SBJ/October 8-14, 2012/Events and Attractions

Bright night for Barclays Center, Yormark

When downtown Brooklyn’s new $1 billion Barclays Center opened Sept. 28, it was for the first of eight sold-out concerts by native son Jay-Z, and brought together people from all walks of business.

Borough President Marty Markowitz was spotted holding court at a pregame soiree, along with a host of New York sports industry executives, brand-side sports marketers, CEOs and the occasional billionaire, including Brooklyn Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov. Still, you couldn’t help but feel the evening was a consecration of sorts for Brett Yormark, CEO of the Nets and Barclays Center, who has done more commercially with a below-average team than would seem possible, considering the Nets have averaged just 32 wins a season since his arrival seven years ago.

With the persistence and funding of developer Bruce Ratner, the Barclays Center opened only after wading through nine years of litigation, the worst economy since the Great Depression and an NBA lockout.

After nine years of litigation, economic woes and an NBA lockout, the Barclays Center — home of the Brooklyn Nets — opens with a birthday party and a concert.
Photo by: TERRY LEFTON / STAFF
On opening night, happily removed from “home” courts owned by others and between endless congratulatory hugs and handshakes, Yormark beamed, especially since the arena opened on his 46th birthday.

It was a smile also fueled by a first-year arena schedule now approaching 210 events, on display at the first party in the new arena’s Calvin Klein Club.

“It’s a Brett-fest,” NBA executive vice president Mark Tatum said with a laugh.

“This is the first big music event where the sports industry turned out,” said Scout Sports and Entertainment chief Michael Neuman,
Bruce Ratner and Brett Yormark
Photo by: TERRY LEFTON / STAFF
accompanied by his Geico client, ad director Bill Brower.

Other sport-types spotted: NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, NBA Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver, YES Network President Tracy Dolgin, Golden Boy Promotions Chief Marketing Officer Bruce Binkow, CAA Sports sales executive Paul Danforth, Leverage Agency head Ben Sturner and Marquis Jet co-founder Jesse Itzler, himself a former rapper. On the athlete side, there was a host of Nets players and New York Giants salsa dancer Victor Cruz.

Other guests at the “Yormarkathon” included
Yormark’s birthday cake
Photo by: TERRY LEFTON / STAFF
those with a personal connection, like the owner of Brant Lake Camp, a sleepaway camp Yormark went to at age 5, and the decorated: Magic Johnson and John Calipari were in Yormark’s suite, the coach of the defending NCAA champion Kentucky Wildcats staying anonymous in the 50,000-watt incandescence of Johnson’s celebrity.

Not everyone at the “pregame” was aware that opening night was Yormark’s birthday. No one was especially surprised when they found out, their amusement enhanced by years of knowing Yormark, the sports industry’s answer to Tony Robbins, for his relentlessness and predilection for PR.

“You’ve got to admire his sales ability and tenacity in seeing that building through all those years,” commented a former co-worker, “but we
The NBA’s Mark Tatum and Coca-Cola’s Bea Perez at the Calvin Klein Club party
Photo by: TERRY LEFTON / STAFF
all know Brett likes to read about his own handiwork.”

Many in the business-to-business crowd were there to take in the opening-night sights and fete Yormark.

“I’ve worked with Brett since his NASCAR days [1998-2005], so this is like seeing a friend of yours get married,” said longtime Coke marketer Bea Perez, currently the company’s chief sustainability officer. “There was a vision for this place, and they saw it through so many years of frustration.”

How the night came to coincide with Yormark’s birthday remains a bit fuzzy. Yormark said, “It
Nets minority owner Jay-Z appears in the first in a series of concerts.
Photo by: ERROL ANDERSON / BARCLAYS CENTER
was always going to be the latter part of September and it just started to move later … and then it was ‘great — it’s on my birthday.’ It’s kind of surreal — I don’t know if I’m ever going to have a bigger night professionally, so I wanted everyone who had touched me along the way to be there.”

That included a surfeit of family: twin brother and Sunrise Sports and Florida Panthers President Michael Yormark, mistaken time and again for his sibling, along with their children, and Brett and Michael’s mother, Arlene Sloan, who recalled another event all those years ago.

“You know, I was a single working parent for their first bar mitzvah, so we had this little lunch for maybe 30 people,” she said, struggling to be heard above the rap thumping across the 18,000-seat arena. “This one was a little more elaborate.”
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