Wednesday, September 18, 2013

When the Atlantic Yards arena was planned to accommodate hockey, the architects wanted some luxury suites up high

Photo from New York magazine shows one end of rink
squeezed into seating area for basketball
Last week, the Barclays Center made a big deal out of welcoming the New York Islanders to the arena and displaying the changes made to (somewhat awkwardly) accommodate major league hockey, beginning with an exhibition game this Saturday and continuing through the Islanders' move to Brooklyn, scheduled for 2015 (though it could come sooner).

The Barclays Center, designed by AECOM (formerly Ellerbe Becket), with a facade and finishes by SHoP, was built for basketball, modeled on the Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.

The earlier versions, designed by Frank Gehry, were larger, designed to accommodate both basketball and hockey. Not only does that imply a larger space, it apparently suggests different configurations regarding the placement of luxury suites.

While for basketball, it's advantageous to have the suites relatively close to the floor, for hockey, it's not necessarily so.

Gehry's former plan

Consider longtime Gehry partner Jim Glymph, speaking in a 2004 interview shared with me with the producers of Battle for Brooklyn,

"You're going to have the luxury booths.. they finance a tremendous amount of getting these things built," Glymph explained, describing the first iteration of the arena, "but we want to have, particularly in Brooklyn, we want to have the intensity of the tight, compressed, old-fashioned arena."

"So a lot of what we’ve been doing, and we're just beginning, is trying to find ways of combining the luxury booths that are required.... bringing some of them up to a high level... studying sight lines... trying to get everybody as close to the basketball court as we possibly can," he said. "This is the real challenge of doing a modern arena, with the current kind of program, and getting that intensity of going to the game."

"We’ve actually dropped the upper level of booth from here to here," Glymph explained. "So we can pull this down to create connections and move some of the booths up high because, for hockey, which we hope someday they'll have... that high a viewing angle is actually considered pretty desirable."

That never came to be. But maybe some more distant seats in the Barclays Center will sell at higher prices for hockey.

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