“The economy is better, and Brooklyn is in a better position today to take advantage of the move,” Yormark says. “We’ve used the better part of seven years to seed our brand and to educate artists and promoters on the merits of Brooklyn. We’ve partnered with Mikhail Prokhorov, and his resources and his vision have certainly benefited the franchise.”
Yormark thinks the Barclays Center will be an ideal home for the Nets, especially with 11 subway lines and the Long Island Railroad converging on the arena. Months before the Nets started play here, Yormark already had sold more than 10,000 full-?season tickets and found high-rolling tenants for more than 80 percent of Barclays’ luxury suites. “In New Jersey, we really weren’t part of the conversation,” Yormark admits. “Here, in some respects, we are the conversation. We aspire to be a lifestyle brand. People are wearing our gear, and we’ve become a very cool and hip sports brand.”
For that vital wave of coolness, Yormark and Ratner are quick to credit hip-hop megastar Jay-Z, who bought a reported 1.5 percent share of the Nets when Ratner purchased the team back in 2005. Jay-Z, who grew up in public housing in Brooklyn, has been hands-on all the way, helping to design the team’s logos, which recall old Brooklyn subway signage, and pushing for uniforms in black and white.
Jay-Z, who routinely declines to be interviewed, performed eight sold-out shows to open Barclays in September. In addition, the arena houses a branch of Jay-Z’s trendy 40/40 club (the 40/40 Club & Restaurant by American Express); his Rocawear clothing is for sale at a retail store in the arena; and the hometown rap king helped to design The Vault, which features 11 $550,000-per-year suites where, among other perks, owners will enjoy Jay-Z’s favorite champagne, ?Armand de Brignac.
“He’s really given us a face for Brooklyn and provided us with incredible street credibility,” Yormark says. “He’s a tastemaker, and he truly gets it.” Adds Ratner: “Jay-Z is us. I mean, he is how people are going to see the arena.”
Ask Brooklyn borough president Marty? Markowitz what the Nets and Barclays Center mean to his native Brooklyn, and you can barely shut him up. To Markowitz, the new arrivals enhance and intensify a “great transformation” of Brooklyn that’s been under way for several years. In a globalizing world, Brooklyn boasts fantastic diversity and is home to 93 ethnic groups and 150 nationalities. Trend-spotters at GQ and Bon Appetit praise its hot restaurants and daring chefs.
Markowitz loves to take jabs at Manhattan, which he points out is considerably smaller than his beloved borough; with more than 2.6 million people, he says, Brooklyn would be the nation’s fourth-largest city if it stood on its own. Taunting the Knicks, Markowitz makes a bold prediction: “What the Manhattan Knicks failed to do [since 1973], the Brooklyn Nets will get done: bringing home an NBA championship to New York.”