Sabrina B.

An arena grows in Brooklyn with the new $1 billion Barclays Center opening this fall.

The Brooklyn Nets will be the first major league team to call this New York City borough home since the late Brooklyn Dodgers owner Walter O’Malley moved the team to Los Angeles after the 1957 season.

Brooklyn has its own sports history as the home of Jackie Robinson’s Dodgers and birthplace of Michael Jordan,Vince Lombardi and Mike Tyson. But many old-timers would tell you the Dodgers leaving 55 years ago ripped the sports soul out of the borough of churches.

“The curse of O’Malley is over,” said Bruce Ratner, who owns 55% of Barclays Center and 20% of the Nets after selling majority ownership to Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov in 2010. “People lived with the curse. And now we can finally rest and move on as the renaissance of Brooklyn continues.”

Ratner gave USA TODAY Sports the final media preview of the 675,000 square foot Barclays Center before it closes until its grand opening Sept. 28 with a concert by partial Nets owner Jay-Z. About 75% of the construction is done.

The new arena will offer: street-level entrances; a tighter, steeper seating bowl; “Vault Suites” designed by Jay-Z that will be floor level; 100 luxury suites; four bars/lounges including a “champagne bar;” three clubs; a restaurant; and food from local restaurants.

The glassed-in “grand entrance” at the intersection of Flatbush and Atlantic avenues will invite pedestrians to look inside all the way to the scoreboard. There’s a practice floor where ticketed fans and restaurant customers can watch players.


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The Nets are taking a dig at the rival New York Knicks by saying it’s the first “new” arena in the Big Apple since the last iteration of Madison Square Garden opened in 1968. The Garden is in the midst of a three-year, $775 million inside-out remodeling but will keep its iconic, circular exterior.



But fuggedabout the brassy Brooklyn “attitude,” Ratner says. He’s hired the Disney Institute to train employees in friendly customer service, following the model set by the NFL when it hired Disney Institute to train its Super Bowl staff earlier this year.

The working class neighborhoods of bars, stores and Mom ‘n Pop shops around Barclays is reminiscent of Wrigley Field in Chicago. The 37-story Williamsburgh Bank, with its famous four-sided clock, towers over the project nearby. With 2.6 million residents, Brooklyn on its own ranks as the fourth-largest city in the U.S.

The Nets are “strongly encouraging” fans to take mass transportation, says spokesman Barry Baum. There’s plenty to choose from: 11 subway lines, the Long Island Railroad and 11 bus lines converge under and around the arena. You can drive but it won’t be easy. Barclays will only have 550 parking spaces, with another 612 in a 1-mile radius. Parking prices are not set yet.

Baum declines to comment on security except to say the Nets have a “comprehensive” plan. It will take about 850 staffers to operate Barclays for a Nets game, he adds.

The Nets will offer some of the most affordable tickets in the NBA, says Baum, with 50% percent of the 18,200 seats for basketball costing $55 or less and 2,000 tickets to every game going for $15 or less. The Knicks overtook the Los Angeles Lakers for the highest average ticket price — $117.47 — in the NBA this season, according to Team Marketing Report. The Nets had an average price of $37.06 in their second and final season playing in the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J., according to TMR. The average price to an NBA games this season was $48.48.

On Tuesday, some seating sections were already installed and construction crews were working on the floor that will host 220 events in its first year. They’ll include: 44 Nets home games; 25 college basketball games; NHL hockey between the New York Islanders and New Jersey Devils (Oct. 2); pro boxing (Oct. 20); and concerts by Brooklyn native Barbra Streisand (Oct. 11 and 13).

The 2012/2013 NBA season is a long way away. But excitement is building. Since Jay-Z unveiled the Nets’ new black and white color scheme April 30, the team has sold more than $4 million worth of tickets, 75% of its luxury suites and 2,000 non-premium season ticket plans, according to Baum.


With their new retro logo, the Nets have sold more team merchandise (not including jerseys or other player-identified gear not on sale yet) at the NBA’s Fifth Avenue and online at than any other club., says league spokesmanMike Bass.






Ironically, the Barclays Center stands across the street from where the Dodgers could have played in a new Ebbets Field had the team not moved west 55 years ago, says Ratner, chief executive of Forest City Ratner Companies.

