Brooklyn, Barclays Center bracing to steal show

Associated Press  |  Last updated September 25, 2012
Consider Madison Square Garden on watch. Luring the Nets from New Jersey was only Step 1 in Brooklyn's metamorphosis into an entertainment hot spot. Next up for the borough, a ruthless bid in stealing the spotlight and the stars from MSG, New Jersey's Prudential Center, and any other venue that books boldface names in music and sports. There's a new kid in town, folks, a state-of-the-art arena in Brooklyn that is gobbling up acts at an alarming rate. Jay-Z, Lady Gaga, Rihanna and Andrea Bocelli are just a few of the marquee attractions coming to the new Barclays Center, a facility that will house the NBA's Brooklyn Nets and so much more. College basketball is on the way, as are the Harlem Globetrotters and World Wrestling Entertainment, and before the lockout was announced, an NHL preseason game was even on tap. Indeed, it appears Barclays has balance and boom in its acts, and will stop at nothing as it quickly makes a sudden statement that it is a desired destination in an attractive borough. And the other facilities in and around New York may never be the same again. ''In the past, Brooklynites had to leave our borough for world-class entertainment and sports and head over to Manhattan, the Bronx, Queens, Nassau County ... Newark or East Rutherford,'' Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz said. ''Hello. Not anymore.'' Brooklyn is going hard and if this current clip keeps up, it may become the No. 1 tour stop in the region. Jay-Z, the Nets' part owner and hip-hop icon, will christen the Barclays Center with eight sold-out shows opening Friday. Holla! ''Without Brooklyn, I wouldn't be standing here right now,'' Jay-Z said at a Barclays Center press conference. He's not alone. Barbra Streisand, a Brooklyn native like Jay-Z, will perform for the first time in her native borough Oct. 11. These megastar acts will raise the curtain on what Barclays expects to become a 220-event-a-year center, and create a little competition with the world's most famous arena. The budding Barclays-MSG bidding war, in fact, is already more heated than the Knicks-Nets rivalry. The Golden Gloves finals dumped MSG for the first time in its 86-year history for the 19,000-seat Barclays. Bocelli had played nine straight holiday shows at MSG before bolting this year for a Dec. 5 concert at Barclays. Other defections from MSG and New Jersey arenas include college basketball's Coaches vs. Cancer tournament, the Legends Classic and the Atlantic 10 tournament. But without question, none of the other facilities are intimidated by Brooklyn. This is after all, the New York market we're talking about, and there will always be plenty of acts to book. Robert Sommer, president of Rock Entertainment Management at the Prudential Center, declined comment. And MSG insists it doesn't feel threatened by the younger, hipper arena at all. ''While we always respect any competition, The Garden will always be The Garden,'' MSG President and CEO Hank Ratner said. ''Madison Square Garden is located in the heart of New York City, sitting on top of the busiest transportation hub in the nation, and has been a destination for New Yorkers and visitors to the city for over 130 years. The Garden is New York's living room, we host over 400 events annually, and are in the midst of a comprehensive, top-to-bottom transformation that has already received amazing feedback from fans.'' The world's most famous arena underwent an $850 million upgrade that gutted the arena from the ground up - all without changing the building's familiar hatbox-shaped exterior. Madison Square Garden was completed in 1968 and had not had a major upgrade since 1991. And, let's not forget, the Garden is the Garden. There's no price tag, after all, on the legendary sports moments and the iconic concerts that called MSG home. Ali vs. Frazier. Willis Reed limping through the tunnel and onto the court for the 1970 NBA Finals. Mark Messier and Stephane Matteau leading the Rangers to the Stanley Cup in 1994. Billy Joel and Bruce Springsteen rocking the joint. Ricky Nelson's Garden Party. On and on. ''You can bring a new venue into another borough, but you can't erase history,'' said Sammy Steinlight, a former MSG executive, now of Steinlight Media. ''You can't just instantly have a brand. It takes time, it takes years. It takes really special and unique moments created over time.'' Barclays is trying to speed up the pace. Yet, not every act is choosing only one stage. The Who is booked to play Nov. 14 at Barclays, Dec. 5 at Madison Square Garden, and Dec. 6 at the five-year-old Prudential Center in Newark. While WWE remained committed to booking events at Madison Square Garden, the WWE's own Brooklyn Brawler should feel at home when the sports-entertainment promotion holds its monthly pay-per-view event Dec. 16 at Barclays. There are plenty of entertainment dollars to spread around, of course. Brooklyn's population of 2.5 million is the largest of the city's five boroughs, and is home to $3 million condominiums and four-star restaurants. The New York metropolitan area is so massive, there should be enough acts and dates for both. Barclays' honeymoon period will eventually fade. But for now, business should boom - especially with top tickets hitting $600 for Streisand at face value. ''Because the building is new, artists know the level of business they can do is higher at a brand new building,'' said Gary Bongiovanni, editor of the trade publication Pollstar. ''The fact that it's new on the market means that the local population will turn out in great numbers, great force than you would otherwise see. That means more money in the artist's pocket.'' In a bustling market, the two arenas should be able to play nice. But bidding wars could spark for the top-dollar stars. The Minneapolis Target Center and the St. Paul Xcel Energy Center are separated by 10 miles from one Twin City to the other. The buildings regularly fiercely compete to land selected artists, a boon for concert promoters looking to keep down costs. ''Concert promoters are certainly aware of the two buildings and they'll often bid the two buildings against each other,'' said Jeff Pellegrom, chief financial officer of Minnesota Sports and Entertainment, the company that runs the Xcel Center. ''They'll lock or hold dates in the two different arenas and then they'll look for the best financial deal they can get. I don't blame them for this, by the way. It makes perfect sense.'' The Nets, the vibrant arena's anchor tenant, are focused on settling into their sparkling $1 billion digs and not the calendar of events at Madison Square Garden. ''We don't concern ourselves with being better than what they do or what the Garden does,'' Nets general manager Billy King said. ''We have a new building and we're excited about being there.'' So, it seems, is the rest of the entertainment industry.
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