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Nets Bring Basketball to Brooklyn: First Major Sports Team in Half Century

Background on the Nets

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Nets Bring Basketball to Brooklyn: First Major Sports Team in Half Century

Barclay's Center on Flatbush Avenue

Photo by E. Freudenheim

In 2012, the Nets became the first major sports team in Brooklyn in over a half century — the Brooklyn Dodgers left in 1957. They play at Brooklyn's new $900 million Barclay Center on Flatbush Avenue and Atlantic Avenue.

It remains to be seen how the Nets will fit into New York’s already rich sports marketplace, competing for fans’ loyalties (and dollars) with such brand name teams as the Yankees and Mets, and of course, the NY Knicks.

As for whether the Nets win Brooklyn's heart as the Dodgers did, decades ago, only time will tell.

Meanwhile, the Barclays franchise has expanded. The Islanders -a Long Island based hockey team the Islanders NY Islanders --winners of four Stanley Cup Championships-- announced in the spring of 2013 that the team would relocate to Brooklyn's Barclays Center, under new management.

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How the New Jersey Nets Became the Brooklyn Nets

The New Jersey Nets changed owners more than once en route to Brooklyn. The team was first bought by a group led by real estate developer Bruce Ratner in 2004 for $300 million.

Subsequently Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov bought a majority stake in the team for $200 million in 2009.

Brooklyn native and rap superstar Jay-Z is also part of the ownership group.

 

Nets History in Brief- Before they Were the Nets, They Were the Americans

The Nets have a long and, periodically, contentious history.

 

Formed in 1967, the team started in the rival league known to basketball historians as the ABA (American Basketball Association).

The Nets franchise was forced to base their team out of New Jersey due to pressure from the New York Knicks who did not want to compete with a start-up franchise in the country's largest sports market.

Briefly, the Nets were known as the Americans until 1968. After forfeiting their first playoff game in 1968, they played the 1968-1969 season at the Long Island Arena in Commack, NY, before moving to the Island Garden in West Hempstead, NY for the next three seasons. From 1971-1976, the team was known as New York Nets.

Their last game as an ABA franchise was at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Uniondale, NY. They enjoyed numerous successes before being annexed into the NBA and recast as the New Jersey Nets.

As of 2012, the Nets will be based in Brooklyn, at Fort Greene's new Barclay Center near the Atlantic Terminal.

 

Intense Controversy over Atlantic Yards and Barclay Center

The original plan for the vast Atlantic Yards project included construction of the new Nets' home (Barclays Center) and high rise apartment towers covering a 22 acre swath of land, including existing residential buildings.

 

Virtually every aspect of this enormous project—from conception to design, from the use of eminent domain to tax-based financing to the valuation of the land, and from lack of community input to a paucity of political transparency — was embroiled in bitter political feuds well before any ground was broken.

The development was encouraged by many Brooklyn and New York City and NY State elected officials, but was met with fierce resistance by a coalition of Brooklyn residents. A high-profile, multi-year community based campaign against the development project was launched by a vocal community group Develop Don't Destroy that filed multiple legal suits. The controversy spawned ongoing media coverage including a dedicated blog, Atlantic Yards Report,

Barclay Center opened in 2012. Construction of the residential towers was halted by the poor economic climate of 2008, and with the exception of one building under construction, remains in limbo. The architecural design of the Barclay Center was also changed significantly from the original proposals.

 

Will Barclays Be Profitable?

It's too soon to tell exactly what the profitability of the Barclays Center will be, and the impact of the development and arena are still being felt in surrounding Brooklyn neighborhoods. In 2013, the Wall St. Journal ran an article titled Brooklyn Arena is Glitzy But Profits So Far Aren't Golden, questioning the profitability of Barclays to date.

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