Barclays Center – New York Liberty
Photos by Lloyd Brown, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.57
Barclays Center 620 Atlantic Ave New York, NY 11217
Year Opened: 2012 Capacity: 17,732
A Liberty Tree Grows In Brooklyn
The NY Liberty are charter members of the WNBA, as they were a headline franchise at the inception of the league in 1997. The team has won four conference titles and gone to 4 WNBA Championship series but has yet to win the league title. Over the years the Liberty has boasted of a team filled with the top talent in women’s basketball, including Teresa Witherspoon, Rebecca Lobo, and Sabrina Ionescu.
The Liberty has had a nomadic existence as far as where they have called their home court. The team called Madison Square Garden their home from 1997- 2010, moving across the river to the Prudential Center in Newark from 2011-2013. They then returned to Madison Square Garden from 2014-2017. In 2018 major renovations got underway at Madison Square Garden, forcing the team to relocate to the Westchester County Center in White Plains, NY for the 2018-2019 seasons.
They have also played an outdoor game (at the Arthur Ashe Tennis Stadium) and games in Radio City Music Hall. In 2020 they were set to play in the $1 billion Barclays Center in Brooklyn…. only to have the season shifted to a “bubble season” in Florida due to the COVID pandemic. The team finally moved into its new permanent home in time for the 2021 season, just in time to celebrate its 25th anniversary as a team.
The Barclays Center is a one-of-a-kind facility, as it combines the spectacular building initially designed by world-famous architect Frank Gehry with the basketball- street smarts of the borough of Brooklyn. The exterior skin of the building combines pre-weathered steel and glass to evoke both the skyscrapers of Manhattan and the gritty industrial neighborhoods of Brooklyn. The structure also boasts of an oculus reaching out from the front of the building, which includes looping advertising messages on the interior portion of the structure. The Liberty shares the building with the Brooklyn Nets.
Food & Beverage 2
The food and beverage program at Barclays is known as the Brooklyn Taste and focuses on having the typical foods you would find on any street in the borough of Brooklyn. These stands include Biaggio’s Pizza (pizza), Paisano’s Meat Market (deli), Brooklyn Bangers and Dogs (brisket hot dogs), Calexico (nachos), Parm (meatball sandwiches), Buffalo Boss (wings), Crabby Shack (lobster rolls) Graze Steakhouse (beef brisket BBQ), Habana’s (Cuban sandwiches) and of course, straight from Coney Island…Nathan’s Hot Dogs. Unfortunately, the Barclays Center only offers a minimal dining experience for the Liberty’s games with only two concession stands open in the arena. This was the biggest disappointment in our visit to the Barclays Center.
Paisanos Burgers offers a burger and fries combo ($11), a chicken tenders and fries combo ($13), and Nathan’s hot dog ($8). The other stand that was open was the Buffalo Boss concession. It offered a Beef Brisket Brat ($11), a Smoked White Cheddar Brat ($11), hot dogs ($6), and a Buffalo Boss Salad ($15). Beverages sold at the two open stands included Pepsi brand sodas ($7.75), bottled water ($10.99), Red Bull energy drinks ($6), Snapple ($7), and both brands and craft beers for $15.
Alcohol can be found at the Cîroc Bar, the Corona Beach House, the Jack Daniels Distillery, or Johnnie Walker’s Place. Nene’s Taqueria, Birria Street Tacos. None of these were open during our visit to the Liberty game.
The Barclays Center interior comes in varying shades of gray and black shiny surfaces. Both the Liberty and Nets have uniforms that boast these two colors. However, the Nets go decidedly darker in their gameday mode, as they play on a gray court and use theatrical lighting that darkens the seating bowl while illuminating the court like you would a stage in a play. The Liberty uses a more traditional wood grain court and has teal highlights framing the court and the circle at midcourt. They also use theatrical lighting at their games.
Brooklyn Fanatics, the team store for both the Liberty and the Nets, has one of the most extensive sets of team gear that we have seen in an in-house setting.
