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Shaquille O’Neal is opening Big Chicken at a New York arena

Shaquille-O'Neal-Los-Angeles
Jefferson Graham via Imagn Content Services, LLC

Shaquille O’Neal has one of the most recognized names in sports. A legend in Los Angeles and in the basketball world, he is considered one of the greatest athletes to ever play in the NBA. Now, he’s back to the sports arenas but, this time, things look a little different.

Big Chicken, which opened its doors for the first time late last year in Glendale, California, will be opening another location in Long Island–more specifically, in Belmont Park at UBS Arena. It will officially welcome guests when the new home of the New York Islanders opens its doors for the club’s home opener at the end of the month, on November 20. And, of course, the former ball player has more than a little to do with it.

Shaquille O’Neal going big with chicken

shaquille o'neal, big chicken
Feb 24, 2020; Los Angeles, California, USA; Kobe’s teammate Shaquille O’Neal speaks to the audience during the memorial to celebrate the life of Kobe Bryant and daughter Gianna Bryant at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

Shaquille O’Neal, known affectionately as Shaq, will offer tours and tastings for the media and select invitees at the arena on the afternoon of November 11. After retiring from his NBA Hall of Fame career in 2011, which saw him named the NBA rookie of the year, the NBA MVP, an Olympic gold medal and countless other awards, he’s taking a career flip and making waves in the food industry. The 7-foot-1, 325-pound New Jersey native is now the co-founder of Big Chicken, a craft-casual restaurant that calls itself “larger than life.” The slogan? Big flavor, big food, big fun with every order. 

He already owns a Krispy Kreme location and a few Papa John’s outposts in Atlanta but, this time, he’s starting from the ground up, building a brand new business. The menu at Big Chicken includes both food, like signature chicken sandwiches, sauces and celebrated sides as well as sweet treats, like decadent milkshakes and ice cream sandwiches.

In addition to the Glendale location, Shaq and the team at JRS Hospitality opened Big Chicken Las Vegas, which is across from the new Virgin Hotels Las Vegas, just off the famous Las Vegas strip. That location offers a full-service bar, late-night hours, a backyard-style gaming area and online ordering to accommodate the club-hopping crowd. Big Chicken also offers nationwide shipping through GoldBelly.

Joining Big Chicken is Offside Tavern, the famous New York Islanders-themed bar that used to be located on 14th Street in Manhattan, before the pandemic forced its closure. For fans who are itching to be a part of the experience, UBS Arena is also hosting a Live Cam and posts several completion updates on Instagram.

The newly built, state of the art arena has the capacity to host more than 150 major events annually, and offers visitors and fans premier acoustics and clear sight lines–two of the very same things many Rangers fans love about Madison Square Garden. Considerate of the future, UBS Arena also aims to be carbon neutral for operations before 2024. If it succeeds, it will be the first arena to do so on the United States’ eastern seaboard. 

All in all, it seems like an obvious choice for Big Chicken to open its first eastern location at UBS Arena, merging forces with a collection of firsts. Other than Islanders home games, upcoming events at UBS Arena include Eric Church on December 4, Genesis on December 10 and Sebastian Maniscalco on December 27 (which is already sold out). 

In the meantime, the Islanders are on the tail end of a historic road trip, with their first 13 away games recording the second-longest road trip in NHL history. Their first home game is on November 20 against the Calgary Flames. The next night, they will play at home again and take on the Toronto Maple Leafs.