UBS Arena Spotlight, Part 2: Inside the Transition From Nassau Coliseum to the Isles’ New Home in Belmont Park

The building’s control room boasts a multitude of technologies integrated by Diversified

UBS Arena, the New York Islanders’ new $1.1 billion home, is located next to the iconic, 117-year-old Belmont Park Racetrack in Elmont, NY. Featuring high-quality production technology in an IP HDR control room, the brand-new venue represents the culmination of a tumultuous seven-year process.

“It has been a fantastic experience to have started in one place with the Islanders and be here with them now,” says Brian Jones, employee, UBS Arena. “We’re at a great moment in the time for the New York Islanders.”

For a look into game presentation at UBS Arena, click HERE.

Peripatetic Team: Switching Venues Provides a Handful of Lessons

Prior to the early 2000s, the Islanders have a well-documented history of innovation at Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, NY. Besides housing one of the NHL’s most venerated dynasties, the building was one of the first in the league to implement digital dasher boards for virtual sponsorship and advertising. Even after time took away some of its technological ingenuity, the Coliseum was revered for the energy of the fans and became a formidable place for opposing teams. Although this was its saving grace for quite some time, the club began looking to upgrade its facilities and move in a different direction.

With the help of Diversified, the New York Islanders have constructed a IP HDR control room at the new UBS Arena.

“There had been a long period of waiting for what the future would bring at Nassau and seeing where the Islanders would land,” says Jones. “During that holding pattern, we had to make productions work with a lot of analog equipment. We had a few pieces of more modern equipment to replace some of the older machines that had fully given out.”

For Isles’ home games in Uniondale, the production team needed to worry about downconverting to analog the video signals from the in-venue camera complement and the onsite truck. It was time for a change, and the decision to move operations to Brooklyn’s Barclays Center was made in 2015. Not only did the shift bring the club to New York City, but the in-venue team had to adapt to a new and improved technological footprint for three consecutive seasons: 2015-16, 2016-17, and 2017-18.

“From an employee perspective, it was a journey,” says Ryan Halkett, SVP, event presentation and production experience, New York Islanders. “The two buildings were very different. The Coliseum always felt more like home.”

The rack room at UBS Arena features a Grass Valley Orbit router to handle native ST 2110 and baseband workflows.

At the time the Islanders were in Brooklyn, Jones was working as director, scoreboard and video production, for the New York Yankees. He had been with the Islanders from 2006 to ’15 and,  after the Coliseum was renovated in 2017, rejoined the team as senior manager, facilities presentation. With an upgraded infrastructure, the Islanders went back and forth between Brooklyn and Uniondale for their home schedules in 2018-19 and 2019-20.

“We started off with a very small setup that was just enough to get by,” he says. “Since the Islanders were coming back for their second season, it was my first experience overseeing a renovation of a control room. I got to learn a lot and make a few mistakes along the way.”

Jones had big plans for the Islanders’ third year back at the Coliseum, but the club announced that it would be their final season at the Old Barn.

With UBS Arena on the horizon, Jones agreed to his current position, took the valuable lessons that he learned from the past, and leapfrogged from the bottom of the technological barrel in 2015 to the one of the newest NHL control rooms in 2021-22. “We went from broadcast-quality workflows to cutting-edge technology and implementations that aren’t really seen anywhere else.”

On Schedule: Diversified Completes Systems Integration Prior to Home Opener

Completing any new venue poses challenges. UBS Arena project was particularly challenging, from completing the foundation to putting on the finishing touches before the grand opening. The groundbreaking ceremony was in 2019, and then, one year later, the COVID-19 pandemic arrived. Hindrances lingered into 2021, and, when the timeline stretched into the summer months, the clock began to tick on the club and system integrator Diversified to cross the finish line before the first few events in November.

An Allen & Heath D-Live S5000 mixer controls audio in the venue,

“In the back of some people’s minds, the assumption was that opening night was going to have to shift,” says Justo Gutierrez, director, AV and sound, sports and live events, Diversified. “Islanders’ ownership doubled down because they really wanted this building to be open for fans to enjoy.”

As the pandemic lessened its grip, construction and onsite teams returned to the venue in droves. At that point in the project’s timeline, the biggest obstacle was making sure that all the necessary equipment and material arrived on time.

“There were a couple of real hardships that came from supply-chain issues toward the end of the project,” says Dave Schwarz, senior solutions architect, Diversified. “Some of the equipment was originally designed around [another piece of equipment], so they had to be redesigned, and that caused other delays.”

Although Jones has experience with bringing a control room up from the ground floor, the hardware and software being used at UBS Arena are relatively new for most of the sports-video-production landscape. When a problem arose in the early stages, there were not many friends in the industry that Jones could lean on for troubleshooting guidance.

“There aren’t a lot of people you can reach out to, which put us on a little bit of an island to experience and learn from [these challenges],” he says. “When a certain question without an answer popped up, we had to wait for the experts.”

In-Venue Technology: Inside the IP- and HDR-Capable Control Room

Despite the difficult challenges, the venue’s surefire technologies are driving game-day shows and ancillary events. The control room provides Halkett and his game-presentation team a trio of solutions at its core: a Grass Valley Kayenne production switcher, Grass Valley Orbit router with 2110 IP and Densite frames with Grass Valley image-processing cards for SDI conversion and multiviewer distribution, and Evertz DreamCatcher replay with 12 standard record channels, four playout channels, and two HFR record channels at 6X. Six total channels of Ross XPression at two operator stations are handling graphics.

UBS Arena’s Brian Jones has had an integral role in developing the venue’s technological backbone.

