On Sunday, the spotlight for me was on the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, where Visit #146 would take place at a Nets game in their relatively new arena. It was a little odd seeing a league that I’m not particularly fond of (NBA) when my favorite sport (College Basketball) was approaching it’s pinnacle…but I will take a new stadium anytime I can squeeze it in. Originally, I thought about doing a doubleheader and seeing the Rangers in the afternoon at the renovated MSG, but I wanted to do some exploring and check out Brooklyn, especially since the weather was tolerable after this brutal winter.
My route of choice lately for getting into NYC (specifically Manhattan) has been to drive the hour to Secaucus Junction and then take one of the many NJ Transit trains into Penn Station. I used to drive to Denville and then take the 90 minute train ride, but the Secaucus way has turned out quite well in saving both time and money (plus it’s very easy to drive to). After arriving at Penn Station, we took the 3 train on the subway to Borough Hall. Prior to my pre-stadium research, I never knew that Brooklyn was almost like it’s own city (complete with downtown and business district). Borough Hall put us right in the middle of this and we started the journey by walking the Brooklyn Bridge. The architectural marvel was packed with wind-blown tourists, all of whom were snapping pictures like myself. It’s a very cool experience and for someone like me who loves skyscrapers and skylines, the view is breathtaking. The exercise and multi-mile walk was ruined by Shake Shack, yet totally worth their burger. Exploring then continued in the nearby Brooklyn Heights section. This is such a lovely neighborhood with gorgeous historic buildings and houses. We took an impromptu walking tour after seeing a flyer pointing out the sites and then went down to the Promenade for more amazing views. Finally, a stop at the Historical Society capped off the tour of this small district. It’s hard to ignore the stereotypes and generalizations that cities gain, but within each one it is vital to take a closer look, then see, explore and appreciate as Brooklyn is a prime example.
My inexperience in subway riding showed back at Borough Hall, where we wandered around for awhile trying to find a way to get to the side of the tracks that would bring the 2 or 3 train deeper into Brooklyn. We found the right train and got to the Atlantic Ave station, which to my surprise features the entrance to the arena right at the top of the stairs out of the station. The Barclays Center has by far the most striking exterior design that I have seen in all my visits. Take a look at the picture above and here as this remarkably modern and sleek face to the arena provides a lasting introduction. The only main entrance offers an expansive lobby and a peek inside the arena, but you can primarily just see the scoreboard as there is a club if you try to get much closer. A sharp-looking concourse is immaculately clean and the charcoal walls give a preview of the black/white/gray color scheme to come. Food is impressive not only for the offerings and local flavor, but also in it’s pricing ($16 for deli sandwiches).
In order to talk about the interior, one has to actually see right? Well I can’t offer much because it was so darn dark inside! I mean so dark, that I could not read my program at any point of the experience, from one hour before tipoff, to during the game to halftime. Purposely, I arrived 90 minutes early to check everything out and snap pictures. Half of that time was me waiting in my seat for the lights to turn on, but they never did…so I settled for crappily lit photos taken during the game. I understand a few NBA teams like that effect (Lakers, Knicks) to showcase the court, but jeez when you can’t read in your seat, are tripping over people’s feet in the aisles or struggling to see getting up stairs…it’s probably time to turn up the lights.
Aside from that huge annoyance, the inside is decent enough, but I liked the AT&T Center down in San Antonio a little better (Barclays had some obstructions from glass partitions in my section and additionally the arena does not have a true stand-out feature). I’ll save the in-depth discussion for the upcoming detailed review (it will take a week or so). But my impressions of the arena started sky-high and then settled a little bit once inside watching the game. Despite the highly-controversial building and development, I do think Brooklyn is a much better home and place for the Nets than New Jersey was. The crowd was lively, but needed to be prompted by the scoreboard or PA to make more noise or chant a little bit. Ironically, this was my second NBA game and both games featured an opponent that was last-place in the Western Conference. The home team had cruised to a win during each game, though Sacramento had a little run before Brooklyn blew them out to open the fourth quarter. Overall, it was a great day in a city that is mostly happy to have a professional franchise back.