The $130 million renovation of the 43 year-old Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum on New York’s Long Island includes an ambitious dressing room program known as the Artists Quarters, which developers believe will play a significant role in convincing artists to add a stop at the 16,000-capacity arena when touring in North America.
The new Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum and its adjacent retail and entertainment destination are being developed by the same team that built and operates Barclays Center in Brooklyn: Bruce Ratner, Onexim Sports and Entertainment, and Brett Yormark, Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment CEO. Ratner’s group won the bid for the redevelopment three years ago after a hotly contested bidding war, beating out a partnership led by the Madison Square Garden Company, among other bidders.
The dressing room discussion was largely driven by Charlie Walk, president of Republic Group, during advisory board meetings, according to Yormark. "Charlie led the conversation probably 10 months ago, and then championed it with myself and our development team," he explains. "We call it ‘the Artist Quarters,’ with the goal being to provide a first class experience, not only to the artists, but to their guests and, in some respects, their families."
Yormark has been aggressive in reaching out to the artist, manager and agent communities in operating Barclays Center, with such moves as opening a new L.A. office, and establishing an Advisory Board made up of a group of nearly 30 top sports, entertainment, media executives, and celebrities. That advisory board, co-founded and co-chaired by Charlie Walk, is also playing a critical role in the branding and positioning of the Long Island project, scheduled to be completed by the end of this year.
"No different than when we had the vision to build Barclays Center, our mission [on Long Island] is how can we be different, unique and special," Yormark tells Billboard. "In this case, it’s about how can we be special and unique for the artists."
When stars play Nassau Coliseum, they’ll be able to choose from several customizable decors, including Manhattan Modern, Gatsby Gold Coast, the Polo Club, and Hampton Chic. "And, depending on what they choose, when they come to the Coliseum, we’re going to provide them the experience they want, both in the food and culinary experience, and also in the live experience that’s created for them," Yormark says.
Rather than simply surveying artists and managers as to what they would like to see in terms of in-venue accommodations, Walk says the Artist Quarters concept was derived more from his own experiences. "When you go to most venues, the dressing rooms -- the place where you’re meeting with the artist, or where the artist is spending most of their days rehearsing, warming up, with family, in meetings -- those dressing rooms really just were at a level where there’s never been an improvement since the beginning of time," says Walk.
What they came up with was the Artist Quarters, "a unique residential-style suite that is customizable," Walk explains, due in no small part to a current lack of premium hotels in the area. "The idea was residential-style living while you’re on the ground there [in Long Island] that would include everything you have at home, whether it’s a wellness room and fitness, a dining room, a fireplace, all that stuff we were able to put into this concept," Walk says. Also included in the renovation is a Promoters Lounge, a space in the back-of-house area for promoters or others in the industry to entertain, which will have a similar look and feel to the other spaces.
Another unique amenity that will be provided to any artist playing the Nassau Coliseum: helicopter shuttle service to and from Manhattan. "So if they want to stay in New York, which I think many will, if they’re doing sound check the day before or day of, or just showing up for the show itself, that’s going to provide them with an opportunity to get in and out very expeditiously, so staying in Manhattan becomes very viable."
Yormark says the helicopter service will be branded by the Coliseum’s naming rights partner, which he expects to be announced soon.
Just as Barclays Center developers were faced with positioning Brooklyn with the touring industry as a unique and distinct play for artists, and one that is viable both aesthetically economically, Yormark and his team face a similar challenge on Long Island. "The Coliseum in its heyday was a pretty hot building, many great artists have played there, they like the intimacy of the venue, they love the acoustics," he says. "But, unfortunately, it became very dated, and it no longer had the cache that it needed. We’re going to put $130-plus million into this thing."
The team is "in full marketing mode to agents, managers, promoters and now obviously the artists," Yormark says. "We’ve got to change a couple of perceptions, because of how old the building became, and how disconnected it became to the artist community. But [Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment evp/Chief Communications Officer] Barry [Baum] does a great job, and he’ll be able to fix that for us."