Tuesday, October 16, 2012

"Let's Go, Brooklyn": a visit to the (branded) Barclays Center for the first Nets home game

The very first Brooklyn Nets home game, an exhibition victory last night by a talented but still-gelling team against the depleted Washington Wizards, was a test for the building and the fan base, and by most accounts (round-up via NetsDaily), a success, with periodic "Let's Go, Brooklyn" chants.

From my vantage point, in fourth-row upper-deck seats that cost about $50 (so said nearby season-ticket holders) but cost me $16 (with fees) online, it was a good place to watch basketball, though nothing transcendent.

The hype was somewhat less in-your-face than at the Nets' previous homes--FoxSports' Sam Gardner noted "the fake noise started up" in the second half--but the corporate branding ever more pervasive.

According to the Wizards' Martell Webster, "It's definitely going to be one of those grand stages.” Maybe, but not yet. The Wizards' Trevor Ariza added, "The floor is dope. The arena is dope.'' Obviously, he remembers Newark.

With public transit access and the ability to discount/distribute tickets as tipoff approaches, there's no excuse for not attracting decent crowds.

Most reporters and online comments indicated that the building had far more energy than the Prudential Center in Newark--and Nets/arena CEO Brett Yormark tweeted "great vibe."

Then again, others noted that the energy was relatively subdued--and surely will pick up when the regular season hits. One noted that this was a "real urban crowd," with few kids and families to tamp down the energy. I suspect the crowd composition will evolve. (It was the highest-rated non-Knicks game on the YES network in four years.)

Friendly and branded

The wi-fi worked fine and the Disney-trained staffers were uniformly friendly, if not always completely informed. (One hadn't seen an Arena Guest Guide given out to visitors.)

I'm not sure how those "Stop" paddles wielded by ushers to keep people from going to their seats during play will work when the building's full.

The building's modern and new, though the gray/black color palette, at least according to one of my guests, had a bit of generic Ikea feel. That said, the Barclays Center does try to pop "Brooklyn" images and photos into a few places, notably the area devoted to suites (see video below).

Everything, of course, is branded. (Except the meditation room.) The seats. The Party City tip-off. The Haier halftime show. The official dry cleaner. If sports is about lessons for the young, as you hear hear now and then, what are they being taught?

(Well, they're also being taught that the Brooklynettes cheerleaders appear, depending on which gender you ask in an admittedly small sample, "kinda sexy" or "so slutty.")

How about the food?

The much-vaunted Brooklyn-ish food? All over the map.

The McClure's potato chips and the Fatty 'Cue pulled pork sandwich were deemed excellent, the cheesy popcorn and Nathan's hot dog decent, the L&B Spumoni Gardens pizza greasily mediocre, the Beigals black-and-white cookie a bloated disc of sugar.

The beer was cold. (Yes, there was Brooklyn Brewery beer, but mostly the big companies.) Hint: order everything early to avoid the lines.

Don't ask about the prices. (That $6 Rice Crispy Treat, by the way, is featherweight.)

$9 beer
One NetsDaily commenter observed that it was "very slow and overpriced" for those without the all-you-can-eat All-Access tickets. He noticed that some abused the latter privilege, scooping up "4 chocolate bars, 3 granola bars 2 bags of chips, a foot long hot dog" in the fourth quarter. Brooklyn in the house!

Lesser neighborhood impact than Streisand

Given that the building was filled only 80% (officially) or two-thirds (my guesstimate), the lines to get in were short (at least when I arrived), and the high-rollers stayed away (fewer limos), the impact on traffic and the surrounding neighborhood was far less than the Barbra Streisand sell-out on Oct. 13.

Still, see Atlantic Yards Watch for a report of trucks using residential Fort Greene Place to access the arena and a patron bus idling on residential Pacific Street. But it likely won't be until the regular-season opening game, a sure sellout against the New York Knicks, that the arena gets tested fully.

About 75 minutes before the game, main concourse



Working out kinks, but going "Brook-lyn"

 Wrote the Times's Howard Beck:
The Nets were a little shaky Monday night in their first game on Brooklyn soil. Their new arena was still working out its own kinks. Seats were being bolted and wires tamped down as tipoff approached. The public-address announcer fumbled a few names. The crowd was alternately energized and passive, feeling its way by the minute.
But everyone left Barclays Center happy after the Nets pushed through for a 98-88 victory over the short-handedWashington Wizards. As the Nets pulled away down the stretch, the crowd stood and roared its approval and serenaded the new home team with elongated chants of “Broook-lyn.”
Wrote SI's Chris Mannix:
Yes, everything is branded.
The Barclays Center, a $1 billion masterpiece at the intersection of Atlantic and Fulton, is finished, more or less. The most high tech stadium in sports, or so it is being billed, offers free wifi and an app for fans to order food from their seats with a three-story sized scoreboard hanging from the rafters. The sponsorship of, well, everything gives the building a bit of a goofy, Roger Dorn-owns-the-Indians feel but a team that for decades played in front of swaths of empty seats won't have any trouble selling tickets.
How many people were there?


