Skip to main content

"Home team advantage": what an Ellerbe Becket arena might look like and whether a 2011 opening date is possible

(This is one in an irregular series of articles about issues that a State Senate committee might address when it holds a hearing on Atlantic Yards.)

Two years ago, I pointed out
the essential lie in a 12/10/03 Forest City Ratner press release announcing the Atlantic Yards project (and accompanied by renderings by architect Frank Gehry such as the one at right):
The complex has been planned to look whole and complete during each phase of construction.

Given that many of the 16 towers were scheduled to slowly replace parking as the project proceeded, Atlantic Yards was never going to look "whole and complete." Now, as the developer plans just the arena and one tower, "whole and complete" is even more of a fantasy, and the Municipal Art Society's Atlantic Lots scenario seems more and more plausible.

But it's worth asking state representatives about the timetable to build the arena, whether they've seen designs from a new architect, and whether there are plans for interim open space.

Gehry's arena

Just one year ago, in May 2008, Forest City Ratner issued a new renderings, with more metal than glass on the arena.

But the arena now probably looks very different, especially since it seems that the firm Ellerbe Becket, responsible for many recent arenas, may be in charge of the design. The New York Daily News reported yesterday:
..."Because Gehry's designs are fairly complex, any real changes would probably end up looking like an Ellerbe Becket project," said a former Gehry architect who worked on Atlantic Yards until being laid off late last year. "[Gehry's projects are] relatively difficult to execute."

Gehry gone?

We won't get the official word for two months, according to the Daily News:
Ratner spokesman Joe DePlasco said a reevaluation of Gehry's design would be completed by July, at which point Ratner will determine whether the world-famous architect would remain on the project...

Given that Gehry's laid off his staff working on AY, I'd bet on Ellerbe Becket. And what's notable is that the company's arenas, with one partial exception, are essentially standalone structures, several ringed by parking. 

The exception is the more urban Verizon Center (right) in Washington, DC, which borders a retail complex and is reasonably integrated into an urban neighborhood--though not with housing as close or as connected as was planned for Atlantic Yards.

Arena, 2011?

Forest City Ratner claims that groundbreaking would be this summer, or October, though no date is truly certain.

It's highly unlikely, however, that groundbreaking would come next month, given that the Gehry-or-not decision wouldn't come until July. And, based on the timeline for Ellerbe Becket's recent arenas, it looks like a June groundbreaking is necessary to get the arena open for a basketball season beginning in October two years hence.

So a 2011 arena opening date, even if there are few legal and oversight hurdles, seems quite doubtful.

The arena for the Charlotte Bobcats broke ground in July 2003 and opened in October 2005. The arena for the Memphis Grizzlies broke ground in June 2002 and opened in October 2004. 

It has to take longer to build in Brooklyn, especially given the need to plan for adjacent towers. The original plans, I calculated, would take 32 months.

Looking at Ellerbe Becket's work

The text italicized below comes from the Ellerbe Becket web site, describing the work of its staffers.

The Time Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte

The architect of TimeWarner Cable Arena and BankAtlantic Center, Douglas Brown:
You'd be hard pressed to find a design professional with more sports project management experience than Doug Brown. He's overseen the design of seven NBA/NHL arenas and adjoining practice/training facilities. When the NBA Hornets moved from Charlotte to New Orleans, Doug was there to lead the renovation of the New Orleans Arena and bring it up to NBA standards. Likewise, when Charlotte voted to build an arena to attract a new NBA tenant, Doug oversaw the design and construction of the Time Warner Cable Arena (formerly Charlotte Bobcats Arena). As an Architectural Director, Doug also helps manage the firm’s Kansas City office.

The FedEx Forum in Memphis

Jon Niemuth:
Jon is an inspired conceptual and contextual designer, as evidenced by his “juke joint” concept for the Grizzlies NBA arena just off Memphis’ historic Beale Street. The project, known as FedExForum, has become the new standard for professional themed sports environments with its melding of the Memphis music scene into the overall fan experience. He’s been named to the “Forty Under 40” list of outstanding young professionals by both Building Design & Construction magazine and the Sports Business Journal.

Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis

The architect of Conseco, James Poulson, has a bit of a reputation, at least when it comes to football:
James is a master at maximizing the home team advantage. At Qwest Field in Seattle, the Wall Street Journal noted that James’ design “made sure the wind and rain would disproportionately hit the visitors’ sideline. Mr. Poulson placed the cheapest endzone seats (where, he says, the ‘crazies’ sit) atop steel risers that send thundering noise to the hard surfaces on the overhangs and roof, redirecting it back to the field. The Seahawks are among the NFL’s leaders in false-start penalties called against the visiting teams.” James puts the same kind of intense research and understanding of the client’s needs into every project.
(Emphasis added)

"Home team advantage" sounds a little like Forest City Ratner's lobbying.

