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  • Writer's pictureSean MacDonald

Barclays Center – Brooklyn Nets

Photos by Sean MacDonald, Stadium Journey

Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.71

Barclays Center 620 Atlantic Ave New York, NY 11217

Year Opened: 2012

Capacity: 17,732


Brooklyn’s in the House

Barclays Center is still New York’s newest venue in the Big 5 Sports (including MLS) as it finishes its eighth season as the home of the Brooklyn Nets. Initially reviled by many fans, and later suffering through five seasons as an inappropriate hockey venue for the New York Islanders, the arena has seen its share of problems. But for the most part, the growing pains have stopped and Barclays Center has become a pretty good place to watch hoops. The addition of Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving will make it even better in 2020-21, assuming we have a season. Still, there are some outstanding issues but they can be mitigated if you know what to do, which you should after reading this review.

The 17,732-seat entertainment facility christening took place November 1, 2012, against the Knicks in what was billed as the first game of a new crosstown rivalry. It marked the first time since the Brooklyn Dodgers left for Los Angeles after the 1957 season that the borough was home to a major professional sports team. It also returned the Nets franchise back to New York for the first time since the franchise left for New Jersey after the 1976-77 season.

Given its incredibly accessible location on Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn on top of nine subway lines and the Long Island Railroad, Barclays Center should be a good rival to Madison Square Garden as a premier New York entertainment venue. In the end, however, it doesn’t quite measure up.

Food & Beverage 4

Barclays Center is committed to its Brooklyn location, and all concession stands have a special item from the Brooklyn Taste collection. Paisanos Burger has a Butcher Burger for $12, a Double Burger for $19, and a Beyond Burger for $17. Parm Famous Italian offers a Chicken Parm Hero for $16, the same price as a Meatball Marinara (3 meatballs made from a blend of veal, pork, and beef with marinara sauce), while an Italian Combo sandwich is $17. Brooklyn Taqueria has tacos for $15 or a taco salad for $17. Brooklyn Bangers and Dogs has a Beef Brisket Brat for $12, while a Spicy Asian Sausage is 50 cents more.

A traditional all-beef hot dog is a ridiculous $10.50, but if you want another, it is only an additional $9. Nathan’s is the other hot dog concession, with their regular dog going for $9 ($15 for two), while a footlong is $12 and a bacon cheddar version $11. Fuku’s Spicy Fried Chicken Sandwich is very popular despite its $15 price tag (add $4 for a side of fries), you can also get fingers and fries for $15. Coal Oven Pizza has 10-inch Margherita pies for $14, while an extra buck nets you some pepperoni on top. East Wind Snack Shop is somewhat misnamed as it offers wonton nachos for $10, and a variety of dumplings from $12-$14.

Coca-Cola provides the soft drinks with a regular soda at $8 and a souvenir cup at $13. Various beers and other alcoholic beverages, including those featuring premium liquor, can be found around the concourse with prices generally around $14-$15.

The main problem here, as with most sports venues in New York City, is price. It is tough to find a good value, which is why this category loses a point. I’d like to see a special of the game that allows regular attendees to try some of these items without blowing their paycheck for the week. There is also no designated driver program to allow fans to enjoy a free soda or popcorn.

Atmosphere 4

Barclays Center has embraced a black and grey color scheme, which works well with the Nets, who use those as their primary colors. They have also embraced their Brooklyn home, and much of the game day presentation is used to strengthen the bond between the borough and the team. Fans call out “Brooklyn, Brooklyn” during breaks in the action, and local stars are featured in the Nets version of Celebrity Row. The promotions and entertainment are typical for an NBA venue and generally keep the fans occupied during breaks in the action.

One problem with the arena is that lighting in some spots is quite weak, leading to the derisive nickname “Darklays Center” being used by local wags. The upper rows of the upper deck are where this is most pronounced, so if you want to read the free program that is given out, try to sit in the first few rows here or choose a lower bowl seat.

Neighborhood 4

Located at the intersection of Atlantic and Flatbush, the arena is right in the heart of Brooklyn. There are so many bars and restaurants within five minutes that it is impossible to list them all here. I will say that the area along 5th Avenue is slightly less busy than that around Atlantic Terminal, with several pubs such as McMahon’s, The Montrose, and Alchemy.

Uncle Barry’s is my go-to spot with a good happy hour that is perfectly suited to 7:30-weekday starts, though food is not available. No worries, though, you can grab a slice at Artichoke’s Basille Pizza across the street and bring it over to enjoy with your beer. Another advantage of pregaming here is that you are close to the Dean Street Entrance, which usually allows for quicker entry to the venue.

Prospect Park is a few blocks south of the venue and worth a visit if you have the afternoon, with the Brooklyn Museum and Botanical Garden found near the northeast corner of the park. Both St. Francis Brooklyn and LIU Brooklyn are within walking distance and sometimes you can see a college sporting event at either the Generoso Pope Athletic Complex or Steinberg Wellness Center before heading over to the Nets.

Unfortunately, the area is still somewhat unsafe, with a murder being committed across the street in the early evening in September 2017, and an earlier incident that year seeing a man randomly firing into passers-by in broad daylight. As always in NYC, be aware of your surroundings.

Fans 3

The fans have started to show up more as the Nets have climbed the standings, sending prices for one of their 2019 playoff games into triple digits. Having attended several games over the years, I find the fans here to be a mixed bag of true fans, frat boy idiots, and (ugh) corporate types. There are a few tourists, but not as many as plague Madison Square Garden for the Knicks. Generally, crowds are into the game and cheer at the right times, but need to be more fully present at all games to see an uptick in this category.

Access 3

Reaching Barclays Center is easy from Manhattan with several subway lines passing through the Atlantic Avenue/Barclays Center station, which is also the terminus for some Long Island Rail Road trains. But the ease ends once you approach the main entrance. A series of offenses forces fans past a security official who confirms that each fan has a ticket, and then you line up at security, which is possibly the worst in professional sports.

Bags are thoroughly searched for contraband such as water or snacks, leading to long waits. A no bags line would be a good addition. Avoid the main entrance if you can and use the Dean Street entrance to save ten minutes, or get there very early before the latecomers start to clog things up. At no point should you consider driving to the Barclays Center, as traffic can be tough and parking expensive.

Inside, the lower concourse is wide enough, but the upper concourse can get very crowded before and after the game, as well as at halftime. Similarly, queues are seen at most concession stands and restrooms during the break, so take care of your business before the game or sneak out during the action to save a bit of time.

It is also difficult to enter the lower bowl for pictures, as ushers believe that everybody is trying to scam the system. The venue has received a lot of criticism over the years for their treatment of fans, and although things have improved in that regard lately, full access of the seating bowl before the game is generally not permitted.

After the game, there will be a crowd at the top of the stairs returning to the subway as fans are funnelled to the staircase, but it moves quickly enough and most trains are not that crowded once you get on the platform.

Return on Investment 4

The Nets have very dynamic pricing, charging a lot for top teams and relatively little for less popular opponents. The secondary market is often the best place to look for a last-minute ticket, where deals can be found. The Nets are an entertaining team these days and are fun to watch, especially when compared to their crosstown rivals. When their two new stars begin to play next season however, look for tickets to go up significantly.

Extras 4

The Oculus above the main entrance with its LCD screen is quite impressive and unique in stadium design. Look for it if you are approaching LaGuardia Airport over Brooklyn. The Ebbets Field flagpole at the corner of Atlantic and Flatbush is a testament to Brooklyn’s past. The series of photos around the concourse commemorating the Black Fives is worth your time. The large mural dubbed Diary of Brooklyn by painter Jose Paris is missed by most fans but can be seen at the Dean Street entrance, another reason to use this. There is a Bed Stuy jersey on the concourse celebrating one of the many neighborhoods in Brooklyn.

Final Thoughts

With the Islanders disaster finally behind it, Barclays Center can return to being a basketball venue. Although not perfect in any of our Fanfare categories, it does work well in most, and I believe that management is striving to improve the game day experience. To summarize for first-time visitors, you should avoid the long security lines (use the Dean Street entrance), the dark seats (avoid the last few rows in the upper deck), and expensive food (eat beforehand or grab a pretzel). If the Nets continue to improve and management changes just a few things to upgrade the fan experience for the average attendee, Barclays Center has the potential to be a much better NBA destination than MSG and the horrid Knicks for years to come.

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