East Meadowites driving along Hempstead Turnpike or Charles Lindbergh Boulevard recently may have noticed fresh black paint coating the sides of Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Earlier this month, the overhaul of the 44-year-old arena’s façade began.
Preparatory work for the painting — the first phase of the exterior renovation of the Uniondale venue — began on June 16, with visible changes appearing around the arena at the beginning of July. The $260 million, privately funded project is being spearheaded by Brooklyn real estate developer Bruce Ratner, whose company, Nassau Events Center LLC, was chosen for the project by Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano in August 2013.
After a groundbreaking ceremony in November, project leaders said that their initial focus was on interior demolition and environmental testing and remediation. Nassau Events Center Spokesman Robert Leonard explained that construction began indoors because the work that needed to be done — such as debris removal and asbestos abatement — would take longer than the exterior projects. Materials for the new façade are also manufactured offsite.
On a March media tour of the building, Ratner described the Coliseum as a facility with excellent bones. He explained that a renovation, rather than a teardown, would allow the project to be completed more quickly, was a more environmentally friendly approach and would allow a new destination to emerge from the remaining shell.
“The reason that we’re doing such an extensive renovation is not so much to overcome what has been here, but to overcome a reputation of an arena that was old and needed work,” Ratner said. “That’s the image that we need to change.”
Since March, Leonard said, asbestos abatement has been ongoing, and the construction of new concession stands, clubs and other interior features has been progressing. There has also been underground plumbing work, the reconstruction of restrooms, the refurbishment of mechanical systems and the installation of new electrical systems.
The bowl’s ceiling will be painted black, like the exterior. Leonard explained that by painting the 85,000-square-foot structure a dark shade over a three-month period, construction crews will create a contrasting backdrop for 4,654 bright, folded aluminum fins that will encase the Coliseum. When the project is completed, he said, the fins will appear to float on the walls of the building.
SHoP Architects designed the new façade, which officials said is intended to fuse a number of elements that they feel evoke the specific natural and cultural attributes of Long Island. The shapes of waves and dunes, as well as the texture of saw grasses seen at nearby beaches, inspired the latticework that will be installed in the coming months.
“It’s going to be a stunning piece of architecture that will bring a new level of excitement to the Coliseum,” said Christopher Sharples, a principal at SHoP.
Leonard added that the materials also have a Long Island connection. The aluminum is meant to match the silvery-gray look of Charles Lindbergh’s Spirit of St. Louis, which took off from nearby Roosevelt Field on its historic transatlantic flight in 1927.
Construction crews, which Leonard said are working daily, will assemble 200 tons of metallic space frame to be attached to the building’s concrete piers. The frame requires 32,000 struts, 40,000 bolts and 20 miles of tubing.
The frame will act as an anchor system to the 960 vertical fin runs, comprising thousands of unique, brushed-aluminum composite panels. Installation is projected to begin in October, Leonard said, and to be completed next February.
The renovation will also progress inside the venue, Leonard added. Wiring, plumbing and mechanical work will continue in the coming months, all in advance of walls being closed up and the installation of new ceilings. After that, interior finishes like tile and flooring will be added.
The entire project is still on track for completion in March 2017, according to Nassau Events Center. Hunt Construction Group is the construction manager for the renovation.