The Dodgers’ departure coincided with the start of Brooklyn’s long, painful slide into poverty, decay and crime. But the borough’s been coming back in recent decades, attracting young residents to neighborhoods surrounding the new arena, he said. Pro sports could be the icing on the cake.

Several generations of Brooklynites have come and gone since the Dodgers left. So it’s an open question whether the Brooklyn Nets can attract hoops fans who’ve grown up rooting for the Knicks. This is New York. So the arena and the surrounding Altantic Yards projects have been the target of fierce protests and lawsuits by residents who charge it will “destroy” the neighborhood.


Ratner answered questions about Barclays as he toured the arena Tuesday. Excerpts:

So what about the sightlines for fans?

Obviously, its the most important thing to a fan, whether they’re a fan of basketball, a child going to the circus, somebody watching boxing, someone seeing a singer…You’re right on top of the action instead of being very far away. Many arenas are built very spread out, very far from the action. Here you’re always on top of it. That’s really special for the fan.

Why hire Disney to train your employees?

Not only will you have great sightlines but you’ll also have a great experience. You come to an arena or a stadium, you’re there because you want to be taken away by entertainment or sports. You don’t want to think about all the other things going on in your life. You don’t want to be hassled by somebody who works there…You want to be welcomed, you want to feel like you’re wanted, you want to be treated politely. That’s very important to us. To be treated with respect and the kind of way you should be treated when you pay money to see entertainment.

So you’re saying visitors won’t see any Brooklyn attitude?

Well, I can’t guarantee that. But it won’t come from the employees.

Talk about the food and other amenities.

Not only do we want to make this place a great place to see entertainment. We want to make it a great place to eat. That’s very important. Food is to Brooklyn as Brooklyn is to basketball. Food is really critical in Brooklyn. Always has been whether it’s Nathan’s hot dogs, Junior’s cheesecake and so on. They’ll all be here.

What about these event-level “Vault Suites” designed by Jay-Z?

We’re fortunate that Jay-Z is part of all of this. He’s one of the owners of the team; he’s one of the owners of the arena. Of course Jay-Z grew up a few blocks from here. As such, he’s done everything from designing the logo and the uniform to helping design some of the suites. There are 10 very special suites called “Vault Suites” that Jay-Z designed. In addition, there’s going to be a restaurant designed by Jay-Z.

What will this arena ultimately cost?

With land, interest, subway entrances, the whole works, it’s going to be a billion dollars. All together, that’s probably the most expensive arena in the country.

Does Barclays Center borrow features from other arenas?

One of the best basketball arenas is (the Indiana Pacers’ former Conseco Fieldhouse now called Bankers Life) Fieldhouse. It’s built very tight. It’s kind of built for basketball. Some of the features here are modeled on Conseco. In addition, we kind of looked at other arenas for the purpose of keeping the noise in. Even the Garden. The Garden’s a place where noise echoes. Here you’re going to have the same kind of thing, the same kind of feeling of activity, that the Garden has. It really has features from every arena. Sightlines, we looked at every arena. We took some of the best sightlines. As I say, Conseco for purposes of kind of a general model. The entrance? Conseco has a very nice entrance. We modeled it after that. The concessions are modeled after some of the other arenas.

What’s the biggest differences between Barclays and the Knicks’ remodeled Garden?

There is nothing like new. The first thing is new. You can renovate your house. But there’s nothing like a brand new house. There’s nothing like a brand new car.

What do you say to opponents who say Barclays will ruin the neighborhood?

I don’t think the traffic will be so difficult that people won’t be able to live here…I should also add there are small businesses all around here who you have no idea how they’ve welcomed us.

You built during the worst economic period since the Great Depression. Did you worry it would never get off the ground?

It’s been almost a decade since we first talked about the idea.Marty Markowitz, the borough president, said to me, ‘Bruce, we need to bring pro sports back to Brooklyn.’ 10 years of work, controversy, litigation, fights, protests, to finally get here. But it’s worth it. Really professional sports belongs to Brooklyn. Particularly now, basketball. Baseball was the right thing in the ’50s. Basketball is the right thing in the 21st century.