The AT&T Center in San Antonio

The architect of AT&T Center, William Crockett, Principal and National Director of Sports:
"We deliver innovation that achieves value," says Bill Crockett, Ellerbe Becket’s National Director of Sports. "Buildings we design are uniquely valuable. We live in a world where every city is becoming the same. This is a great opportunity for innovation." For two decades Bill has led the successful completion of a wide range of technically complex and successful Ellerbe Becket projects for government, private and higher education clients. Bill serves on the firm’s Management Committee and Board of Directors. Bill continues to lead projects in a hands-on manner while implementing diversification and expansion strategies for health sciences and other strategic offerings.

The BankAtlantic Center in Sunrise, FL

This arena is home to the Florida Panthers, the hockey team run by Michael Yormark, brother of Nets CEO Brett Yormark. 

Susan Fulton:
Susan’s tenure with Ellerbe Becket has focused almost exclusively on NBA/NHL professional arenas, like Time Warner Cable Arena (formerly Charlotte Bobcats Arena), FedExForum in Memphis and Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. She holds invaluable expertise in sightline issues, as well as the operational requirements of arena management, which impact overall design solutions.

The Sprint Center in Kansas City

The Sprint Center in Kansas City was the work of the Downtown Arena Design Team, composed of Ellerbe Becket, HOK Sport + Venue + Event, 360 Architecture and Rafael Architects.

Changing names

Note how many of these venues have changed their names, sometimes because of corporate evolution but other times as business deals changed. BankAtlantic Center was formerly Office Depot Center. Time Warner Cable Arena was formerly Charlotte Bobcats Arena. Verizon Center was formerly MCI Center. ATT&T Center was formerly SBC Center. Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland was formerly Gund Arena.

This suggests that, should the Barclays Center get off the ground, it might not always be the Barclays Center, despite the reported naming-rights deal.

AY Arena 2006

In 2006 graphics, there was a tower at Site 5, between Pacific Street and Flatbush, Atlantic, and Fourth avenues, and there was more glass than the metal in the 2008 rendering (near top).

Here's more on the contrast between the May 2008 and May 2006 Image Galleries.

These distinctions may be moot now, as we await new designs.


Popular posts from this blog

Barclays Center/Levy Restaurants hit with suit charging discrimination on disability, race; supervisors said to use vicious slurs, pursue retaliation

The Daily News has an article today, Barclays Center hit with $5M suit claiming discrimination against disabled, while the New York Post headlined its article Barclays Center sued over taunting disabled employees.

While that's part of the lawsuit, more prominent are claims of racial discrimination and retaliation, with black employees claiming repeated abuse by white supervisors, preferential treatment toward Hispanic colleagues, and retaliation in response to complaints.

Two individual supervisors, for example, are charged with  referring to black employees as “black motherfucker,” “dumb black bitch,” “black monkey,” “piece of shit” and “nigger.”

Two have referred to an employee blind in one eye as “cyclops,” and “the one-eyed guy,” and an employee with a nose disorder as “the nose guy.”

There's been no official response yet though arena spokesman Barry Baum told the Daily News they, but take “allegations of this kind very seriously” and have "a zero tolerance policy for…

Behind the "empty railyards": 40 years of ATURA, Baruch's plan, and the city's diffidence

To supporters of Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards project, it's a long-awaited plan for long-overlooked land. "The Atlantic Yards area has been available for any developer in America for over 100 years,” declared Borough President Marty Markowitz at a 5/26/05 City Council hearing.

Charles Gargano, chairman of the Empire State Development Corporation, mused on 11/15/05 to WNYC's Brian Lehrer, “Isn’t it interesting that these railyards have sat for decades and decades and decades, and no one has done a thing about them.” Forest City Ratner spokesman Joe DePlasco, in a 12/19/04 New York Times article ("In a War of Words, One Has the Power to Wound") described the railyards as "an empty scar dividing the community."

But why exactly has the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s Vanderbilt Yard never been developed? Do public officials have some responsibility?

At a hearing yesterday of the Brooklyn Borough Board Atlantic Yards Committee, Kate Suisma…

Barclays Center event June 11 to protest plans to expand Israeli draft; questions about logistics

At right is a photo of a poster spotted in Hasidic Williamsburg right. Clearly there's an event scheduled at the Barclays Center aimed at the Haredi Jewish community (strict Orthodox Jews who reject secular culture), but the lack of English text makes it cryptic.

