Professional sports are returning to Brooklyn this month with the opening of the Barclays Center. The state-of-the-art arena will serve as the home of the recently rechristened Brooklyn Nets of the National Basketball Association, bringing a slate of contemporary sporting events, concerts and family shows to the Big Apple's beloved borough.
That includes hometown investor Jay Z, who has a small equity stake in the project but will serve as the public face for the building, opening Barclays Center in September with eight Live Nation-promoted concerts and leaving his fingerprints on everything from the design of the team’s uniform to the menu selection in some of the venue’s high-end eateries.
“Having Jay-Z as a partner in any aspects of our business certainly helps,” said Sean Saadeh, VP of Booking for Barclays Center. “Whether it’s the branding of the building, or the fact that he’s from Brooklyn,” Jay Z brings his own brand of hip-hop and urban cool to the facility’s image. It’s an image that is proudly outer borough, but scrappy enough to hang in the country’s largest media market. Brooklyn has 2.5 million residents and Saadeh said he plans to own the market, but he’s also not backing down to the arena across the East River — Madison Square Garden, the top-grossing arena in North America.
“Our goal is to be the venue for Brooklyn but, from a programming perspective, we plan to have great events for the Tri-State Area and all the boroughs.
Barclays Center has Barbra Streisand booked for two nights of concerts under their in-house moniker Brooklyn Sports and Entertainment. Barclays Center has a contract with AEG Facilities for some building management services, but the arena is open to all promoters. AEG Live has Justin Beiber and The Who dates, while Live Nation has bookings for Bob Dylan & His Band performing with Mark Knopfler and Neil Young with Crazy Horse. Saadeh said he’s also working with indie promoters Bowery Presents, and already has deals in place with Feld Entertainment and the Harlem Globetrotters.
Through the end of the year, Barclays Center has five college tournaments on the books and is hoping to do a number of boxing dates with Oscar De La Hoya’s Golden Boy Promotions.
The Cushman & Wakefield Theater configuration at Barclays Center
Barclays Center has an advanced curtaining system that will allow it to scale the house and become the 4,000-seat Cushman & Wakefield Theater, similar in size to Radio City Music Hall or Madison Square Garden’s own theater configuration.
“It has the intimate feel of a theater but we’re on the larger side,” he said. “We’re the first with this size in Brooklyn” with a target of 15 events per year. Artist John Legend will be the first venue to play the theater configuration on Oct. 29.
As for a looming rivalry with Madison Square Garden, Barclays has hired some AEG personnel to help keep the operations of the building competitive, but when it comes to bookings Saadeh said his facility is wide open and will go after many of the same events as MSGE.
“We expect there’s going to be lots of different ways to route shows into New York,” said Saadeh. “We want to be an open building, we want to work with everybody and we want to make it work for everybody.”
Interviewed for this article: Sean Saadeh, (347) 699-1062