Long Island Arena

Throughout the 70s, the Long Island Arena served the community by hosting hundreds of various events, sporting and otherwise. It would also become a footnote in rock and roll history thanks to a hit song that was recorded there in 1975. Let’s take a closer look at the history of this iconic Long Island venue that thrived in the 70s, yet now only exists in the form of memories.

Located on the south side of Veteran’s Hwy, next to the old Commack Drive-in and roller rink, the Long Island Arena was constructed in 1956 and opened in 1959. The following year, both Kennedy and Nixon gave campaign speeches to enormous crowds at the under-prepared arena.

The Long Island Arena’s primary function in the 60s was hosting hockey games, serving as the home of the local pre-Islanders hockey team, the Long Island Ducks. They played there from 1959 until the 1973 demise of the Eastern Hockey League. At the end of the 60s, the arena also provided a temporary home to the New York Nets basketball team.

The Long Island Arena also hosted plenty of non-sports events back in the day. The Suffolk County Fair was held there for many years, and the Cole Brothers circus paid more than a few visits as well, delighting Long Island children to no end.

Of course, what slightly-older 70s kids are likely to remember most fondly about the Long Island Arena are the many concerts held at the venue throughout the decade. Black Sabbath, Blue Oyster Cult, Styx, Frank Zappa, Deep Purple, Fleetwood Mac and The Who all graced the stage there, but it is a live recording made on August 24, 1975 of rock artist Peter Frampton that is most notable.

A song from that performance, “Show Me The Way” was included on the 1976 blockbuster album, Frampton Comes Alive. The tune became a respectable hit for Frampton, rising to the #6 spot on the Billboard Top 100 charts.

 

Sadly, as the 70s drew down, concerts and circuses would eventually give way to a flea market that moved in on a permanent basis. It would remain at the Long Island Arena well into the 90s. The aging arena finally closed for good in 1996, replaced by a Target store. Sigh.

If you have fond memories of attending any of the above-mentioned events at the Long Island Arena in the 70s, or remember something I forgot, I hope you’ll share your recollections in our comments section below.

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63 Responses

  1. Christine Hoffman says:

    What about Aerosmith concerts??? They were not mentioned.

    • Rich Besser says:

      Don’t forget the NY Chiefs of Roller Derby. Cormack was considered very special to the roller derby League. I use to go back to the early to mid 70’s.

  2. James Mauro says:

    I remember the Long Island Arena very well. I used to go ice skating there. I also saw the Long Island Duck play there, Peter Frampton, Hot Tuna, Fog Hat, Blue Oyster Cult, and many other great concerts. Parts of Frampton Comes Alive were recorded there, and is so stated on the back of the album cover (Island Music Center). I saw wrestling there when I worked there as a hawker selling popcorn in the stands. I got the job more so I could see the shows there, including concerts, then the money I made, which was obvious by my nightly receipts. I can’t remember how many times we went to see the Clyde, Beatty, Cole circus there. The Long Island Arena was a big part of growing up on Long Island for me. I thought it was a shame when the LI Arena was reduced to a flea market, but I was there for that on more then a few occasions too. It was a sad day for me when it finally came down, but it goes to show that you can’t stand in the way of progress. I only wish that they would have honored the arena by naming the shopping center that replaced it with a name that would keep the memory alive.

    Jim Mauro. Formerly of The Pines.

  3. kurt steele says:

    I saw a lot of great shows here: Deep Purple, BOC, Cactus, Alice Cooper (Killer tour), Hot Tuna. It was hot and sweaty and crazy the way concerts should be. I was roughly 14-15 and looked about 11 so they obviously weren’t checking age at the door.

    Most vivid memory is of a tiny kitten being handed around in the crowd, Ian Gillan beckoned to me to hand it to him and he ran it to safety backstage. Also Ritchie Blackmore destroying his guitar and then just hurling it 20 feet into the air over the crowd. Slightly dangerous?

    LI really rocked back then man. I had no idea The Who played the arena but am not surprised.

  4. John Lynch says:

    Saw my first concert; BOC, Styx, and J Giles. Though I don’t remember J. Giles being there, The internet says he was, so he must have been, but I was heavily under the influence of newly discovered substances. Like the writer above, I was only 14 but I looked 10. It was the beginning of a lot of concerts (Charlie Daniels, not mentioned), Junior High School dates ice skating and times that I barely remember. I think a lot of kids still went to the flea market and got high as a tribute. Really nice seeing the picture. I agree, naming the new shopping “plaza” after the Arena would of been nice.