The website explains, Protest Against Israeli Draft of Bnei Yeshiva Rescheduled for Barclays Center:
A large asifa to protest the drafting of bnei yeshiva in Eretz Yisroel into the Israeli army that had been set to take place this month will instead be held on Sunday, 17 Sivan/June 11, at the Barclays Center in Downtown Brooklyn, NY. So attendees at a big gathering will protest an apparent change of policy that will make it much more difficult for traditional Orthodox Jewish students--both Hasidic (who follow a rebbe) and non-Hasidic (who don't)--to get deferments from the draft. Comments on the Yeshiva World website explain some of the debate.

The logistical questions

What's unclear is how large the ev…

Atlanta's Atlantic Yards moves ahead

First mentioned in April, the Atlantic Yards project in Atlanta is moving ahead--and has the potential to nudge Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn further down in Google searches.

According to a 5/30/17 press release, Hines and Invesco Real Estate Announce T3 West Midtown and Atlantic Yards:
Hines, the international real estate firm, and Invesco Real Estate, a global real estate investment manager, today announced a joint venture on behalf of one of Invesco Real Estate’s institutional clients to develop two progressive office projects in Atlanta totalling 700,000 square feet. T3 West Midtown will be a 200,000-square-foot heavy timber office development and Atlantic Yards will consist of 500,000 square feet of progressive office space in two buildings. Both projects are located on sites within Atlantic Station in the flourishing Midtown submarket.
Hines will work with Hartshorne Plunkard Architecture (HPA) as the design architect for both T3 West Midtown and Atlantic Yards. DLR Group will be t…

Forest City acknowledges unspecified delays in Pacific Park, cites $300 million "impairment" in project value; what about affordable housing pledge?

Updated Monday Nov. 7 am: Note follow-up coverage of stock price drop and investor conference call and pending questions.

Pacific Park Brooklyn is seriously delayed, Forest City Realty Trust said yesterday in a news release, which further acknowledged that the project has caused a $300 million impairment, or write-down of the asset, as the expected revenues no longer exceed the carrying cost.

The Cleveland-based developer, parent of Brooklyn-based Forest City Ratner, which is a 30% investor in Pacific Park along with 70% partner/overseer Greenland USA, blamed the "significant impairment" on an oversupply of market-rate apartments, the uncertain fate of the 421-a tax break, and a continued increase in construction costs.

While the delay essentially confirms the obvious, given that two major buildings have not launched despite plans to do so, it raises significant questions about the future of the project, including:
if market-rate construction is delayed, will the affordable h…

Not quite the pattern: Greenland selling development sites, not completed condos

Real Estate Weekly, reporting on trends in Chinese investment in New York City, on 11/18/15 quoted Jim Costello, a senior vice president at research firm Real Capital Analytics:
“They’re typically building high-end condos, build it and sell it. Capital return is in a few years. That’s something that is ingrained in the companies that have been coming here because that’s how they’ve grown in the last 35 years. It’s always been a development game for them. So they’re just repeating their business model here,” he said. When I read that last November, I didn't think it necessarily applied to Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park, now 70% owned (outside of the Barclays Center and B2 modular apartment tower), by the Greenland Group, owned significantly by the Shanghai government.
A majority of the buildings will be rentals, some 100% market, some 100% affordable, and several--the last several built--are supposed to be 50% market/50% subsidized. (See tentative timetable below.)

Selling development …

For Atlantic Yards Quality of Life meeting Sept. 19, another bare-bones agenda (green wall?)

A message from Empire State Development (ESD) reminds us that the next Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park Quality of Life Meeting--which aims to update community members on construction and other issues--will be held:
Tuesday, September 19, 2017 @ 6 pm
Shirley Chisholm State Office Building
55 Hanson Place
1st Floor Conference Room
Brooklyn, NY 11217 The typically bare-bones, agenda, below, tells us nothing about the content of the presentation. One thing to look for is any hint of plans to start a new building on the southeast block of the project by the end of the year.

If not, ESD is supposed to re-evaluate a longstanding request from project neighbors to move back a giant wall encroaching on part of Dean Street between Carlton and Vanderbilt avenues. It's said to enclose construction activity, but, in recent months, has significantly served to protect worker parking.

Also, by the way, if you search for Atlantic Yards on Google or the ESD website, it leads to this page for the Atlantic Ya…