with the 2015-16 season.

The county eventually found a solution for upgrading the arena and creating development tied to the venue, selecting Forest City over a proposal submitted by Madison Square Garden.

The project includes a commitment from Forest City Ratner to play six Islanders games a year at Nassau among other sports events, and it brings new life to an arena many thought was doomed to extinction.