For The NBA's Nets, No Sleep 'Til Brooklyn

The song that appeared on the Beastie Boys' 1986 debut album, “Licensed to Ill,” predated by some 26 years the feeling that Bruce Ratner, Mikhail Prokhorov, Jay-Z, Brett Yormark and a bevy of others have this week as they finally see the light that is the Barclays Center at the end of a long and arduous tunnel.

Barclays Center officially opens for business Friday evening (Sept. 28) with a series of concerts from Jay-Z. But the main tenant is the NBA's Brooklyn Nets, the first major league sports team in the borough since the Dodgers moved to Los Angeles following the 1957 season. Which means that born-in-Brooklynites such as Woody Allen, Mel Brooks, Jerry Seinfeld, Spike Lee and even Vinnie Barbarino all have something to smile about.

"My toughest challenge [has been finding] an opportunity to sleep," said Yormark, CEO of Nets Basketball and president and CEO of Brooklyn Sports and Entertainment. "I don’t sleep that much to begin with, but now there will be even less time. I say that kiddingly. But, obviously, there [has been] so much to do."

The plan for the NBA's Nets to move from New Jersey to Brooklyn began in 2004. Since then, it has been hindered by countless lawsuits, the tattered economy, real estate impediments, cost overruns, design overhauls, environmental studies and bad publicity.

But all of that, plus the fact that the Nets have not made the playoffs since 2007 and have compiled a 58-172 record over the past three seasons, has not stopped companies and marketers from flocking to the Brooklyn venue.

International financial firm Barclays in 2007 put down $400 million for a 20-year naming rights deal (since renegotiated to $200 million with other incentives added in). Russian businessman Prokhorov, whose $13 billion-plus worth makes him one of the richest men in the world, in 2009 acquired majority interest in the team and just under 50% interest in the arena from Bruce Ratner, whose Forest City Ratner firm is spearheading the development of the 22-acre Atlantic Yards project that includes Barclays Center, housing, shops and recreational areas.

The venue also will open its doors with a roster of founding partners that includes Honda, American Express, Calvin Klein, Cushman & Wakefield, EmblemHealth, Foxwoods Resort Casino, GEICO, MetroPCS, Stolichnaya and Ticketmaster. (An 11th founding partner will be named this week).

Other sponsors include adidas, Anheuser-Busch, Coca-Cola , Haier America, HighPoint Solutions, LIU Brooklyn, New York Marriott at the Brooklyn Bridge, Red Bull, Sony, Tyco and Willis.

According to Yormark, "We have an incredible base of partners. But we want to open the building with our strong roster of partners, pause for a moment, and then move ahead."

In addition to the Nets, Barclays Center in its first year is scheduled to play host to Jay-Z (a minority investor in the Nets franchise), Barbra Streisand (the first time she will be performing at a major venue in her native Brooklyn), the Who, the Rolling Stones (still being finalized), Green Day, Lady Gaga, college basketball and hockey, tennis, boxing, gymnastics and an exhibition game with the NHL's New York Islanders (who are being courted as a potential tenant once their lease with the Nassau Coliseum expires).

Not to mention 100 luxury suites, four bars/lounges, the 40/40 Club & Restaurant by American Express and retail destinations including the Nets Shop by adidas and the Rocawear flagship clothing store (which, like the 40/40 Club, is part of Shawn "Jay-Z" Carter's empire).

"It's taken a long time for us to get here, but it's a sweet day for the organization," said Yormark. "Brooklyn finally has a team they can rally around, and we'll make them proud. It's all about Brooklyn and we're all in. This is the start of something special."

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