After years of construction and controversy, professional sports have finally returned to Brooklyn, NY. The Barclays Center, the $1 billion project that was conceived in March of 2004, opened its doors in September 2012; revitalizing a crosstown rivalry with several sports organizations. The newly crowned Brooklyn Nets will kick off their inaugural season on November 1, 2012, and it was recently announced that the NHL's New York Islanders would be leaving Nassau Coliseum and relocating to the Barclays Center. Could Barclays compete against one of the most famous arenas in the world, Madison Square Garden? Or will it be plagued with failed teams in a borough where the residents have unbreakable ties to other teams? Only time will tell.
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Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
It seems like with every new sports venue in the tri-state area, the food gets better and better. After visiting MetLife Stadium, home of the New York Giants and Jets, I didn't think I would experience better eateries, but Barclays tops it.
Going back to their roots, Barclays offer their traditional "Brooklyn Burgers" as well as "Brooklyn Farmacy Sodas", where you can quench your thirst with gourmet root beer floats ($8) and other flavored drinks. From delicatessens such as "Avenue K Deli" which will create a thick-cut hot pastrami sandwich ($15.75) to sushi stands and "Fatty'Cue" that offers smoked brisket sandwiches ($13.75).
You may have to dip into the savings or cash in the piggy-bank if you plan on experiencing all of the food at Barclays. Sandwiches will easily cost you over $10 a pop, hot dogs close to five dollars, and snacks like nachos and popcorn will run you six dollars each. When you are finished with dinner, you can also enjoy dessert, as frozen yogurt vendors as well as "Junior's Blue Marble" offer gourmet cakes and cookies at steep prices.
Where Barclays Center certainly does not fall short is the availability of beverages. Bottled and draft beer stands ($9-$11), are accompanied by top shelf liquor, a combination at standalone vendors that you don't see all the time at sporting events. Scattered all throughout the arena, are several large and luxurious bars such as "Eighteen 76" and the "Foxwoods Bar". It is evident that Jay-Z, the world famous rapper, who is part-owner of the Brooklyn Nets as well as the "40/40" club owner, had an influence in the design and placement of vendors at Barclays. Future openings of sporting venues are going to have a tough time competing with what Barclays offers when it comes to food and beverage.
One of the biggest complications a new venue will face is developing an atmosphere that appeals to new fans. The sport of basketball is second nature to any resident of the five boroughs; they see it on an everyday basis, in the parks, schools, and in the streets. When you enter Barclays, it feels connected to the surrounding area of Brooklyn.
Throughout the arena, music is blasting through the speakers with a Brooklyn theme in mind. Whether it is Faith Hill's "Brooklyn We Go Hard" or the Beastie Boys "No Sleep Til' Brooklyn", the anthems are present. The history of the Nets organization is also present; pictures, jerseys and memorabilia are placed all around Barclays to remind those in attendance that the team's foundation began elsewhere.
Even though the team name is less than a year old, fans all around the venue have newly acquired team gear, making the New Jersey Nets, seem like a thing of the distant past. Banners hang from the rafters with the newly designed Brooklyn Nets logo, with space for several more to be placed next to them. While the past home-venues of the team (Prudential Center and IZOD Center) have not felt like a real home, Barclays is a sanctuary for Nets fans and will appeal to any fan of the game.
The area surrounding the Barclays Center has a lot to offer, and it is difficult to not give it a perfect score. Shopping, dining, scenic routes, bars and boutiques line the streets for numerous blocks that are within walking distance from the venue. With a population of over 2.5 million, more than the entire island of Manhattan, the streets are full of people during a majority of the day and night.
The Brooklyn Bridge is a must-see attraction that offers a one-of-a-kind view of Manhattan that should be on everyone's bucket list. Manhattan isn't the only city that features arts and history. The Brooklyn Museum, located in central Brooklyn, is the second largest museum in New York City, and features a variety of art; ranging from the Egyptian culture to contemporary and modern works. All-in-all, it is a museum that appeals to any art enthusiast.
The Brooklyn Brewery, which was founded in 1987 and has made a name for itself around the country, features a tasting room for guests and a 300-seat venue for community events. If you have the time, make room to visit the historic piers of Coney Island. The island features amusement parks, games, lively beaches (although not so much during basketball season), landmarks and is home to famous rides such as the Cyclone Roller Coaster and the Wonder Wheel. And make a note...there is a reason why the Nathan's hot dog eating contest takes place at Coney Island every 4th of July; they are the best around.
