An usher looks back at the Islanders era at Nassau Coliseum
While many fans are dreading the last few games of their beloved New York Islanders at Nassau Coliseum, John Mazzullo is soaking up what may be his last few months as an usher at the arena.
Mazzullo, 59, of Queens, already knows he won’t be making the commute to Brooklyn. Plus, the Barclays Center currently employs their own ushers for games, concerts and other events.
Mazzullo has been the colorful character greeting fans in the 200 section.
“For years I was in the 300’s and I moved down a couple years ago and now we are closing down,” said Mazzullo.
Season ticket holders love him and new fans like chatting with him. He takes pride in what he does. He remained at the Coliseum for 10 years because he likes helping people. Mazzullo was previously a fireman for 20 years with the FDNY and says he’s wired that way.
One of Mazzullo’s greatest moments as a fireman came when he rescued three children from a burning building.
“They were hanging out the second floor window and the smoke was pouring out above their heads. We grabbed the ladder, put it against the house and got them out,” said Mazzullo.
From his days as a fireman, to now as an usher, showing people to their seats has given him much joy the last ten years.
Working at the Coliseum is also a getaway for John. His wife, who he refers to as “My Mrs.” passed away four years ago. The everlasting friendships he’s made at the Coliseum helped him get through that difficult time.
Almost two years ago, Bruce Ratner and his company, Forest City Ratner, unanimously won the bid to overhaul the 41-year old Coliseum.
This $299 million renovation will be privately funded, as opposed to the plan presented by former New York Islanders owner, Charles Wang.
The Lighthouse Project, was a proposed renovation of the Coliseum and the surrounding area. It would have included a five star hotel, restaurants, and a new coliseum for the Islanders.
Nassau County residents vetoed the proposal on August 1, 2011. The following year, Wang announced that the team was moving to the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
While the new Nassau Coliseum is being built, some Islanders fans will make the long commute from Uniondale to Brooklyn just to see their favorite team play.
Although Mazzullo isn’t happy about the move, he can’t help but be enthusiastic for the final regular season games.
“It’s an exciting time. You want to see them in the playoffs; it [also] extends our time here. Everyone gets excited, especially the children,” said Mazzullo.
Whats next for Mazzullo? He’s not sure. He’s waiting to see when the construction begins and consequently when it ends. He hopes to be back working at the Coliseum when it’s all finished in two years.
A lot of Islanders fans, including Mazzullo, believe the rumor that the Islanders will be back at the new arena when all is said and done.
“I spoke to a lawyer in my section and he says that they can get out of that contract in two or five years (the lease for the Islanders to play at the Barclays is for 25 years),” said Mazzullo.
Mazzullo says working here has given him a new life, new friends and the opportunity to continue to help people.
Nassau Coliseum has become a home away from home for Mazzullo and he hopes it’s a home he can one day come back to.