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Yormark spins in exit interview: after "36 lawsuits," Barclays Center was built "against all odds"

So, yesterday Venues Now featured a self-serving exit interview with Brett Yormark, CEO of BSE Global (and thus the Barclays Center and Brooklyn Nets), YORMARK: ‘HAPPY I WAS ABLE TO PLAY A ROLE’.

He's had his contract extended through December to "provide oversight of the transaction" with incoming owner Joe Tsai, saying he'd become "very close" to Mikhail Prokhorov (really? the guy was infrequently in Brooklyn) and Prokhorov's friend and deputy Dmitry Razumov.

He said he aimed to announce his new destination in "mid-September, assuming everything works out," within the sports and entertainment world.

The arena's legacy

Asked about the "monumental accomplishment" of getting an arena built, he said:
In some respects, what we did with Barclays Center is a legacy. Most people were doubters. They never thought we would be able to move the team from New Jersey to Brooklyn, let alone build a world-class venue that became a global destination. There were 36 lawsuits, years of delays and then in the midst of the financial crisis around 2008, we still hadn’t broken ground. Against all odds, we were able to do it.
It was the collective will of (former Nets and Barclays Center owner) Bruce Ratner and Mikhail Prokhorov that got this thing to Brooklyn. Ratner told me the story of bringing sports and entertainment back to the borough, a market underserved since the Dodgers left in 1957. It was such a compelling story … that one day was going to be told, for all the right reasons. What’s interesting is we had our town hall meeting last Friday to let people know what was happening and what I personally was going to do. I found in one of my drawers the speech I gave on Jan. 23, 2005, when I met the staff at the Nets for the first time and painted my vision for Brooklyn. I read some excerpts and it could have been written yesterday, about the defining moment in Brooklyn and how it would lead to a renaissance in the community. Who knew if it would ever come to fruition? At that point it hit me — we really accomplished something special.
(Emphases added)

Wait a sec. 36 lawsuits? That's a Bruce Ratner and MaryAnne Gilmartin meme--typically 35 lawsuits!--but it's not true. Maybe 35 legal decisions, but more like ten lawsuits.

While there were certainly significant obstacles to overcome, notably the recession and two eminent domain lawsuits, I don't think most people were doubters. The arena builders had the full backing of the city and state governments, with subsidies, eminent domain, tax breaks, and naming rights--as well as federal approval for tax-exempt bonds.

Was it a defining moment? Yes. It gave Brooklyn a new focal point, and a notable building, which is both beloved and disdained. But it didn't lead to a renaissance. How could it, when only four of the Atlantic Yards (now Pacific Park) project's 15 (or 16) planned towers have been built and Ratner had to sell it, at a loss, to the China-based Greenland USA?

Sure, it helped bring new hotels and restaurants, but the latter, especially, were also driven by new demand from the cascade of new luxury housing in and around Downtown Brooklyn.

Later in the interview, Yormark was asked:
How has Barclays Center affected the borough as a whole?
It’s been transformational. Brooklyn started going through a renaissance in advance of Barclays Center, but it’s fair to say the arena continues to fuel the rebirth of downtown Brooklyn and beyond, when you think about real estate value, housing, job creation and the retail community. The best chefs are going to Brooklyn. We always thought that Barclays Center could be a landmark, and for visitors to the city, it’s on that short list of things to see. Eighty percent of our part-time employees live in the borough. It is Brooklyn’s venue in every way possible. I’m happy I was able to play a role in it
"Eighty percent of our part-time employees live in the borough." That's nice, but it's only part of the equation: how many hours do they work, what do they earn, and what benefits do they get? There have been protests about the latter.

The big moments

Asked which events at Barclays stand out, Yormark said:
Opening night with Jay-Z and having him walk onstage wearing the Brooklyn Nets jersey for the first time and launching it to the world. That was unbelievable. It resonated with everyone and it was truly special. The first-ever college basketball game, Kentucky-Maryland. My good friend (Kentucky coach John Calipari) always said he would open the building for us and he did and sold it out. Thirty-six major championship nights of boxing.
Fair enough regarding Jay-Z. But a lot of college hoops games haven't sold well, and the arena has financially underperformed, significantly.

Let's say that again: it's been a financial flop--though the new Nets should help--and Yormark's deal with the New York Islanders, rather than rescuing the Barclays operator, made things worse.

The Islanders

Asked what he'd learned about the failed Islanders' move, Yormark said:
You learn from all of your experiences, good or bad. The Islanders are a Long Island team, as indicated by their goals with Belmont Park (site of the NHL team’s proposed arena). They realized Long Island is really their market. We all tried to do something different and potentially special. We obviously had some ups and downs, but we all learned a lot. I’m happy for them and their fans, and that’s kind of how I look at it.
Not a lot of chagrin or humility there, despite his own miscues.

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