The Nets consistently ranked towards the bottom of the NBA in attendance while in New Jersey, but with the new venue, the Brooklyn fans will be there. The borough of Brooklyn is hyped for the start of the inaugural season and it shows. Fans outside and inside the arena have all new Nets merchandise on; from jerseys and jackets to hats and shirts, they are sporting the brand.
During the game, fans get involved in the ongoing action, with chants sprouting from all around the arena. They are passionate and optimistic about the future of the team, especially with newly acquired stars such as Deron Williams and Joe Johnson. Talk of the team can be heard from before you even walk inside of Barclays and extends to the train ride home. With a full arena, it is a rarity where there is silence, as the crowd is always into the game.
Located in the heart of Brooklyn, when traveling to the Barclays Center; think public transportation. With 11 subway lines and the Long Island Rail Road, it is the most convenient way to access the venue. There are direct lines from major locations within New York City including Penn Station and Wall Street, which are both short rides on the subway. The LIRR offers a line to the Atlantic Ave. terminal located directly across the street from the arena, after a 15-minute transfer from the Jamaica station.
If you are thinking of driving, beware of the traffic as well as limited parking that is available. Those coming from Manhattan will take either the Brooklyn or Manhattan Bridge and arrive on Flatbush Avenue, which can be difficult to maneuver. If you are entering from Staten Island, the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway is your only option, and not a good one during rush hour.
After tickets, transportation, food, beverages and team merchandise; a trip to Barclays Center is going to be expensive. Tickets are available on third-party sites; ranging from $20 for upper level seats to over $500 for courtside seating. Premium games against division rivals or powerhouse teams will obviously cost more for admission. (Tickets for opening night against the New York Knicks are starting at $215 per ticket). Even better is that there are hardly any seats in the arena that would be characterized as "terrible". With an oval like shape, seats in the top section still offer a decent view, with cheaper ticket prices.
Luxury boxes are available as well, but the arena must be contacted for pricing, which probably means it's expensive. Is it worth it? The atmosphere alone is worth the price of admission; along with the quality of food, and experiencing a new arena in a city that has been lusting for one.
There are plenty of extras aside from the action on the court that are pretty interesting. Metro PCS has teamed up with the Barclays Center and placed "Charging Stations" all around the main concourse, allowing fans to charge their phones while they enjoy a brew. (There are several types of cables for different phone manufacturers).
In addition, there are "No Fee ATM" machines; a nice addition since many places in Brooklyn will charge you over $3 for a withdrawal. The "Grid Zone", which is located just a few feet from the main seating area offers a large LCD television with couch-side seating that allows fans to catch up on scores from all around the sports world. Smaller LCD televisions are strategically placed at almost every food and beverage vendor so that fans do not miss any of the action while away from their seats.
One of the main attractions is Jay-Z's own, "40/40 Club", which is the Barclays Center only sit-down restaurant that offers top-of-the-line food and beverages. A luxurious restaurant at that, the "40/40 Club" is synonymous with Brooklyn and fits in perfectly with Barclays.
It took over eight years from inception, but the Barclays Center is everything that people expected and hoped for. With a successful team in the making, the Brooklyn Nets have found a new arena to call their own; one that has everything to offer for a fan of the game. The nights of an empty arena at the Prudential Center are officially over, as the Nets have something to be proud of...and it starts at home.
I saw one of the worst games of the season there, a dreary 76-72 loss that kept the crowd sleepy for much of it. Food has great options but unbelievably overpriced. $15.75 for a sandwich?! Free popcorn for designated drivers is much better.
The atmosphere was muted for much of the game and I was not impressed with many of the fans, some of whom refused to stand for the national anthem and others who stood up to leave immediately after a 3-minute TV timeout. Tickets are not cheap, it would be $35 to sit near the top in the corner, very far away. The seating bowl in the upper deck is also incredibly dark so the free programs can only be enjoyed on the subway home.
Charging stations and charge-free ATMs were welcome and Ebbets Flagpole and Black Fives Era displays add a bit of history.
Ultimately, stadium reviews hinge on the game at hand - we've all been to a venue where the stadium was rocking one night due to a big rival in town, and quiet the next as the players mailed it in. My visit to Barclays Center was the latter and hence the low score.
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