In the lower bowl, more than 20 cameras are in use for Islanders home games. Of the wired variety, the crew has four Grass Valley LDX 86Ns: two World Cams and two Xtremespeeds. Those four hard cameras have two Canon 25X ENG (CJ25EX7.6B IASE S) lenses, a Canon 45X w/2X (CJ45EX13.6B) lens, and a Canon Digi90 (UJ90X9B/S01-DSS) lens. As for POVs and robos, 10 AJA RovoCams and five Panasonic AW-UE150WPJ PTZs managed by a Panasonic AW-RP150GJ5 controller providing shots in other areas of UBS Arena.

On the wireless front are two Grass Valley LDX 86N World Cams with Canon Wide Angle (CJ15EX4.3B IASES) lenses and an 8K wireless camera. Transmission is handled by Wave Central. All cameras are shaded via a Grass Valley OCP 400 control panel and Telestream’s MPI2-25 waveform/vector scope in a room next to the main control room.

On the audio side, the production team uses an Allen & Heath D-Live S5000 mixer, and talent have Shure Axient Digital microphones. Riedel Artist connects the control room staff, and Riedel Bolero is available for wireless comms. For overall sound and AV needs, Diversified was responsible for the WJHW-designed system. In a venue that hosts more than New York Islanders home games, such as concerts by The Eagles and events like All Elite Wrestling, the sound system needs to be efficient in multiple ways.

“It has really impressed ownership and patrons alike,” says Gutierrez. “[The system] is definitely entertainment-driven, and it’s one of the show pieces of what we’ve done.”

Aside from elements of the main videoboard show, all these technologies play a role in displays by the on-ice projection system. Tapping 12 Panasonic PT-RQ50K projectors and Quince Imaging’s Mystique Calibration System, every home game will feature a pregame show with dynamic images and captivating video.

To keep fans informed via updated messaging throughout the venues, Diversified implemented the venue’s Tripleplay IPTV infrastructure. Since it relays important information to all patrons, this workflow needs to be running without hiccups. Despite the strong pressure to get this activation done properly, this aspect of the project might have been the easiest for the team.

“Out of all of the scopes that we had, IPTV was probably the smoothest,” says David Wolthusen, director, operations, Diversified. “There’s close to 800 endpoints in the entire arena, but we didn’t seem to have any of the typical challenges that we’re used to encountering.”

The on-ice projection system at UBS Arena consists of 12 Panasonic PT-RQ50K projectors and Quince Imaging’s Mystique calibration.

A lot of brand names are represented in this project, and, although that does indicate the breadth of the technology under one roof, getting different systems working in the production team’s favor can pose a major hurdle. Through the IP- and HDR-supported backbone, the interoperability of the solutions allows the run of the show to be streamlined.

“Diversified was great with integrating so many different entities that weren’t necessarily created to mesh together,” says Jones. “We have some native [SMPTE ST] 2110 and some native baseband that we’re converting, and we’re still learning the nomenclature of the Grass Valley 2110 system.”

Internal Collaboration: Jones Works With Game-Presentation Crew

Bringing UBS Arena online and making the long-time dream a reality was an arduous task, but, to make matters a little easier, the Islanders production and operations teams worked together toward a common goal. To present new and improved game-day entertainment, Halkett; Director, Game Presentation Danielle Lewis; and other creatives on the team push the envelope every single game. Through constant collaboration and communication, Jones and his colleagues provide the canvas that the show can be painted on.

“Working with Ryan and Danielle has been fantastic,” says Jones. “They’re great about presenting what they want and listening to what we can do. There’s always a great boost of energy when we get the process together because we’re all working towards producing a great show.”

In Halkett’s view, putting the right people in the right positions has been paramount in establishing this new era of Islanders hockey. “Our ownership worked really hard with the right people to understand what we needed to build here. They knew how this technology translates into providing an entertaining fan experience.”

Diversified personnel were onsite for the first 15 events, and, although both Isles internal departments continue to work together, the systems integrator offers more than just a solution to problems. This includes a project-management division — featuring Senior Program Manager John Meusel; Senior Project Manager, AV and sound, broadcast cabling, Erik Carlson; and Project Manager, Video Production, Jose Morales — and an engineering team — featuring Senior Project Engineer, AV and sound, Andy Prager; Senior Design Engineer, Video Production, Mark Ure; Engineering Manager, Video Production, Kurt Miller; Design Engineer, AV and Sound, Kevin McAleer; Estimation Engineer, Broadcast Cabling, Justin Guzman; Sales Support Engineer, IPTV, Sam Wade; and Project Engineer, Video Production, Mike Janes.

A Grass Valley OCP 400 control panel and Telestream’s MPI2-25 waveform/vector scope shades cameras in a room next to the main control room.

“John [Meusel] has been out there throughout the whole process,” says Chris Sullivan, VP, business development, sports and live events, Diversified. “We know there’s a learning curve for the Islanders, so we’ve helped along the way.”

Mission Accomplished: Islanders Eye an Exciting Future

As the regular season reaches its conclusion, the Islanders production and operations teams are eagerly anticipating the 2022-23 season, which will mark 50 years of the franchise. November will mark the one-year anniversary of the venue’s opening. For a team that has a noteworthy past, the offseason months and the following 41-game schedule at home will help catapult both the team and their in-venue technologies into a future filled with success.

“We’ve gone from ‘Get it running’ to ‘Keep it running,’” says Jones. “We’re in that mode where we’re trying to figure out where we’re running at our best. It’s great to be a part of the Islanders’ future.”

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