BROOKLYN 2015 — First Thoughts on the Barclays Center

Kevin Schultz

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The Islanders were supposed to head to Brooklyn on October 2nd for a pre-season game against the Devils. Everyone was supposed to get a glimpse at what could have been — and now will be — the team’s home in 2015 (Maybe, if there had been a pre-season game and an NHL season, that would have been the day the team announced the move?). Due to the cancellation, we’ve only had fleeting glimpses at what an ice rink inside the arena looks like. Still, we can take a look at the facility and hypothesize how exactly this is all going to work.

On Friday night, I took a trip to Brooklyn to check out the arena and the Barclays Center Classic, a college basketball tournament featuring Kentucky, Maryland, LIU Brooklyn and Morehead State. Kentucky and Morehead both won close games, if you’re scoring at home.

As for the arena, which was the the main attraction for me, it is gorgeous, very modern, a stone’s throw from the LIRR, and even closer to a bunch of subway lines (See that big green, grassy hill in the photo above? That’s the backside of an Atlantic Avenue subway entrance). Playing in this arena will finally bring the Islanders into a 21st century sports arena. It’s also for better or worse a lot different than anything Islander fans are used to at the Coliseum.

The arena rises up in the middle of the urban area with one crosswalk between the LIRR’s Atlantic Terminal station and Barclays. The area’s busy, like anything you might expect outside an arena or in downtown Brooklyn. But you quickly step into the corporate arena confines of Barclays Center. If you’ve been to the Prudential Center in Newark, that’s kind of how this arena feels. Right in the middle of the downtown, without the sprawling parking lots that double as tailgate spots you’ll find in a more suburban spot. The most obvious difference between this and Prudential is New Jersey Devils red has been substituted for Barclays Corporation blue. And there’s a lot of blue.

There’s a shop that’s part of the arena, to the left of the main entrance. It’s a Starbucks, of course. The box office is directly inside on your right, inside a dark blue atrium that shines at night (pictured, above). From there you can look through glass on the left and see a Nets practice court, one wall of it shared with the Starbucks and the other a bar. As a neutral site, it’s one of the rare times you can have a full open bar at a college basketball game. Don’t worry, the recent post-grads at the game took full advantage of that.

The concourse of the arena was certainly smaller than I expected. Imagine a really nice version of the pre-renovation MSG with Brooklyn-based concession stands and staff everywhere. There was even someone manning the condiment table adjacent to the burger stand.

Space was clearly a bit of an issue with this arena, otherwise I’m sure the concourses would have been wider. It doesn’t effect the flow much, as there were barely lines for the bathrooms, even at halftime of the sold out Maryland/Kentucky matchup. The lines for concessions and beer did have some length at the half, but that’s something you’ll find at every sold out arena everywhere. That was under the sidelines, too. Under the end zones, the concourse wasn’t crowded at all at halftime.

Inside the concourse and the main atrium, the arena is absolutely gorgeous and shines. It’s a step into the newest of new arenas and a far cry from anything at the Coliseum.

Inside the arena, it’s bright and new, and doesn’t look too different than other new arenas out there. But it does have it’s own wrinkles. In one endzone there’s a section of seats missing, where you’ll find the Honda Club. It’s a nice, low angled view of the action that’s standing room only. The views from the lower bowl of seating also look great, but I guess that’s a given. And take note journalists and bloggers, the press box is located directly next to the Honda Club.

Opposite the Honda club on the other side of the arena is another cutout section, where ESPN had it’s broadcast desk setup. Over there are a couple sections of seating that at first glance appeared to be the press box, but upon closer inspection are premium seats with a classroom style setup.

Where the seating becomes an issue is when you head upstairs to the second bowl of seating, where the seats are literally embroidered with the sponsor’s name ‘MetroPCS’.

At the Coliseum, the top level feels like you’re pushed pack from the action but not up. The Coliseum is built wider, instead of higher. Higher is what you’ll get at the Barclays Center.

Looking down at the playing surface from top level, it feels like you’re looking almost straight down at the action. From where I was, halfway up in row 12, I could look down and see a couple rows of seats, the benches, and then the playing surface. That made it easy for me to see how a bigger playing surface could create a lot of limited view seats, especially since the ice surface won’t be centered. If you centered it — and I’m just guessing here — I think seats could be lost in both endzones. That’s probably why the ice will be off-center, so you only lose one endzone instead of parts of both.

The sightlines upstairs aren’t great. It reminds me a bit of going to Shea Stadium with summer camp. It wasn’t the most lucrative camp, so we always had seats halfway up in Shea’s upper deck, making us feel closer to the planes overhead than the field. Barclays of course isn’t nearly as big or as high as Shea was, but that feeling of being over the action is what I got in the top level seating.

The rest of the inside of the arena is great. The lighting is bright and the acoustics are good, but of course it’s impossible for one person to try and find out if there are any dead spots in the acoustics. When Maryland made a furious comeback in the second half, the crowd came alive and the place sounded pretty loud. The scoreboard is huge, HD, and looks picture perfect. As a daily commuter to Penn Station via the LIRR, the one-hour trip to Barclays from Huntington wasn’t so bad. $7.50 for a beer is about the same price you would pay in the middle of Manhattan.

Of course it’s not nearly the same look and feel of the Coliseum, so once the Islanders get there that’s going to be the weirdest feeling. The feeling that yes, this is the new home and it’s bright, shiny, new, and totally different. Change is probably going to be the toughest aspect of this to adjust to.