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The Long Island Arena: A Glimpse into the Past

The beloved Commack Arena held everything from ice hockey to Styx concerts and even a flea market in its day. Find out what else my generation missed out on.

I only have tidbits of memory that remind me there was ever a Commack, or as it was really named, a Long Island Arena

I can vaguely remember flea market trips to look for that special something for my best friend's birthday, and roller skating parties where someone would end up with cake on their face in the center of the enormous wooden rink.  But this, unfortunately, is the extent of my memories of the Long Island Arena. Though this isn’t really surprising since it closed in 1996 when I was only eight years old.

While my generation only caught a glimpse of the greatness that was the Long Island Arena, many others before us have lasting memories of: blasting concerts, exciting sporting events, drive-in movies and even presidential visits.  It came as quite a shock to me when I realized just the other day exactly how much went on at that beloved arena in its prime.

A quick history lesson is in order for those like me who, like me, were a bit misinformed.  

The Long Island Arena itself was in use from 1959 to 1996.  During this time, it was host to many a Long Island Ducks game (a hockey team back then – not a baseball team).  Until the Islanders came into existence and the Eastern League itself virtually evaporated. 

Another noteworthy team to play in the Long Island Arena, which I always chalked up to strange rumor but which actually turns out to be true, is the New York Nets.  Yup, you heard me right. The New Jersey Nets (as they are known today) were once known as the New York Nets during their stint at the Commack Arena (before 1968 the Nets were not known as the Nets at all, but as the New Jersey Americans instead).

Besides sporting events and games, there were apparently a ton of concerts held at the arena. If you check out the “Long Island Arena Commack” fan page on Facebook you will see a list of confirmed concerts at that site. Biggies include: Alice Cooper, Hot Tuna, Styx, The Who, and even Peter Frampton who actually recorded part of his Frampton Comes Alive album in the arena…though there were a ton more that I’m sure most of you remember.

I also discovered that President John F. Kennedy actually made a visit to the Commack Arena while campaigning for his presidency on November 6, 1960.  In his speech he noted that his wife, Jacqueline, grew up in Suffolk County, and among other things, that he wanted the Federal Government to be able to give loans out to students looking to attend colleges who did not secure scholarships and “free rides” to a university.

Now, in place of the arena, roller rink and drive-in, there are ordinary stores that, in my humble opinion, do not pay enough homage to what that place once was.

joseph panzarino June 14, 2013 at 05:26 PM
Sort of late to this story but witnessed and skated with the Roller Derby back in the earlyn to mid 70d`s also do not think Nets played there but at the Ole Island Graden Arena in Hempstead
Jim Becktel June 29, 2013 at 07:58 PM
I was at the Zappa show when he got hit with the egg. I think he said "Sorry this is not that kind of show." I also saw the Frampton show, where he was actually the opening act for Alvin Lee and Ten years After. also went to the circus in early 60's and a car show or two. we lived at 36 hunter place in commack 60-63. I remember seeing JFK in a motorcade in front of mayfair shopping center. also remember a nice stationary store where dad bough his true's and argosy's and i got a few disney comics.
Deborah Perham July 17, 2013 at 11:25 PM
Such great stories! Would love to include them in the "We Are Commack Proud Living Legacy Project." Check out details in the "About" section of: https://www.facebook.com/groups/WeAreCommackProud/ (Everyone is welcomed to join the group, post story prompts, and keep up to date on details of the project.)

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