Outside the arena, construction crews are hastily putting the final touches round-the-clock on what will be much more than a sports and entertainment complex. This will instead be a welcome center and getaway for members of the vibrant local neighborhood, the larger metropolitan community and beyond.
At the entrance, workers are setting down an ocean of gray pavers. Around the perimeter, wooden planks and blue walls hide the last bits of wet and recently laid sidewalk. Crew captains supervise the proceedings from atop a jutting oculus. You can see them patrolling above the beckoning "BARCLAYS CENTER" lights.
We’ll be ready, assured several personnel.
The Barclays Center emerges from the corners of Flatbush and Atlantic Avenues like a hulking ship moored on an urban island, surrounded on all sides by steady flows of two-way traffic.
The clean, eye-catching, Carolina blue “Barclays Center” signs that skirt the arena’s circumference stand out boldly against the textured, dark orange-brown, purposely-rusted exterior—even in the bright sun and against a competing blue sky.
Like many New Yorkers, I was waiting for something more to be done with the building’s façade, but I have since grown to embrace the Center’s off-color aesthetics.
According to the New York Times,
The arena’s final finish is not paint but an intended layer of rust. Weathering steel…develops a fine layer of rust, which then acts as a protective coating against moisture, slowing its own corrosion process almost to a stop… the steel components spent about four months at an Indianapolis plant where they were put through more than a dozen wet-and-dry cycles a day. The process put about six years of weathering onto the steel.
Designed by SHoP Architects, it’s a gritty and urban scaffolding hermetically sealed in a naturally formed veneer—just one of the many contradictions that give this arena its paradoxical character.
The Barclays Center manages to be both unimposing and striking at the same time. It looms, yet invites. It’s national, but local. Digital and analog, too.
It is a man-made statement highlighted with natural accents. Barclays is big and bulky at its sides, but not as towering overhead as Madison Square Garden. The floor of the arena is far enough underground that the Center digs snugly into an earthy dock, encircled by young trees, a shire-like subway entrance, dozens of park benches and even a few cozy grass patches. All amidst the noisy honks, bustling walks and frenetic doings of thousands of commuters, residents and local and national merchants.
From its back, you could mistake the Barclays Center for the stern of Columbus’ Santa Maria; from its front, the bridge of the Starship Enterprise. The New Yorker calls it a “designer U.F.O.” and refers to its “otherworldliness.” The entrance sits beneath a massive overhang ringed internally by a futuristic, sharply colored video display. But its stout girth and oakish hue recalls times when European explorers ventured the seas.
In a city filled with distinctive architectural landmarks, the Barclays Center brazenly stakes a claim.
And that’s just the outside.
The exterior’s boldness and uniqueness is matched on the inside by the elegance of the Brooklyn Nets’ home court. It’s hip, classy and sleek and aggressively contrasts itself with any other in the NBA.
Let’s step aboard and take a look.
The court floor is a warm, luxurious herringbone that is both upscale and homey—Brooklyn’s “version of the parquet,” says Nets CEO Brett Yormark. It is surrounded by uniformly black stadium seating, outlined in black sidelines, tagged by two black keys and aisled in the same gun-metal gray as the main entrance’s deck.
There’s nothing remotely like it in the league.
Stamped at half court is an oversized Brooklyn Nets logo that demands attention.
Just beyond the court, tenants include EmblemHealth, MetroPCS and Ticketmaster, amongst other corporate and legacy partners.
ESPN tells us Bruce Ratner (superb WSJ interview here), whose Forest City Enterprises firm owns the Center, "is hopeful of the arena's potential NHL prospects as well...In fact, the building already has ice and locker rooms for both sports."
At 18,000 seats, the Barclays Center is the fourth-smallest venue in the NBA. It holds a thousand more for concerts but 4,000 less for hockey, making the latter a bit of a squeeze.
The Nets will open up the regular season at home on Thursday, November 1, against the New York Knicks (your season schedule). There are four preseason games here before then, though, which might be an easier in if you want to be the first on your block to check it out. Tickets go on sale Monday, September 24, at 10 a.m.
But the Barclays Center was built for more than just basketball, and there is a nonstop slate of other “acts” lined up before November and throughout the year. It’s being billed as “200 Opening Nights.”
Proud local and global superstar Barbra Streisand is set to follow Jay-Z. The all-star list of entertainers continues on with Bob Dylan, The Who, Journey, Andrea Bocelli, John Legend, Neil Young, Green Day, Rush, Gospel’s The King’s Men and more. It ends with the most popular current music stars in the world: Lady Gaga, Justin Bieber and Rihanna. Even if you’re not a big fan of all of these acts, it’s still an undeniably impressive roster, rivaling that of the Nets themselves.
But that’s not all. There’s Disney on Ice, equestrian events, an Islanders-Devils exhibition game, the Golden Gloves, men’s and women’s college basketball, gymnastics, the circus and the WWE—if you can tell the difference.
Plus one other “home” team: the Harlem Globetrotters.
All will be making their way to Brooklyn throughout the Barclays Center’s first 365.
But you can leave the Bentley at home. Mass transit is the way to get here. The Barclays Center sits atop one of the busiest transit hubs in New York City, and thus the world, serving millions of daily riders.
Nine subway lines (the B, D, N, Q, R, 2, 3, 4 and 5) funnel into a brand-new Atlantic Avenue-Barclays Center station that, per the Daily News, cost “$76 million.” The G and C lines are within walking distance, too. A bus map shows no fewer than 11 lines that will take you there if you prefer to ride above ground. And just a block away, the Long Island Railroad pulls into Atlantic Terminal.
While you’re in the neighborhood, there’s plenty to do before and after the game—enough to fill many days.
A downright cornucopia of food choices that equals the greatest of Thanksgivings and richest of emperor’s tables peppers a multi-block radius about the arena: Mexican, Italian, French, Middle Eastern, Mediterranean, Indian, halal, kosher, vegetarian, seafood, cafes, bars, hipster joints, pizzerias, Delis, foodcarts. I did not count, but you could probably stumble upon at least 100 different food options over the course of a brisk stroll. Frankly, it is as diverse a culinary area as any in Manhattan, properly reflecting an even more multicultural community.
Barclays Center: Thumbs Up or Thumbs Down?
Levy Restaurants, the same restaurateurs that serve all 30 NBA arenas, will be handling the food action on the inside.
What’s additionally refreshing outside is the preponderance of mom-and-pop restaurants and small businesses that rub shoulders with national retailers. Take your pick.
The streets around the Barclays Center are paved with everything from Target, Best Buy, Victoria’s Secret, Marshall’s and Starbucks to Zaida’s Stylists, Pup Slope, the New York Chess and Game Shop, Flatbush Farm and the Hungry Ghost. Modell’s is right across the street in case you forget your gear.
Nearby attractions include Brooklyn Academy of Music, Prospect Park, Grand Army Plaza and the Brooklyn Museum.
Now that’s a proper palette for the most populous and proud of all New York’s boroughs.
With all of this going on in Brooklyn, it’s a wonder why a serious professional sports and entertainment venue wasn’t built a long time ago, somewhere in between Ebbets Field’s demolition in 1960 and the next half-century.
But finally, Da Bums have their day, and team. Brooklyn is on the map again thanks to a world-class international arena and setting.
For more on the Barclays Center and the Brooklyn Nets all season long and longer, be sure to visit Bleacher Report's Brooklyn Nets and NBA Hubs. Also check out barclayscenter.com and the Nets' home page.
Check me out on Twitter @VinGetz, and follow me if you like what you see.