Nassau Coliseum

Located just off the Hempstead Turnpike, Nassau Coliseum has served the Long Island community since opening its doors in 1972. Throughout the 1970s and beyond, it has served as host to countless events, from sports to concerts to the circus big top. Suffice to say, there are few locals who haven’t visited this arena at one time or another.

The area where Nassau Coliseum resides is the site of the former location of Mitchel Field, a United States Air Force base that operated from 1918-1961 and served as Air Defense Command during WWII.

When the base closed, plans were put in place for Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum (its name, a nod to it military history). Built to hold 15,000 visitors, the arena opened its doors in 1972, when it hosted an NBA basketball game between the New York Nets and the Pittsburgh Condors.

The Nets would win two championships at Nassau Coliseum in the early 70s, but they were far from the only notable sports team to inhabit the venue. During its first year of operation, the stadium became host of its own NHL hockey team, the New York Islanders, thus fueling a heated rivalry between them and the New York Rangers that has yet to subside.


If you weren’t a sports fan in the 70s, there were still plenty of reasons to visit Nassau Coliseum. For one thing, it hosted the Ringling Bros. Barnum Bailey Circus every year since 1972 (a record number of performance), delighting millions of kids from the 70s and every decade after until Ringling Bros finally ended in 2017. Former youngsters may also remember seeing the Harlem Globetrotters at Nassau Coliseum, as well as Disney on Ice and Sesame Street Live.

Of course, Nassau Coliseum also has a rich history of hosting musical events over the years. The Grateful Dead hold the record, having played there a whopping 35 times. Long Island favorite, Billy Joel, is also no stranger to the Coliseum, having performed there 19 times, including a stretch in 1998, when he performed nine sold-out shows in a row (also a record for the venue).

Elvis Presley played three sold-out shows there in 1973. He returned in 1975 and was scheduled to perform there on August 22, 1977. Sadly, the King was found dead a week earlier. Also worth mentioning, Frank Zappa played his last concert at the Coliseum in 1988, before succumbing to cancer a few years later.


Nassau Coliseum eventually started to show its age. Plans to build a new arena and redevelop the entire area weren’t met with enthusiasm from local voters. The New York Islanders announced they would be ending their tenure there and moving to Brooklyn, which they did in 2015.

That same year, a new developer stepped up, a two-year renovation occurred, and the Coliseum is now back on its feet. Billy Joel was, of course, the first person the christen the new Coliseum. Rumor has it,  the Islanders may even return one day. Lots of history in those walls.

Do you have fond memories of visiting Nassau Coliseum as a kid in the 1970s? Perhaps you saw the circus, or your first concert, or watched the Islanders beat the Rangers? I’d love to hear all of your recollections of this historic venue in our comments section below.

You may also like...

12 Responses

  1. Kascha K says:

    Went and saw Ringling Brothers there I know that for sure. I didn’t get to an Islanders game until something like ’83 though.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Lived across the street from the Coliseum. Went many times. Folks parked on our street, when the team won ==those folks would overturn our garbage cans and honk horns late at nite. No sleeping.

  3. Paul Lockwood says:

    I saw Evel Knievel do a jump there in March of 1973. Though it was not actually IN the colisum, but in their underground exhibition hall . it was part of a motorcycle show. Bitterly cold day!

  4. Larry Samet says:

    I use to go see the NY Nets play, they were part of the ABA league. My cousin use to date then married John Roche with the Nets, he was the number one shooting guard. I saw Rod Stewart/Peter Frampton and The Grateful Dead play 1976 Halloween night..

  5. Anonymous says:

    I thought I saw Sony & cher at Nassau collision with a friend in the early 1970’s. Does anyone remetthis?

  6. Keith says:

    I saw Journey during their Frontiers Tour with Bryan Adams. One of the few times I ever saw an opening act come out for an encore! I had seen Yes in 1984 and in 1991 during their Union Tour.
    I also saw Pink Floyd in 1988 where they recorded their concert Album and movie Delicate Sound of Thunder.
    My friend who attended Hofstra University nearby had some fun at a Grateful Dead concert by walking through the parking lot to see which states the concert goers came from to see them. One actually came from Alaska!

  7. Matt says:

    Went to a Star Trek Convention during the 70’s. Also, displayed science fair exhibits that was held for all the surrounding school districts to showcase kids getting involved in science. A friend of mine built a scale model of a “moon base” called Perma One. It had LEDs in the building and the LEDs even flashed in sequence on the landing strip for the “space plane” that would land there. Such great memories!

  8. Harry says:

    In the early ’70s I saw Jethro Tull there (twice), Led Zeppelin, Johnny Winter w/Foghat opening and Alice Cooper (I think), maybe others… memory fogged by age and smoke. 🙂

  9. Wiliam says:

    I saw Neil Young perform there twice and in 1977 i saw Peter Frampton..Great place.Saw the Islanders many times.

  10. Dave says:

    I went to several different types of events at the Coliseum back in the day. I went to some Nets (ABA, not NBA) games when Dr. J (Julius Erving) played for them. They didn’t draw many fans, so getting great seats was pretty easy. I nearly saw him score his 10,000th point (he needed 33 points, scored only 27). I saw many Islander games including some playoff ones during their 4-year Stanley Cup run.

    My brother played youth hockey back then, and the Islanders let his team (which had won the state championship) play a scrimmage before that night’s Islander game which we attended. Fun night, especially for him.

    I saw the circus and the Harlem Globetrotters play there in the 1970s. I also went to a college fair which was held in a large room under the seats. Lots oof fond memories of that versatile place.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *