There's an arena growing in Brooklyn.
On Wednesday afternoon, wearing a hard hat and following a couple of guides, I got a tour of the Barclays Center of Brooklyn, the future home of the Nets. You don't have to say New Jersey Nets anymore. The organization has dropped NJ already and it's just a matter of time before they cross two rivers and return home.
And even though there's still another NBA season to be played before that happens, my eyes popped and my heart picked up a few beats when I finally laid my eyes on this place that has been talked about for years, almost in mythical terms.
It's a reality.
Better yet, it will be a showplace, the place that changes the game when it opens in September 2012.
It's no exaggeration, no hype. As a sports writer for 25 years and someone who has covered major events in just about every arena and stadium in this country, most venues don't wow me. This one, unfinished and all, did.
This billion-dollar arena will be the darling of the NBA, a must-see for residents of and visitors to the Big Apple. Although it's not close to being finished, you can't help but envision what it will be like, how it will feel to watch an NBA game in downtown Brooklyn, New York's largest and most diverse borough. For real, you could feel the energy and people buzzing around at lunchtime at the corner of Flatbush and Atlantic avenues, where this palace is being built.
My thought immediately was, this place will be bananas, in a good way, on a game night. There are plenty of cool places to eat around there before a game. Best of all, this location allows fans from all points to get here with ease. You don't have to drive if you don't want. The arena is serviced by nine different subway lines and the LIRR. Fans will be able to walk up from the subway right into the main plaza in front of the main entrance, no streets to cross.
I took the No. 2 in from the city. It was a piece of cake. When I walked up out of the station a few blocks away, I saw big steel in the distance.
Artist renderings, stuff that's been out on the Internet the past five years or so, have been replaced with cement and walls and floors. I walked up staircases that will take fans to a Jay-Z-inspired suite club. Yes, the rap mogul and part-owner will have his very own club at the Barclays Center.
I was standing in the spot where Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov's suite is being built. I was envisioning what the view would be like and came up with "spectacular," although there were cranes where center court will eventually be. But I certainly envisioned having an adult beverage and taking in a ballgame. I just might get an invitation for the real thing one day when this place opens.
I'm not holding my breath, though. But I will be honest: I did think about getting season tickets in the 18,000-seat arena with my nephew, Alvin, a basketball-head.
For those who can't get in, there will be a few street-level views of the scoreboard. That's right: You could be walking from the subway, look in and get the score on the way home. That's pretty neat.
Many never believed this project would get off the ground, with all the lawsuits that delayed the groundbreaking. But, according to the Nets senior vice president Barry Baum, construction is on schedule. Steel is 40 percent complete. Portions of the roof are being framed. The first roof truss has been erected and the second one is being raised. The roof will be complete by the early part of 2012.
The facade, according to the Nets, will begin to go up this summer. Precast, what seats sit on, is ongoing. I could see that for myself and envision someone in a seat looking at center court.
Excavation is complete. The transit connection work and utility work is under way. There are two shifts of workers, working seven days a week to get this project completed on time.
If you don't believe it, hop on a train and go to Brooklyn and see for yourself like I did. It's sweet.