Nassau Coliseum stood as the state-of-the-art for indoor arenas back in 1972 when it first opened. Since then the building has become legendary, hosting iconic rock stars, presidents, and dynastic hockey teams. Below we gathered some historical facts about Nassau Coliseum.

Beginnings & Facts

  • According to a Newsday report, after the Air Force base at Mitchel Field closed in 1961, Nassau County acquired most of the land
  • Nassau County allocated $32 million for a new arena to compete with Madison Square Garden
  • The arena occupied 63 acres of Mitchel Field – a former Army/Air Force base
  • The name Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum honors the property’s military history

Looking west in 1968, the airfield is mainly intact.

  • The Coliseum is located in Uniondale in Nassau County
  • Nassau Coliseum first opened on February 11, 1972
  • It opened with an ABA game between the New York Nets and the Pittsburgh Condors
  • Tickets started as low as $4.50
  • The game drew almost 8,000 fans
  • The formal opening on April 12 was an ice show featuring Peggy Fleming
  • The initial capacity was between 13,000 to 15,000 depending on the event and the parking lot could accommodate 6,000 cars
  • It had 71-foot ceilings
  • It cost $32 million to build
  • A news report at the time said that the instant replay feature at the Coliseum was “revolutionary”
  • It featured a first-of-its-kind digital scoreboard at an indoor arena
  • There is a tunnel between the Coliseum and the neighboring Long Island Marriott hotel used for artists who stayed at the hotel and performed at the venue
  • The Coliseum’s locker room showers are nine feet tall to conform to NBA regulations
  • A concert hall, museum, library and gallery were all planned for the property but never materialized

New York Islanders

  • The Islanders first played at the Coliseum in October 1972
  • The team only won 12 games that season.
  • The Islanders played at the Coliseum from 1972 to 2015, then from 2018-2021
  • The letter “I” in the Islanders logo points to Uniondale where the Coliseum in located
  • It hosted the 35th annual National Hockey All-Star Game on February 8th, 1983
  • Slang for the older hockey arenas, Nassau Coliseum was called the barn by local fans and players
  • Other nicknames for the Coliseum were “The Old Barn,” “The Coli,” and “Fort Neverlose”
  • In 2021, the Islanders relocated to a new $1.5 billion UBS Area in Belmont Park

Rock & Roll

  • Elvis Presley performed four sold-out shows there in June 1973
  • Six days following Presley’s death, a summer tour was scheduled to begin at the Coliseum on August 22, 1977
  • In 1982, Billy Joel performed a concert at Nassau Coliseum during his Nylon Curtain Tour, which was recorded and released on home video and called Billy Joel: Live from Long Island. The show was also simulcasted on HBO

Video: YouTube of the audio from the Billy Joel: Live from Long Island concert.

  • Billy Joel has a “retired number” banner – his “retired number” is 69
  • Many rock bands have released live albums and bootleg recordings exist of concerts recorded there including David Bowie’s 1976 radio broadcast, Queen’s 1977 A Day at the Races Tour, and The Marshall Tucker Band’s Live on Long Island 04–18–80
  • The Long Island venue played host to 42 Grateful Dead shows between 1973-1994
  • Pink Floyd visited Nassau Coliseum on their theatrical The Wall Tour in 1980. The tour had a limited run of only 31 shows of which Nassau Coliseum was one of only a handful of stops where the band put on the massive show. Pink Floyd play five shows in February 1980 in Uniondale

Rendering of The Lighthouse Project. Photo: The Lighthouse Project.

The Lighthouse Project

  • In the early 2000s, former New York Islanders owner Charles Wang proposed a project to renovate the Coliseum and surrounding area
  • The project was proposed to take between 8 and 10 years to complete and cost $3.74 billion
  • According to reports, in addition to a reimaged Nassau Coliseum, the surrounding development woul;d include residential neighborhoods, lifestyle retail and entertainment venues, a sports technology center, multi-purpose athletic complex, state-of-the-art conference and exhibition facilities, a baseball stadium, and the first 5-star hotel on Long Island
  • The plan included a 60-story tower designed to look like a lighthouse
  • The project was expected to generate $80 million of annual tax revenue
  • The project met resistance
  • Subsequent plans cut the project in half but the counter proposals were not deemed economically viable
  • In 2007 Wang and the Lighthouse Development Group, deep-sixed the 60-story lighthouse tower and instead proposed two 30-story buildings connected by a footbridge
  • Residents ultimately voted against building a new arena in August 2011

Photo: Nassau Coliseum Facebook page.


  • The Coliseum closed in 2015 for two-years of renovations and reopened in 2017
  • The new façade is made of aluminum fins that pay homage to Long Island’s history as the cradle of the aviation industry
  • According to Newsday, eight seats in the Coliseum remain unused at all times – each marked with a patch and a plaque designated for the “Army, Navy, Marines and Coast Guard, as well as prisoners of war, those missing in action and the more than 500 Long Islanders who lost their lives during the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks.”
  • The renovation cost $180 million 
  • The Coliseum reopened on in 2017 with a concert by Billy Joel

Rendering of the proposed Nassau Hub. Photo:

Nassau Hub, The Future?

  • Nassau Coliseum closed in June 2020 as a result of the COVID-19 shutdown
  • While the future of Nassau Coliseum is in question developers have proposed a new plan for the 72-acre hub property surrounding Nassau Coliseum
  • The plan includes construction of offices, housing and retail space
  • The redevelopment is expected to cost $1.5 billion 
  • Plans include 500 units of housing and up to 800,000 square feet of office, research space, retail, and two parking garages