Spotlight | Alumni Profile
Zach Klein ’11
On Home Ice
Zack Klein wearing a dark blue suit and standing in front of a construction zone
We have worked with industry experts and taken the lessons learned during the pandemic to enhance every aspect of the building to keep our fans safe for the next 20 to 40 years.
As general counsel for the New York Islanders and the new UBS Arena, Zachary Klein ’11 has been rink-side for the National Hockey League team’s decade-long journey to find a permanent home. The opening of the new arena in Elmont, N.Y., for the 2021–22 season begins a new chapter for a team that has won four Stanley Cups and culminates years of legal work by Klein representing key stakeholders in the team’s future.

Klein’s association with the Islanders began on the other side of the negotiating table. As an associate with Pannone Lopes Devereaux & West in 2012, Klein represented Nassau County in its attempts to redevelop the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum, which had hosted the team since 1972, and keep the team in the arena. After those negotiations fell apart, Klein, still representing Nassau County, was tasked with overseeing the Islanders’ departure from the Coliseum to Brooklyn’s Barclays Center.

Under new ownership in 2016, the team rededicated efforts to find a permanent home on Long Island. Rebuilding their in-house legal team with an eye toward building a new arena, the new owners asked Klein, who came highly recommended by the outgoing general counsel, to join the Islanders front office as deputy general counsel. There, Klein helped assemble the winning proposal for the Belmont Park project, which will include the UBS Arena, a 250-room hotel, and more than 300,000 square feet of destination retail space.

“We put our blood and sweat into trying to keep the team in the Nassau Coliseum,” said Klein. “Now, to pivot and work with the Islanders on the new arena has been very interesting and very exciting. My work on the Coliseum project led to my opportunity with the Islanders, so I’m very fortunate.”

When he was named general counsel at the beginning of 2020, Klein never anticipated his first year in the role would be consumed by responding to a pandemic, protecting the health and safety of players and staff, and ensuring that construction of the new arena continued safely.

“Pre-COVID, on my first week on the job, I negotiated a contract to make sure there was childcare coverage during games, while also negotiating a multimillion-dollar credit agreement,” said Klein. “That daily variety and uncertainty is what I love about the job. As things come up, you adapt and pivot to address the most pressing issue.”

During spring 2020, construction on the new arena was paused for two months, not only for the safety of the crew, but to adjust construction plans and future-proof the building against public health threats. Even with the late addition of updated airflow and air exchange systems to minimize the threat of airborne diseases, construction is scheduled to finish this fall.

“We have worked with industry experts and taken the lessons learned during the pandemic to enhance every aspect of the building to keep our fans safe for the next 20 to 40 years,” said Klein.

In February 2021, New York State announced that fans would be allowed in reduced numbers to attend live sports. Klein is focused on the safety of fans and making sure the team complies with the State’s stringent requirements for attendance.

“We’re developing protocols for the whole fan experience, from when they buy a ticket to the time they’re sitting in the arena,” said Klein. “It will be unique, and it won’t be the same environment we were used to pre-COVID, but we are looking at every aspect to ensure that we take the right steps in the best interest of the fans.”

Klein credits assists from fellow alumni and his education at the Law School for opportunities to advance in his career and hone his expertise. As a student, Klein clerked at Holland & Knight, where his work caught the attention of Josh Meyer ’96. When Meyer’s group left the firm to join Pannone Lopes Devereaux & West, they brought Klein along, hiring him as an associate upon graduation. He also worked alongside Jeff Gewirtz ’94, executive vice president, chief operating officer, and general counsel for BSE Global, which operates the Barclays Center, first during negotiations for the redevelopment of the Nassau Coliseum, and later as landlord to the Islanders. Now in the general counsel role himself, Klein has brought on Mackenzie Swenson ’15 as one of his associates.

“The whole package of what Brooklyn Law School offered me— the location, the educational opportunities, and the job prospects—checked all the boxes for me,” he said. “Since I’ve graduated, it continues to excel in all these areas.”

— Dominick DeGaetano