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Last week, Barclays Center officials gathered their business partners for what was billed as the first corporate summit for the long-delayed 19,500-seat Brooklyn arena, scheduled to open in 2012. The project was first announced in 2003, but the message to business partners seven years later was that the arena, and restoring major sports in Brooklyn, was a reality with a definitive timetable.
“Construction is the easy part,” assured Bruce Ratner, chairman and CEO of Forest City Ratner Cos., developer of the Barclays Center and the associated 16-building Atlantic Yards mixed-use project. “Getting there is hard.”
Even with “steel in the ground,” within the sports industry, and among the team’s fans, there remains confusion about the move to Brooklyn, even as the arena structure is being built.
“We are building an identity,” said John McBride, director of the strategy group at agency Translation, newly hired to coordinate marketing behind the Nets’ move to Brooklyn and the new arena. “When we are interviewing [Nets’] season-ticket holders, there is still a question of ‘Is it real?’ There are still people confused as to whether or not this is going to happen.”
However, with some 50 business partners in attendance, Nets and Barclays Center officials and partners laid out a plan for an arena that was well beyond the “proposed” stage. Instead, they showcased a building that will host more than 200 events in its first year, including about 45 Nets games; 48 shows from Feld Entertainment’s stable of brands, which includes the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, Disney on Ice, and various indoor motorsports shows; 12 boxing events through an association with Golden Boy Promotions; 25 college basketball and hockey games through an affiliation with IMG College; at least 20 concerts from Live Nation and other promoters; and two to three tennis events through Lagardère Unlimited. There is also thought of bringing in pro hockey games.
Gerard LaRocca, Barclays managing director and chief administrative officer, Americas, said he was as enthusiastic about his company’s investment now as he was when Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment CEO Brett Yormark cold-called him on the title deal in 2006. “It’s a fantastic opportunity to build our brand,” LaRocca said, adding that Barclays has already attracted a handful of business-to-business clients through its affiliation with the new arena.
Privately, building officials are pointing to an opening in midsummer of 2012, with perhaps as many as a week’s worth of concerts, which would certainly include Jay-Z, since he owns a piece of the Nets.
SALES CYCLE: Yormark said the building has eight of the 12 founding partners sold, with others being pursued in the airline, insurance and domestic car categories. Suites, which range from $295,000 to $550,000, are almost 40 percent sold, with some more sales help via the New Meadowlands Stadium being added for an expected push early next year. Translation, another commercial entity in which Jay-Z and Steve Stoute have an interest, has been hired to orchestrate the first pitch for “Brooklyn Nets” tickets, with initial ads expected in February.
TIT FOR TAT: The developing rivalry between billionaire Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks, and billionaire Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov escalated recently, with Chris Charlier, CEO of Prokhorov’s Onexim and who is also the Nets’ chairman, firing the latest salvo. After showing the audience video of Prokhorov jet skiing in the Maldives, Charlier, in from Moscow for the summit, said, “I don’t know what the waves are like in Dallas, but I would like to see Mark Cuban do that.” Charlier noted the team is supplying all Nets players with iPads to watch game footage with coaches’ comments. n
Terry Lefton can be reached at email@example.com