  5. Nick M says:

    I remember two events or almost events there in mid 70’s: First a BTO concert that we showed up for that was cancelled. Pulled up to an empty parking lot and knew something was up. Next was Styx in 1978 The Grand Illusion Tour. The old days when they let you in and there were no seats on the floor. You just ran to the front of the stage as fast as you could to reserve your spot and we stood for three or four hours. Smoking of all kinds was going on and the opening act was a band named Starz! Styx opened up with the song Grand Illusion then just like on the album went into Angry Young Man. Tommy Shaw just joined the band I think and was a skinny little kid who played a double neck guitar on that song that looked like it weighed more than he did! Great memories. Also remember playing youth hockey games there and going to many Long Island Ducks games–John Brody yes!

  6. Bob Baldwin says:

    Loved going to the Duck hockey games. Enjoyed watching John Brophy kick butt.

    • Anonymous says:

      MY Dad used to take me and my cousin to see the Ducks,he was good friends with Brophy.He always told me to watch the guy with the gray hair because he was always fighting.He coached Philly for a while.Great memories there !

  7. djohnson says:

    Saw a bunch of concerts at the Arena in the 60’s. Beach Boys, Paul Revere and the Raiders among others. Last concert I saw there was The Who topping the bill with the Vanilla Fudge as the second act December 1967. The Who weren’t that big back then but I was a Who maniac and couldn’t believe they were coming to my hometown. The Vanilla Fudge were a popular LI band at the time. The warm up act was another local unsigned band called the Hassles. My biggest memory of that concert was sneaking backstage and talking with Keith Moon and another guy who was the Hassles keyboard player…his name was Billy Joel.

    • 70sKid says:

      Great story! Thanks for sharing!

    • Eileen says:

      I was at the Who concert too that night! It was my first concert. I was only 14 at the time and went with a girlfriend. The place was half empty and we just kind of rushed the stage at the end when they started smashing up their instruments. Do you remember they had all of their stuff stolen and Pete Townsend was really pissed off and there was alot of confusion back stage. All they left was his coat hanging on a hook on the wall. This is the first I’m hearing that Billy Joel was there though.
      Loved the Vanilla Fudge and The Hassles too. Our moms were waiting outside to pick us up and they asked the Hassles for their autographs when they walked out.
      That was embarrassing,lol, but wish I still had those autographs today.

  8. Dan Martens says:

    the real show on 8/24/75 was Ten Years After. Frampton was the opening act. That was the start of “bubble gum music” compared to his days with Humble Pie. Ten Years After rocked the place.

    • Anonymous says:

      Saw ten years after
      Alvin and Peter framptin played Johnny b good and frampton had stop and just watch as Alvin ran with it haven’t thought of that in years ThNks for the memorie

  9. LI Brian says:

    Sep’t 2, 1972 first time I um…experimented. Silverhead opened, Fleetwood Mac (blues-era Mac) and Deep Purple headlined. Believe they just came off their Japan tour (with the LIVE album recorded). Loud and LOUDER, and the bad reputation of the LIA acoustics, made for a great show

  10. Tim M. says:

    I grew up right behind the L.I. Arena and never got to see a show there. NOTHING about growing up in Commack has pissed me off more. I used jump my friends fence at the end of my block ( Greene Dr. ) and go into the parking lot and watch the goings on w/ a miller 8oz. “starter” 8 packs w/ my friends and say to myself “I can’t wait till’ it’s my turn ” . We used to call Hot Tuna “Hot Amplifiers ’cause when they played there I could hear the music 100 yards away in my bedroom at night. I had 3 older bros. who saw shows there , I remember my brother Ron saw Styxs and Dave Mason there. It had it’s last show there “Charlie Daniels Band ” in 1978 or 9 ( I have the newspaper outside in my garage ) and then became a flea market for the next 16 yrs. .I was just getting to concert age when they stopped doing shows ( I turned 15 in late ’79 ) . I never even knew it happened at the time they just ….stopped…doing…shows……….? I worked there at a deli in the rear of the flea market for about a year or so. Head shops galore back then. I’d seen the Clyde Beatty / Cole Bros.circus and the elephants and other animals in the parking lot. The guy riding the motorcycle on the guy-wire inside. Carnivals there…the Zipper and the Slim Jim rides. A guy Barney used to own the Arena and all that land w/the roller rink , RKO twin and the Commack Drive Inn . I remember he signed the paperwork and sold the whole sh-bang for $23,000,000 the day before he died . I came home from Daytona bike week and as I drove buy the entire area was demolished in the week I was away…that plunged a knife into the heart of my childhood and Commacks as well. I would have liked to taken any token memory of the arena or a drive in speaker had I’d known beforehand.

