Designing UBS Arena: One Fan’s Experience

16 November, 2021

Bohler Long Island's Project Engineer Gary Talbot at UBS Arena

I have countless memories of going to weekend Islander games at the [Nassau] Coliseum going back as far as I can remember…tailgating and playing street hockey in the parking lot for hours. I never would have thought then that I would be part of the team designing the Islanders’ new home for decades to come.

Bohler Project Engineer Gary Talbot has been a New York Islanders fan from birth. His family grew up near the old Coliseum and often took him to games, so it was only natural that he became devoted to the local hockey team himself.

While in college and without much direction for his career, Gary joined Bohler’s team as an intern where he was introduced to land development design and consulting. In working with Bohler’s engineering teams, he quickly became hooked on the fast-paced industry. With support from his Bohler teammates and leaders, Gary pursued his passion and obtained an engineering degree to become a successful engineer at Bohler himself—still making time to go to as many Islanders games as he could.

Meanwhile, the Islanders have been without a proper home on Long Island for years. Their former arena, Nassau Coliseum, had grown outdated. An attempted move to Barclays Center in Brooklyn, which was designed for basketball, and renovations to the Coliseum just didn’t cut it for the Islanders’ needs.

In 2017, Gary’s two worlds collided when he was given the chance of a lifetime to help design the Islanders’ new home, UBS Arena.

Designing the Islanders’ New Home

Gary is on the team of design engineers led by Bohler Associate Kristin DeLuca for the massive project, responsible for solving its complicated grading and utility challenges, as well as contributing to life safety design and coordinating phased construction plans. Since the arena’s groundbreaking in 2019, he has been frequently visiting and working from the site to be available for questions that arise during construction. Gary, alongside colleague Ben Plumb, observes the construction of critical design elements such as ADA-compliant sidewalks, stormwater management systems, and utility installations.

“Designing the stadium presented more grading, drainage, and utility challenges than I would have expected. It provided me with an opportunity to expand my experience and expertise to identify creative solutions,” Gary said.

Throughout construction, the general contractor discovered several abandoned utilities while excavating. As part of undocumented infrastructure dating back to the 1940s, their presence wasn’t captured in due diligence. Gary and the rest of Bohler’s team had to investigate and redesign while the construction team continued to work. “Just about every challenge that arose required a creative, out-of-the-box solution,” Gary added. “It’s been an incredible experience, with a lot of ups and downs, challenges, and triumphs along the way. Our team never lost sight of the end goal and rallied to get the job done.”

Gary Talbot, checking the slope at UBS Arena


Feeling Accomplished

With construction now complete on the UBS Arena, Gary reflected, “I feel accomplished every time I walk on site. When they put the ‘UBS’ signs and lighthouse features on the building, it went from feeling like any other large construction site to the Islanders’ new home. Going out to the field and seeing the magnitude of the project always reminds me that engineers are not just drawing lines on paper; we really make things happen.”

For Long Islanders, the significance of the UBS Arena is hard to capture in words. Islanders fans like Gary have been eagerly awaiting an arena to call their own. The state-of-the-art UBS Arena will finally deliver on that need, planning to host not only hockey games, but many large-scale concerts and events for decades to come.

“I’ve had opening night circled on my calendar since the NHL schedule was released and I’ve been counting down the days until puck drop,” Gary said. Now, Gary will be able to continue supporting his favorite team from a place with much personal significance.

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