Thursday, March 28, 2013

Siren song of the Barclays Center: Devils, Rangers, Knicks moving to Brooklyn

Brooklyn--Move over Nets. Watch your step Islanders. A few new housemates are moving in. The brand new Barclays Center is apparently the place to be these days in the metropolitan New York sporting world.

Several months ago, the Islanders announced they would move from Nassau County to Brooklyn beginning in 2015. The team was unable to secure a new, much-needed facility on the Island. (Technically, Brooklyn is on the western tip of Long Island, so...)

Yesterday, the Devils, Rangers, and Knicks all announced plans to move from their current home arenas to Flatbush Avenue and Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn, New York City's most populous borough with 2.5 million people (roughly the same size as Chicago).

The Devils move from Newark may be the most surprising of the three teams given that the Prudential Center, the team's home stadium, was completed only in 2007. The Prudential Center was meant to keep the team in New Jersey for "a friggin' longtime."

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie called the Devils' move "cowardly," but added that his focus was still on Superstorm Sandy recovery. Christie said that once Sandy work was complete he would attempt to lure the Phoenix Coyotes to North Jersey.

"It's a great facility," said Devils's owner Jeffrey Vanderbeek, about the new Barclays Center. "We won't be dropping New Jersey from the name. We will be known as the New Jersey Devils of Brooklyn. Hey, New York teams play in Jersey so why can't Jersey teams play in New York?"

The Knicks and the Rangers play in "The World's Most Famous Arena," Madison Square Garden. So why would they leave the excitement and world stage that is Manhattan? Well, the Garden opened in 1968, and is now the oldest arena in the NHL and the second oldest in the NBA. Plus, Brookly is just "where it's at."

Both the Barclays Center and Madison Square Garden sit atop very active passenger rail stations: Atlantic Terminal and Penn Station. It is this rail access in Brooklyn that sealed the deal for the Rangers and Knicks move across the East River.

"Barclays is a lot like the Garden, except a whole lot newer. Yes, we just had some major renovations at the Garden, but ... well, it's just not the same," said James Dolan, chairman of the Madison Square Garden Company, owner of the arena by the same name and the Rangers and Knicks. "Who knows, maybe Barclays will become part of the MSGC team one day."

Mayor Michael Bloomberg wasn't really sure what to make of the announcement, as he represents the city as a whole. "I'm in a real awkward place here. I honestly don't know what to say. I got nothing."

Reaction by Brooklynites living near the stadium has been overwhelmingly negative. "No, I don't like it at all," said Kevin O'Reilly, 39, who hails from Boston but now lives on Pacific St just off Flatbush Ave, when asked if he welcomed the new tenants  "This means there will be events, like, every night of the week. Actually, with five pro teams, it probably means many weekend days will have day-night doubleheader events. This blows. I'm a Bruins fans."

Jay-Z, part-owner of the Nets, and developer Bruce Ratner called the announcement "prehistoric." No arena in the country has ever been designated as the home stadium for five major professional sports teams. Currently, the Staples Center in Los Angeles hosts the Clippers, Lakers, and Kings, and stadium officials there admit scheduling all the different games is difficult.

"I'm not saying this is going to be easy," said Jay-Z, via telephone from Japan, where the performer is touring. "If one of the five teams gets the squeeze--you know, have no weekend home games for weeks at a time--it'll definitely be the Islanders. Sorry, Isles. Wow, this is really exciting."

Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz performed a "victory dance" on the steps of Borough Hall minutes after the news broke. "Wow, I don't know what to say," said Markowitz. "To be completely honest, I never thought the Nets would move here. Never. Now, we'll have five teams. Yeah, I get that not all will use the name Brooklyn, but this almost makes up for the Dodgers leaving town. Almost."

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