  11. Fred says:

    I remember playing hockey at the commack arena. On the bench was a silver cable with electricity going thru it,any time your ice skate blade touched it you would get quite a shock of electric voltage . Always had to remember not to sit near that silver cable.

  12. dave says:

    Most of my mis-spent youth was sneeking in to the shows, seen most of them from 1974-1980 and the drive-in movies right next door,, what a magnet for wild eyed teens, thank you for the memories

  13. Anonymous says:

    No one mentioned The Young Rascals. ..my first concert at L.I. Arena. Those were the days!

    • Nick says:

      My brothers band played there they opened up for the young rascals
      They also play there with the Yardbirds and Martha and the Vandellas and the crystals that was a great venue….

  14. Cathy says:

    I saw the Boston Pops Orchestra play in the Arena. It made quite an impression on me and helped inspire me to become a professional orchestral musician myself!

  15. Janice H says:

    Ice Skating…this was the place where you would go on a first date if you were in Junior High, at the time it was still called the Commack Arena. Also saw Godspell, Alice Cooper, James Gang & many other concerts there. Living in the area for much of my adult life I was able to bring my children to the Flea Market & tell them the stories of those dates & concerts while shopping. It was a sad day when it was torn down for another shopping center.

  16. Anonymous says:

    SLAP SHOT WAS FILMED THERE!

    • Anonymous says:

      Was it?

    • Anonymous says:

      Slap Shot was not filmed there.

      • tom h. says:

        I did alot of fighting in that arena from 74-76 with our hs hockey team I also saw the ducks/cougars games.the arena should’ve been protected as a historic landmark.

    • Brad says:

      No, but the Long Island Cougars, who replaced the Ducks and played at the Long Island Arena from 1973 to 1975, were in the North American Hockey League, which is said to be the inspiration for the movie Slap Shot. True to form, in the only Cougars game that I saw there (against the Syracuse Blazers), there was a benches-clearing brawl in the second period. It took the refs forever to regain control and get all the players back off the ice. Next, it took a considerable amount of time for the staff to clear all the gloves, sticks, and so forth, while the announcer read a seemingly endless list of penalties. They were skating three a side for quite a while!

  17. Carol henig says:

    i worked for twin jewelers for two years. It was great exposure and experience for me and my boss by the name of Boris. I was interviewed by Channel 12 news and was on TV and in the newspaper it was a great experience.

  18. Jack says:

    Also attended the Who concert. While they were smashing up their instruments at the end of their show, as they were known to do, my friend and I noticed some kids streaming into the dressing room off to the side of the stage, so we had to check it out. The first thing we noticed was the array of wild, “mod” clothing hanging up all around the room. The temptation for some outrageous souvenirs was irresistible. But as we hesitated, two girls swept passed us with large pocketbooks and cleaned out everything in a flash right before our wide, envious eyes, and hightailed it out the door.

    Within moments, the Who entered the room, Roger Daltry first in line immediately noticing that all their clothes were gone. As a ninth grader lacking a full vocubulary of potent obscenities, I heard some choice words that literality shockd me, words coming out of someone’s mouth that I had never heard before.

    A few other kids surrounded Peter Townsend who was wearing a matador’s outfit adorned with hundreds of spangles and they began to pluck him like a chicken. As they ran off with their fill of spangles in hand I figured he wouldn’t mind all that much if I snatched one myself (afterall, I had come so close to leaving this great show with a whole new wardrobe).

    Having plucked one off what was left of his outfit, he starred down at me (towering over me like a threatening giants) and gave me a look I’ve never forgotten.

    Yet at the same time there was saddness in his eyes. I still feel bad to this day.

    Otherwise, my memories of the Arena are so fondly cherished, from my first concert there – an all-star revue with the McCoy’s, the Buckingham’s, Peter and Gorden, the Brooklyn Bridge, B J Thomas, Bobby Goldsboro, and who know’s who else, right up to my last one there with John MC Loughlin withe the Marivishnu Orchestra and Herbie Hancock, and somebody else great, I just can’t recall (anyone out there remember?).

    • Eileen says:

      OMG! I was there too! My girlfriend and I just kind of got swept up along with everyone into that room where their stuff was stolen.

      Who would think more than 50 years later their music is still amazing and the group is still going strong!

  19. Meryl says:

    So many fond memories but what I remember most vividly are the pro wrestling matches…. Ivan Putsky, Domenick Danucci, and who could forget Bruno Sammartino!!!! Also went ice skating there and frequented the flea market.

