Leadership team named for Belmont Park project

The New York Islanders NHL ice hockey franchise has revealed details of the executive team that will oversee its new arena project at Belmont Park.

New York Arena Partners has named Tom Pistore as president of commercial operations and Hank Abate as president of arena operations. Pistore and Abate will lead the executive team for the new 19,000-seat arena, which is scheduled to open in time for the 2021-22 NHL season.

Charles Groneman has also been named as the arena’s chief financial officer, while Zachary Klein and Lea del Rosario have taken up roles as general counsel and senior vice-president of human resources, respectively.

Pistore previously spent more than 20 years at Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment Partnership, where he worked across four different leagues and led all premium, membership and retail game admission revenues across all product segments.

Abate, who has 40 years of industry experience, will retain his position as president of OVG Facilities when taking up his new role. Abate previously served as executive vice-president of venue management for the Madison Square Garden Company (MSG), as a senior vice-president of Global Spectrum, and spent 20 years at SMG Facility Management, where his positions included senior vice-president of arenas and stadiums.

Tim Leiweke, chief executive of Oak View Group, which is overseeing the project, said: “During these unprecedented times, we’re fortunate to be building Belmont Park Arena, which we are confident will play a key part in New York State’s economic recovery. This is going to be a world-class venue with a top executive team – Tom and Hank are highly respected throughout the industry and the perfect choices to lead us.”

Groneman previously worked as chief financial officer for Tao Group Hospitality and also held senior roles at MSG. Klein was promoted to general counsel for the Islanders earlier in the year, having joined the franchise in September 2016. Del Rosario serves as the Islanders’ senior vice-president of human resources having joined the team in November last year.

The Islanders’ new arena will form part of the wider Belmont Park redevelopment project and the team broke ground on the facility last September. The Islanders were forced to pause work on the $1.3bn (£1.05bn/€1.16bn) project in March due to COVID-19.

Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, the Islanders were splitting home games between Barclays Center in Brooklyn and the Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, Long Island. The Islanders have played at Barclays Center since 2015 having previously spent more than 30 years at the Coliseum.

Last week it was reported that the Coliseum is set to shut on an indefinite basis as its operator, Onexim Sports and Entertainment, seeks investors to take over its lease deal.

Having spent so long at the Coliseum, Long Island is viewed as the Islanders’ spiritual home and in March the team announced that it would play all of its home games at the Coliseum during the 2020-21 campaign ahead of its move to Belmont Park the following season. The move was made possible after $6m in state-funded upgrades brought the Coliseum up to the required NHL standards. Last week’s news that the Coliseum is set to close raises doubts over where the Islanders will play next season.

Image: New York Islanders