BROOKLYN NETS ~ BARCLAYS CENTER
RIBBON CUTTING DAY:
March 11, 2010
Before the first shovel ever struck dirt where the Barclays Center now stands, Bruce Ratner's proposed Atlantic Yards was almost rendered dead and buried. Opposition to his plan almost halted the project before it ever started. From the time he purchased the New Jersey Nets and announced his intention to relocate them to Brooklyn, Bruce Ratner spent every day thereafter fighting off contentious challenges regarding the overall implementation/application of eminent domain.
Bruce Ratner initially fought this battle alone. Both figuratively and literally however, the downtown developer's opponents were fighting him on his turf. As the developer of MetroTech, Bruce Ratner is a long time veteran of such clashes inside the legal arena. Mikhail Prokhorov was yet to enter the picture. But as a native Brooklynite himself, and just happening to be in good standing with local government, the fight was indeed on. To their credit, Opposition delayed groundbreaking on Barclays Center for over six years. As the developer eluded often over that time, the delays were a major blow to Bruce Ratner's financing due to sudden changes to the economy. But then again, how this whole thing is being paid for was also hotly contested in court. Finally, with the last legal and residential hurdle cleared, on March 11, 2010, ground broke on Barclays Center under an overcast sky. Inside a ceremonial white tent, Bruce Ratner admitted even he thought at times, the project seemed doomed. While the arena is supposed to be just the first building in a greater promised project, the rest of Atlantic Yards is still a hotly debated issue.
Thirty one months after ground breaking, demonstrators showed up early Friday morning on Ribbon Cutting Day as part of their continuing efforts to keep pressure on Bruce Ratner and hold him to promises he made towards constructing affordable housing as part of the greater Atlantic Yards project.
Those aren't the guys from the Little-Bit-O-Luck N.Y. State Lotto commercials. Instead, as part of demonstrations, this is a mock press conference featuring (left to right) current Governor Andrew Cuomo;
Bruce Ratner; Borough President Marty Markowitz; Mayor Bloomberg; Mikhail Prokhorov;
and former Governor George Pataki.
I witnessed and participated in several very respectful debates and offered my opinion to those who asked. But I wasn't necessarily there to engage anyone. With all due respect, I was there for Ribbon Cutting Day. As the formal demonstration wrapped up, during Q & A, a long line of press and media (pictured below) snaked along Atlantic Avenue waiting to enter the arena. Meanwhile, surrounding the front entrance, a thin crowd started lining the plaza perimeter.
Nets General Manager Billy King arrives on the scene.
Later in the day, inside the arena Mr. King was kind enough to autograph my paperwork.
Behind the glass doors, the corridors of Barclays Center will be packed with local flavors. From Nathan's Famous to the Bed Stuy Grill pictured above, it appears there will something for everyone. And a walk through the corridors and once around the arena will take you a short time. For this place is as intimate as can possibly be. One look inside and you'll see why.
In scale at least, Barclays Center is to Ebbets Field what Madison Square Garden is to Yankee Stadium. As far as being close to the action, Barclays has MSG beat by a wide margin. The Garden is cavernous compared to Brooklyn's new arena. There is one main deck; sidewalk level. When configured for basketball, patrons will enter the arena level with the scoreboard. From main level, down you go into the lower seating. The next level up would be the suite levels. And above them, the upper deck. In all, I do not think there is a bad seat in the house.
Nets principle owner, Mikhail Prokhorov, pictured here surveying his new digs,
takes time to speak with Russian media.
Including today, seven more days remain before Jay-Z opens the doors to the public with a series of concerts beginning on September 28th.