“It’s pretty cool. Never been this excited about a building.” – Me
“So weird.” – My girlfriend
I was surprised when I first saw the court. Because, to be honest, I sort of forgot that after all this, there’s basketball. Through all the ribbon-cuttings and new merchandise and contracts and eminent domain and pre-rusted panels and subway connections, I got a little lost. But once I saw that beautiful herringbone court, I was reminded of the purpose of this entire exercise: to create a new room in which the/your Nets will play basketball. And damn: They’ve built an impressive room for basketball.
The scene: The amount of season ticket holders who packed the sidewalk outside the Barclays Center main entrance for this open house event seemed to equal the average total attendance at the Prudential Center last year. (The reported number is 5,500, but still.) Such a concentration of enthusiasm has been foreign to the Nets. It was great to see, but also felt a little misplaced. I was worried I stumbled into an architecture rally. Despite a few tepid attempts at “Let’s go Nets!” rally cries, the palpable energy buzzing around the gathered crowd was mainly focused on a building, not a basketball team. Which is totally fine -— whatever gets you through the night and all that. But I felt a little out of place because I’m not a huge buildings fan. I’m a Nets fan.
But then some familiar sights started popping up. Mr. Whammy. A Travis Outlaw jersey. A few of those “35 years” shirts from last season that, admittedly, look much less appealing in the sobering light of the oculus.
We went inside. And yeah, as advertised, it’s terrific in there. Some stuff is shiny, some is state-of-the-art, some is Brooklyn-centric, many are all three. If you’re the type of person who’s gotten this far into a recap of some guy you’ve never met wandering around an arena because you and him happen to root for the same basketball team, then you’re probably already familiar with the amenities offered in the Barclays Center. The artisan pretzels. The arena-wide free Wi-Fi. The Adidas store. Whatever else there is. To confirm, it’s all there and it’s all fine and clean.
But the majesty —- and this is not hyperbole if you’re a basketball junkie -— lies in the court. It reveals itself immediately upon entry, eagerly poking its head up because it’s so excited someone showed up. The space is tight. The seats are on top of each other. Any seat in the lower level has a spectacular view. The seats upstairs are better than expected, high but closer than normal nosebleeds. All of the promises and forum jokes about sightlines can now stop. They did it. The shape just feels right.
This sounds horrifically obvious, but the court is the star here. You can’t escape it. It’s like a painting whose eyes follow you wherever you move. Even in this pretty odd situation, with the arena quarter-full of aimless season ticket holders marveling at nothing in particular, it was easy to envision the Barclays Center exploding. Add in the theater lighting they’ve foreshadowed and this truly will be a special place to watch basketball -— which, once again, is the reason we’re all here.
It’s also why, after an hour or so of wandering around Brett Yormark’s castle of wonders, I was a little bored. Again, I’m not that into buildings; I never collected architecture trading cards when I was younger. And without basketball, the Barclays Center is just a shell — a dazzling shell, to be sure, but nothing more. It’s nice to get excited about a new toy, but let’s see it with the batteries in before we deem it alive.
Just 37 days.