Useful advice, but nothing about neighborhood streets
"Nets drew 14,219 tonight. Capacity is 17,732," tweeted Post beat writer Tim Bontemps. The AP wrote, "They were greeted by 14,219 fans on the night they became Brooklyn's first major pro sports team since the Dodgers left for Los Angeles in 1957."

Well, cliches are tempting, but I don't think they were greeted by that number of fans--though it is true people got to their seats on the late side. The suites especially seemed empty, which is understandable, given that the high-rollers likely prefer regular-season games.

The figure of 14,219 is 80.2% of capacity; there's no way the sections around me were 80% full. I'd say it was closer to two-thirds full, or 66.7%. 

The Times's Beck tweeted that " this one looked pretty close to me," but some commenters on NetsDaily agreed it was a stretch, with one estimating 12,000. After all, the NBA police is tickets distributed, not gate count, and the Nets have always goosed that number.

Below, a view of the bowl, about two minutes before end of second quarter.



Also note that that the figure of 17,732 is a revision from the 18,000 previously anticipated by the arena. Did they not finish installing all the seats?


How long will honeymoon last?

Wrote CBS Sports' Ken Berger:
Before the start
The Nets, for a change, will have fannies in the seats and will generate buzz by virtue of their change of address and [Deron] Williams' star power alone. But they're in the novelty stage of the honeymoon, and it makes you wonder what kind of story this will be when the newness wears off.
Easy entrance

I asked my guests to meet about 75 minutes before the game, at 6:15 pm, concerned about long lines visible not only at the Jay-Z and Barbra Streisand concerts but even the night before at a gospel show, where the arena plaza was packed an hour before showtime.

I got there shortly after 6 pm, and the cops were out in force in the subway, as shown in the video below.

But the arena had the doors open already, and it took only moments to get in; the wanding was perfunctory, and the balky metal detectors have been put out to pasture, at least for the time being.



Below, a glimpse of the area devoted to suites, visible from the escalator going up; here's where the Brooklyn imagery is most plentiful



A look at the arena bowl about five minutes before showtime:




Rosie Perez, arena opponent turned booster

For some who remember how actress Rosie Perez was once prominent in the Atlantic Yards opposition, speaking at a Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn rally in 2006 and named (not anymore) on the DDDB advisory board, well, she's gone Nets.

Yesterday, the NBA announced:
NBA TV's The Association: Brooklyn Nets debuts on Tuesday, Oct. 16 at 10 p.m. ET, as the series introduces viewers to the Nets and its new home, with personal insights from Brooklyn natives such as actress Rosie Perez and hip hop artist Fabolous, as well as former Dodgers Ralph Branca and Joe Pignatano.
Last night, Perez, with her Brooklyn accent and affect, served as the host on video--shown before the game and during halftime--to admonish arena-goers to behave.



At halftime

The intro for the halftime shooting contest, with in-house host Alyonka Larionov, who could've been a bit more animated.



A video--earlier broadcast on NBA.com--of Brook Lopez getting a haircut in the neighborhood.



A Barclays reminder

My camera didn't pick it up, but here's what the zipper signage said in the video below about Barclays: "Over 300 years of moving, lending, investing, and protecting money for customers and clients worldwide."



A quieter aftermath

The scene on Atlantic Avenue after the game.

2 comments:

  1. Trumbull Bully11:31 AM

    One thing that needs to be worked out (if it can) is the flow of people during intermission. Walking around the upstairs concourse during halftime, I witnessed huge bottlenecks near the concessions areas. These areas are narrow, with food windows on one side and beer carts on the other. There would be more room if the beer cards were moved back, but there's some sorts of sponsored "living room" lounge and a Honda on the other side, so no dice. It also doesn't help that the elevators and escalators also let off right near the concessions. It's a real problem that will only get worse when the arena is full. This is something that probably wasn't experienced during the concerts, as they didn't have prolonged breaks in the action. That being said, exit from the arena via the stairways is very quick.

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  2. My group spent most of our concession money before the event; when we went out at halftime to get more food, there was a significant wait.

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