Barclays Center lies at the intersection of Atlantic Avenue and Flatbush Avenue, the historical heart of Brooklyn and the Prospect Heights neighborhood.
There are plenty of things to do in the borough of Brooklyn, with most activities within close walking distance of the Barclays Center or a neighboring subway station. The Atlantic Center shopping district is just across Atlantic Avenue from the arena, offering several national retailers and some fine dining options. Fifth Avenue has located two blocks from the Barclays Center and is home to both the Alchemy Restaurant and Tavern and The Montrose Sports Bar.
Two attractions include on your visit to Brooklyn are the Brooklyn Botanic Garden and the weekly Brooklyn Flea Market, one of the largest of its kind in the nation. The many other attractions offered in the greater New York City area are just a subway station away.
Even though the Barclays Center has a basketball capacity of 17,732 the Nets utilize only the lower seating bowl, resulting in sellouts at only 8,000 fans. The team feels that this concentrates the crowd closer to the court, resulting in a better fan experience. It also means that the team can get by with half the gameday staff that the Nets use.
The Liberty organization does a great job of maintaining a high energy level throughout the games. Ellie, the team’s elephant mascot, roams the stands, leading the cheers and posing with fans for selfies along the way. The team has a fan participation activity on the court during breaks in the action. Between periods the team brings out two distinctly different dance troupes, one made up of younger break dancers, and a more seasoned group of dancers known as the Timeless Torches. Once the music cranks up, it is hard to tell the difference between the two groups.
The Barclays Center lacks one thing that every stadium, arena, or ballpark calls a necessity, which is a dedicated parking lot. However, in the metropolitan setting of greater New York City, this is not a liability. Accessibility is excellent in a city where having a car can be a liability.
Barclays Center sits atop a transit hub under its front plaza. The subway station is known as the Atlantic Avenue – Barclays Center Station. Subway lines serving Barclays Center include Lines 2,3,4,5, B, D, N, Q, and R. The Long Island Railroad has a facility next door to the arena. MTA bus routes B37, B41, B45, B63, B65, B67, and B103 all have stops located at the venue. Connections via public transit are so good that you can reach most any of the top sightseeing attractions in the Big Apple in less than an hour after you leave the Barclays Center.
Access to the building itself is also well designed. There are major sets of entrances and exits along Atlantic Avenue, Dean Street, and Flatbush Avenue. Doors open 90 minutes before tipoff. The concourses at the Barclays Center are wide and the concession stands are well spaced out, so you should not encounter too many lines during breaks in the action.
Return on Investment 3
The ticket prices at the Barclays Center come at two levels. Baseline seats and corner seats are $30, while sideline seats and midcourt seats are $30 each. Your cost of getting to the Barclays Center is determined by what type of public transportation you take to the game. Food prices are expensive compared to street prices but are in line with what most professional sports facilities charge.
In addition to hosting the Liberty and the Nets, the Barclays Center has hosted the Atlantic 10 Men’s College Basketball Tournament, the ACC Men’s Basketball Tournament, and early rounds of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.
The Barclays Center has put its theatrical lighting system to good use, as it has hosted numerous concerts and the MTV Video Music Awards since opening.
You would think that the Liberty’s dance team would have been named the Belle’s. However, the team’s over sixty dance team is known as the Timeless Torches.
The Liberty’s team mascot is an elephant named Ellie. Why do you ask? When the Brooklyn Bridge opened, circus showman P.T. Barnum drove a herd of 21 elephants across it to prove its sturdiness. The elephant’s name is a play on the word Ellis, as in Ellis Island in NY harbor.
After a mostly nomadic existence over its first 25 years, the New York Liberty has finally reached a permanent home in the basketball-crazy borough of Brooklyn. The team has quickly built a fanbase of local fans and has been embraced as “Brooklyn’s own”. The Barclays Center fits in perfectly with its surroundings, as it uses steel and glass to mimic the many skyscrapers in the area while using a more weathered exterior to suggest the grittier industrial history of the area.