June 11, 2009: When pioneers in America moved west, some had signs that read "California or Bust." The NBA's Nets, seeking to move east from New Jersey to Brooklyn, N.Y., are facing a similar task. According to Brett Yormark, president and CEO of Nets Sports & Entertainment, "There are no options. We will be there." Yormark, who was part of a panel discussion at the Sports Facilities & Franchises '09 conference in New York on Wednesday, said that the team must break ground this year at the Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn, which is the planned home of Barclays Center as well as housing and businesses, or find other options. "We are confident that we will break ground in late September. It's going to be a big moment for New York."
Yormark said that Barclays Bank, which signed a $400 million, 20-year naming rights deal for the arena, could have opted out of the deal at the end of 2008 but extended the agreement another year. "Barclays Bank had a chance to get out last December. They didn't. They'll have to make a decision if we miss ground-breaking this year. But that won't happen." The Nets timeframe ties into the expiration of an IRS provision allowing tax-free bonds to be issued for construction.
However, should the Nets be required to seek other options, one plan might take them to Newark, where the NHL's New Jersey Devils are now playing in the new Prudential Center. "We have always said we would share [the arena] with the Nets," said Devils' principal owner Jeff Vanderbeek, who also was speaking at the conference, which was presented by SportsBusiness Journal. "The Nets will play two preseason games at the Prudential Center this year (against the Boston Celtics on Oct. 13 and the New York Knicks on Oct. 21). So we’d welcome them with open arms. I think that they certainly would do very well here.”
The Nets are looking to play the 2011-12 season in Brooklyn. First, ownership has a meeting with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority next week to resolve transportation and logistical situations; must get approval from the Empire State Development Corp. for revised construction plans that were developed by Ellerbe Becket, Kansas City, MO., which took over the project from architect Frank Gehry (who is still involved with the project); and hold public hearings this summer. "The building won't be as dynamic, but it will be best-in-class," said Yormark. "It will be intimate. It will capture the past, present and future of Brooklyn."