  20. Anonymou says:

    I’m telling my age! Saw my very first concert there…Paul Revere and the Raiders! Also went every year with my family to see the circus and loved the side shows and cupie dolls!!! The good old days…but to be replaced by Target? Ugh!

    • Mitchell says:

      I remember seeing airplane. Poppa johns
      Last show . Dragon fly had just came out.
      Therefore I guess it was starship.also my first concert there was Dr John n canned heat. Whew hoo great memories. Flo n Eddie opened for hot tuna n were booed off the stage.

  21. Tim says:

    New Riders of the purple sage, kingfish and Garcia. Started at 930..NRPS played til 11, kingfish played til 1, Jerry played til 3:45 loads of fun

    • RF says:

      Cleaning out some stuff I just found a ticket stub to the Hot Tuna concert, July 17, 1971, and found this site. Cactus and NRBQ are also on the ticket. I was 19. Wow. Every once in a while I go down to an old road house on the beach north of San Diego and can still see Hot Tuna play (Papa John long since gone). On his 65th birthday Jack Casady pulled out his Medicare card and joked ‘I’m still here Man, and I’m still playing” The audience roared.

      Thanks for the site!

  22. Tom- formerly from C.I. says:

    February of ’72, I saw my first concert at the arena. Badfinger was great and we sat on the wooden boards that covered the ice, not far from the stage. It was very cold that night and while waiting to go in, some people were getting impatient and broke the glass doors down. I was 12 and remember seeing plenty of wine sacks and smelling a pungent odor in the air. I also saw Styx, The J Geils Band and Blue Oyster Cult on a triple bill. Tommy James, Leslie West, The Good Rats, Rat Race Choir were other shows. Good times.

  23. Bob Skigen, Champions Promotions, Inc. says:

    I incorporated “Champions Promotions Inc”, for promoting Professional Boxing around 1977.
    Champions had a contract for 3 dates for Boxing at Commacki Arena. Harold Weston Jr was the matchmaker. Great matches.

  24. Anonymous says:

    No one has mentioned that the Bee Gees were there too. Great show!

    • EJ says:

      I saw the Bee Gees there too. My first concert. They opened up for Black Sabath (?). BGs brought down the house. Anyone remember the year?

    • Paul Brandel says:

      The Bee Gees played the Arena during their Main Course tour during the summer of 1975. Orleans opened for them.

      Is there anyway that I can obtain the exact date?

      paulbrandel@aol.com

  25. tom kerwick says:

    Very popular late sixties early seventies were the Suffolk County Boys High School Basketball championships…they used to sell out the place to watch the dynasty at the time..Joe Romanoskys Southampton Mariners with Foots Walker, Terry McNamara, and Tom “tiny” Tarazevits…and the great Sag Harbor team with scoring machine Bob Vacca…great games and great crowds.

  26. Jodi Nevola Fernandez says:

    I saw my favorite group, the Bee Gees, at the Lomg Island Arena. Who would have imagined that so many successful bands and singers would be playing in Commack, Long Island!

  27. joe t says:

    Does anyone remember Ali vs Frazier 1 on closed circuit TV at the commack arena? I was 13 and remember this unbelievable fight. God Bless Muhammed Ali may he rest in peace. And, same to Smokin Joe Frazier. Rest in Peace and God Bless. They don’t make em like this anymore.

    • Tim M. says:

      Yes I didn’t see it but I remember my oldest brother John worked selling programs and such at the time,

  28. Shirey says:

    I was sure I’d attended a fight at LLA Cassius Clay a.k.a. Between Muhammad Ali and someone?

  29. Mark says:

    I grew up 2 miles away and missed all of this stuff by a few years. Glad to hear all your great stories about this legendary venue. I used to frequent the flea market and stare up at the seats and wonder what the hell is going on that there is a flea market inside an arena. I also remember the RKO/drive-in and used to do a lot of rollerskating next door. .

  30. DEG says:

    Saw many concerts there, from Hot Tuna, Peter Frampton to Garcia etc…. Just remember the General admission madness and people pissing and passing out everywhere. Also hitchhiking home at 3am. Good times! Most memorable was when I ran around the side of the arena and literally bumped into Jerry Garcia while he was coming from his car to the venue, we grabbed each others shoulders and both said excuse me at the same time then laughed. I didn’t realize it was Jerry until a few people around me told me, wasn’t a real big dead fan but he was pretty cool and curtious.

