Construction for the New York Islanders new arena at Belmont Park has resumed, and for one person in particular the resumption has a little more meaning.
That person is Jonathan Aigen.
You might be asking, who is Aigen? He works for a financial services firm in the city and does freelance work running the North Shore Animal League’s Twitter account. More importantly, he’s the brains behind the @NYIBelmontArena Twitter account, which is the team’s unofficial page showing all the progress on the arena since November of last year.
A kid from Port Washington, Aigen has been an Islanders fan since birth. He got his fandom from his father, who grew up on Long Island and was an original fan from when the franchise was born in 1972. In the glory years, Aigen’s grandfather and his firm had season tickets, so his dad was there to witness the dynasty.
He’s taken that fandom past down and turned it into one of the most popular accounts on Isles Twitter.
“Growing up an Islanders fan we always thought the worst thinking they could move to KC or Quebec City,” the 24-year-old said over a series of text messages. “After realizing how painful Brooklyn was between the commute and the actual arena itself, once the idea of Belmont came to fruition my friends and I were all extremely excited.”
The Isles had broke ground at Belmont Park in September, but it wasn’t until around Thanksgiving when the idea of an account first came to the surface for Aigen.
“So my buddies and I have a group chat ‘Reasoner2Nino’ (all Islanders talk) and once they put up the live cam I began to post a picture everyday in the group chat,” he recalled. “I began to save every picture and put in a file. After a few months I decided to just make a twitter account because I felt as though more than just the five of us were excited about the new home.”
Aigen was right. The excitement of the franchise and the fans finally getting the building they’ve been dreaming about was at an all-time high. And on Thanksgiving morning, the account was active.
— Belmont Park Arena (@NYIBelmontArena) November 28, 2019
Once that first post went out, the account blew up. Aigen was just as shocked by the positive reaction.
“Um I didn’t really know what to expect,” he said. “The first post blew up with hundreds of likes tons of retweets. The followers kept coming. Being part of isles twitter for years I can understand why now Isles Twitter is great and extremely active. But the support has been awesome.”
The arena’s account has amassed over close to 2,200 followers and it ranges from fans to the likes of the beat writers, fan blogs, and even the Isles’ AHL club, the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. Still, Aigen finds it awesome some of the interactions he’s had running the account.
”Alan Hahn, Eric Hornick, Brian Compton and Andrew gross have been supportive and we’ve had interactions which have been really cool,” he noted. “It’s always fun to see a tweet that I am tagged in from them!”
As for the actual team, who do have their own live came on its official website, the response has been favorable to Aigen’s account.
“From ownership down, everybody has been beyond excited about Belmont and the fans couldn’t be more appreciative.”
When the coronavirus hit, Aigen wasn’t sure how the account would continue on. On March 27th, the state has ruled that only essential businesses could stay open. Which meant, construction was going to be halted for the arena without a resumption date determined.
“At first it was hard,” he said. “I was trying different ways to share content and stay in touch with followers.”
But Aigen stayed on top of what was going on and eventually things began to turn.
“My family and I were always reading about when construction would reopen. Governor Cuomo has been doing a great job. (Islanders general manager) Lou Lamoriello’s update and the transparency from the team was also assuring as well.”
Last week that the construction was given the green light to restart, and once again, allowed Aigen and fellow Isles fans to continue to see the future is coming and that better days are ahead.
“Words won’t even describe how excited I will be, said Aigen. “The rendering look absolutely beautiful. Of course I’m a huge fan of the coliseum and it will be emotional seeing them leave. But the new building is just another chapter for the team that embodies Long Island.”
The Islanders are not set to open their new digs till the 2021-22 campaign, but Aigen knows how special a day that will be.
“The opening of the arena will really mean a great deal to the fan base. The second construction started, the dream of the team staying on Long Island really came to fruition. Once the puck drops for the ‘21-‘22 season it will be completely official. It will really tie all loose ends and help reiterate that this islanders are a first rate franchise and ownership and management has proved that over the past few years.”
So what happens when the building is complete? Aigen says he won’t change a thing.
“Of course I will continue the account!,” he said emphatically.
“I feel like I am part of the isles twitter community and can’t wait for what’s in-store at our new home.”
Make sure to follow Aigen at @NYIBelmontArena or his personal account @JPAigen