The NBA may be in the midst of a labor dispute and player lockout, but the New Jersey Nets remain focused on the team’s promising future in a new arena. After next season, the Nets will be leaving their current home at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey, and bringing the NBA to Brooklyn for the first time in history as construction of the brand-new Barclays Center is under way.
Once construction is completed and the $1 billion Barclays Center is opened to the public on September 28th, 2012, it will mark the first time that Brooklyn has had a professional sports franchise since the Dodgers left for Los Angeles back in 1957.
The Long Road Back to New York
It has been a long and arduous journey to New York for the Nets. The franchise was established back in 1967 as a founding member of the American Basketball Association. Initially the teams owner at the time, trucking magnate Arthur Brown, was set on putting the team in Manhattan as the ABA’s only team in New York, even going so far as to name the team the New York Americans.
However, things didn’t work out with the intended venue and Brown had to settle for a location in Teaneck, New Jersey, for the team’s first season instead. After bouncing around various locations in New York and Long Island during its first decade of existence, the team was moved to New Jersey in 1978 and has been playing there ever since.
Yet for the last seven years, a dream of returning to the bright lights of the big city has been steadily growing.
“Bruce Ratner bought the Nets in 2004 with the plan to move the team to a new arena that he would develop in Brooklyn,” says Barry Baum, the Senior Vice President of Business & Entertainment Communications for the Nets. “At the time the team was playing in an antiquated sports arena in New Jersey called the Continental Airlines Center, and the plan was to bring major professional sports and entertainment back to Brooklyn for the first time since 1957.”
Plans for the new NBA arena in Brooklyn have been underway since 2006, as the centerpiece of co-owner Bruce Ratner’s proposed mixed-use real estate development called the Atlantic Yards. Designed by renowned architect Frank Gehry, this development would cover over 22 acres, 16 residential buildings and more than 2,000 affordable and middle income housing units. The first residential tower is scheduled to break ground this January; however the entire project has not yet been approved.
In 2009 the final piece of the puzzle for the Barclays project was added when Mikhail Prokhorov, the 2nd richest man in Russia, agreed to a $200 million deal to become a principal owner of the team and help fund the construction of the new arena. The construction project broke ground on March 11, 2010, and continues to power forward at breakneck speed.
The foundation has been established, many of the Center’s stands are already being put into place, and the arena’s roof is scheduled for completion by this winter. Between the cost of the land, paying for union labor, meeting environmental regulations and working around subway lines underneath the site, it is estimated that the project will cost a total of $1 billion before it is completed.
With a highly populated and congested area like Brooklyn, adding a brand-new sports arena can be a nightmare for traffic. Yet the Barclays site was not chosen at random, the new sports facility is being built at an ideal location that provides easy access to multiple forms of public transportation.
“The mass transit near the Barclays Center is what makes that location such a terrific spot for a major sports entertainment venue,” says Baum. ”There are nine subway lines and the Long Island railroad that go right to the base of the building. You’re going to be able to come up from the Subway and you’ll be right in the plaza where the entrance to the Barclays Center is. It could not be a better location; it’s one of the top three transit hubs in New York City.”
In addition to this ideal location, several steps have been taken to mitigate the effects of so many sports fans all traveling to and from Brooklyn at the same time. The construction of a new covered subway entrance located in the plaza at the arena entry will provide easier access to all nine subway lines and the Long Island Railroad.
The Barclays Center will include an area designated for secure parking for up to 400 bicycles for both commuters and arena guests. The streets at the front of the arena will include drop off zones for taxis and cars, and new traffic signals will be installed to ease traffic movements in and out of the area.
“The Barclays Center was very complex because it is positioned on a tight urban site and is adjacent to a large transportation hub and multiple below-ground projects, including transit, Long Island Railroad, utility and infrastructure,” says Bob Sanna, Executive Vice President and Director of Construction and Design Development at Forest City Ratner Companies. “The development requires careful coordination of on and off site work, storage and delivery.”
A Bright Future Ahead
On February 23, 2011, the Nets made a deal at the trade deadline to acquire two time All-Star point guard Deron Williams, arguably the best player at a key position in the whole league. With Williams in the fold as the team’s centerpiece, the Nets franchise has set itself up for a bright and prosperous future as it settles into one of the best sports and entertainment venues in the whole country.
The state-of-the-art Barclays Center will be the home of more than just professional basketball. There is a multitude of other events that will be held at Barclays, including boxing matches, concerts, family entertainment and up to a half dozen international ‘extravaganzas’ being hosted by the Brooklyn Academy of Music.
Broke Ground: March 11, 2010
Opens: September 28th, 2012
Cost: $1 billion (USD)
Capacity: 18,000 for basketball games, 19,000 for concerts
Location: Intersection of Flatbush Ave. and Atlantic Ave., right over nine subway lines and the Long Island Railroad
-Venue will host over 200 events a year, including NBA games, concerts, boxing matches, college basketball, hockey and Brooklyn Academy of Music events
-LEED Silver certification