  31. mike masciale says:

    went to the one and only who concert in 1967 was in 8th grade and i met girl there from commack .i was from dix hills we both had a mad crush for eachother.her dad said was to young to date.abut 22years laterher sister who worked as a

    secretery in real estate tooka calland recgoi
    nized my name.never forgot her

  32. Sherri V. says:

    I must be older than most of the posters! I recall enjoying Frankie Valli and the original Four Seasons at the arena in about 1964. My friends and I were in the 2nd row of wooden chairs and I threw my CHS G.O. button up on the stage! Fast forward to 2014….I enjoyed reminiscing with Four Seasons music at our performing arts center in Florida while listening to Valli (obviously lipsynching) and the new younger members of his group. My adult ‘kids’ jokingly asked me afterwards if I’d thrown my AARP stage on the stage this time!

  33. steve says:

    Huntington kid here. Just checked, and the Nassau Coliseum only opened in ’72. I guess the LIA was a major choice for a music venue until then, but mostly a bit early for me, and most of my concerts were at the Coliseum, and MSG.

    I remember going to the circus there as a kid, probably around 65ish. IIRC somebody offered me a chance at the Frampton concert, but like so many people I didn’t know anything about him until the album came out and just blew up. The one concert I did see there was BOC, along with Strawbs and Brian Auger’s Oblivion Express as openers.

  34. Marc s says:

    Anyone recall seeing Traffic at the Arena? John Barleycon tour ?

    • Loretta says:

      YES! It was my FIRST concert ever, (how lucky was I?!), and if I recall correctly, on a school night. I can’t believe my parents let me go. Anyway, I have been searching for awhile to see if that concert is documented anywhere, with no real luck. I was beginning to think I imagined it!

  35. Al says:

    Northport / WI HS Basketball Championship Game, Roller Derby, Pro Wrestling, Long Island Ducks, so many great shows. The first concert I ever attended was at the Commack Arena and I was trying to figure out which version of Fleetwood Mac I saw. I am pretty sure it was 1969 or 1970 when I went to see Blue Oyster Cult and Fleetwood Mac which were the opening acts for Alice Cooper . If anyone remembers that line up at the Arena please let me know what year that was.

  36. Kristi Schrittwieser says:

    I went to see my first concert there. Jefferson Starship with Grace Slick. I believe it was 1973. Also have so many great memories of ice skating there.

  37. Rae says:

    We took our children to many roller derby events there, it was a family outing which we all enjoyed.

  38. Stephen Frodell says:

    My first concert was in 1971 with Deep Purple, ELO and Black Sabbath! What a great show! Went to many more shows Jerry Garcia, Frank Zappa etc. That was definitely the Highlight of Rock and Roll back then. After that we went to the Nassau Coliseum, all the Rathskellers, Colleges, My Fathers Place! Then Madison Square Garden, Felt Forum, Academy. Long Island was definitely the place to grow up! I have had a great life!

    • Ron Huther says:

      Wow! Purple and Sabbath at the same show. That has got to be the best you can get in the early 70s. By the time I became aware of rock n roll Purple was gone and Sabbath was a mess. The both came back but to see that show had to be amazing.

  39. Robert Jontay says:

    Attended many concerts there in the mid to late ’70s. I was almost crushed by hundreds of fans waiting for Jerry Garcia Band while being herded along the outside wall! But our first love was Ice Hockey. THE DUCKS were the NY Rangers farm team–the islanders were many years away as the 60s provided we Long Islanders with a chance to see up and coming NHLers. We played in the first High School ice hockey league there, the Suffolk County HS hockey league. And If just one of those triple double doors hadnt opened directly in front of me, I may have been on page 50 of Newsday. Thank you all for the Arena memories!

  40. Ernie Santella says:

    Anyone remember a show with the band The Chambers Brothers? They had a hit “Time”.

  41. TOM says:

    L I Arena.

    Classics 4
    BeeGees
    Guess Who (one show)

    Foghat
    Also saw them at Tuey’s.

    Blue Oyster Cult

    J Geils.

    Black Sabbath
    Cactus as warm up possible???

    Hot Tuna
    Longest concert I ever went to.

    Alice Cooper (killer)
    Mom wouldn’t let me go. Brother did go.

    Passed up on Frampton, Didn’t know who he was.

    Ice skated there.
    Watched:
    Ducks play,
    Nets play,
    Wrestling,
    Carnival,
    Clyde Beatty Cole Brother Circus,
    Dirt Biked the East side trail to the Expressway,
    Flea Marketed there.

    I saw more concerts, But I’m a bit foggy.

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