The site of the evokes many fond memories for local residents.
The location at Veteran’s Highway was once home to the Long Island Arena, also known as the Commack Arena. In the 60s and early 70s, the facility hosted local sporting events as well as concerts, political rallies and other events.
The arena was built by Thomas P. Lockhart, according to Commack…a beautiful place: Commack Public Education, 100 Years -- 1899-1999 by Smithtown Historian Brad Harris. Construction began in 1954 on 22 acres and was completed five years later. The floor area was 18,700 square feet, and there were seats for 6,700 spectators.
The arena’s main team was the Long Island Ducks of the Eastern Hockey League. According to an Oct. 3, 1993 Los Angeles Times article, the team played at the facility from 1959 to 1973. The team was owned by Al Baron of Patchogue who would give the play-by-play on WBAB.
In the article the arena was described as originally having no glass to protect the fans or a Zamboni to clean the ice. The facility eventually obtained an ice resurfacing machine and chicken wire was added to protect the audience.
A March 31, 1969 Sports Illustrated article described the Ducks home as the largest arena on Long Island and their fans as fanatically loyal. When the team’s plane was delayed one night and the game didn’t start until almost midnight, 2,500 fans waited. The same dedicated fans were also known for getting into fights with the players.
The arena also hosted the New York Nets, now known as the New Jersey Nets, according to the Sports Illustrated article. The Nets stay was short-lived though due to holes in the floor and basketball posts held in oil drums filled with water.
Due to the arena, the 1960 election year turned out to be an eventful one for local residents. Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy were running for president and both included Commack as a stop on their campaign trails.
An estimated 16,000 people were on hand to greet Nixon on Sept. 28, 1960, according to the Oct. 7, 1960 edition of the Long Island Advance. According to Harris, Kennedy’s stop on Nov. 6, 1960 drew approximately 15,000 residents. Both candidates also stopped to address the crowds outside that were unable to fit in the building.
A number of concerts were held at The Long Island Arena throughout the years including Peter Frampton, Blue Oyster Cult and Black Sabbath. According to WMGK.com, Frampton recorded Show Me the Way at the Commack show for his Frampton Comes Alive album.
With the opening of Nassau Coliseum and the introduction of the Islanders in the early 70s, attendance started to decline. Youth basketball games and figure skating lessons took place at the building, and eventually it became an indoor flea market.
According to a July 14, 1996 Newsday article, the flea market operated for 20 years and closed its doors on July 31, 1996. The arena and the Commack Roller Rink were demolished to make way for the current shopping center.
Memories are all that are left of the once popular sports and entertainment center.