Itinerant Fan

Barclays Center

Barclays Center

It’s hard not to notice how fiercely independent Brooklyn is as you walk through it. Sure, it is one of the five boroughs that make up New York City, and many parts of Brooklyn still ooze that New York feel. But just look around for a bit and you’ll quickly notice just how much you see the word “Brooklyn,” as though it is its own city. And so it figures that it would have its own arena — Barclays Center, home of the Brooklyn Nets.

I have not done any research into this, nor have I sought out anybody else’s research, but it sure feels like you’ll see the word “Brooklyn” in Brooklyn more than you’ll see the word “Manhattan” in Manhattan, “Queens” in Queens, and so on.

The most clear-cut example of this, of course, is now the Nets. Previously they were the New York Nets and the New Jersey Nets, but once they moved into the sparkling new Barclays Center in 2012, they became not the New York Nets again, but the Brooklyn Nets. Sure, it was partly a nod to the Brooklyn Dodgers, the last pro sports team to call the borough home, but it’s also another indication of Brooklyn’s strong identity.

And the arena the Brooklyn Nets call home seems to fit right in with their home borough — nestled in one corner of the very busy intersection of Flatbush and Atlantic Avenues, it is not easy to miss. It’s a quite distinctive and quite flashy building (more on that later), yet it manages to blend into the surrounding neighborhood more than overwhelm it.

You get the feeling that, were Barclays Center in Manhattan, it would get lost amid the tall buildings. Here, though, it’s just right, and that feeling only increases when you go inside.

For several seasons, the New York Islanders moved in and attempted to make Barclays feel like home, but quickly found it to be a terrible mismatch. The Isles eventually returned to the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum on Long Island full-time as they awaited the construction of a new arena outside the New York city limits.

For more on visiting New York City, check out our New York city guide.

The approach: Getting to Barclays Center

When I say Barclays Center is hard to miss, I mean it is darn near impossible to miss. And you’d have to be super-inattentive to miss it if you’re arriving by subway, which for my money is the only way to attend a sporting event in New York proper.

The Atlantic Avenue-Barclays Center station is served by no less than eight subway lines coming from many different parts of the city. The station is big (the Long Island Rail Road also stops at this terminal, for those fans heading in from the east), and depending on which line you’re on, your walk may be surprisingly long. But there are signs everywhere pointing the way to Barclays Center, and if you follow the directions and ascend the right staircases/escalators, you will emerge at street level with the arena staring you right in the face.

In my case, I was coming from lower Manhattan, and hopped a 4 train to Barclays Center — a journey that took all of 10 minutes. A very easy journey, especially because I was more than two hours early to the game and the rush hour had barely started at that point.

Center map
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The build-up: Things to do around Barclays Center

As mentioned previously, Barclays Center occupies a major intersection in Brooklyn, with a major shopping center, the Atlantic Terminal Mall, across Atlantic Avenue and blocks of smaller shops, including a Modell’s and a couple other sports souvenir shops, on the other side of Flatbush Avenue. The mall has a few chain eateries — namely a Buffalo Wild Wings and a McDonald’s, among others you’d typically find in malls — and big-box stores like Best Buy and Target. In other words, nothing that really enticed me to spend any time inside.

Besides, Brooklyn is a huge borough with a lot of very cool neighborhoods worth visiting such as Williamsburg and Park Slope, and they’re within a 5- to 10-minute subway ride away. So no need to really hang out in the vicinity of the arena to have a good time.

If it’s your first visit to Barclays Center, your time is probably better spent gawking at the beautiful plaza in front of the arena, particularly the oculus display that lights up the rest of the plaza with messages, ads and such. For the Brooklyn Nets game I visited, there were maybe 75 to 100 people outside taking photos of it (no doubt biding their time until the main entrance opened so they could go inside), and I was one of them.

Barclays Center Brooklyn Nets

The ambiance: Watching a game at Barclays Center

Walk into Barclays Center through its main entrance and the first thing you’ll notice is that you can see into the seating bowl. I’m beginning to see that more and more in new arenas, but I don’t think I’ve seen it pulled off quite as dramatically as here. It’s a big opening, first of all, and they fill it very well with a big display of some sort (on this night, because it was Jewish Heritage Night, there was a giant menorah) and, perhaps fittingly since Jay Z has his stamp all over this place, a DJ stand.

Of course, what it also means is that a larger-than-usual percentage of the seats in the arena, at least the ones above the lowest seating bowl, are along the sidelines rather than at the ends. At least for basketball and Brooklyn Nets games, the sightlines are top-notch.

That goes even if you’re at the very top of the arena, as I was (see the photo above). Sure, the players were tiny, but I couldn’t complain about the view — with one exception.

Many arenas, including this one, have a contiguous last row in the upper deck. When choosing my ticket for this game, I thought it wouldn’t be a bad thing to have a seat in the aisle, since in theory my view wouldn’t be obscured by all the heads in front of me. And that turned out to be true — as long as nobody’s walking up the aisle. And since I was 24 rows up and this was a late-arriving crowd, I’d say I never had longer than a minute’s worth of unobstructed game viewing because some blasted late-arriving fan was obscuring my view. So much for scoring a good deal.

Wherever your seats are, though, do yourself a favor and walk around at some point. Even the concourses are nice at Barclays Center — wide and clean. Whatever your appetite for spending money is, the concessions have you covered, with a pretty wide-ranging menu and some good local fare. 

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    The Particulars

    Home Teams
    Brooklyn Nets

    620 Atlantic Ave.
    Brooklyn, NY 11217

    Year Opened

    17,732 (basketball)
    15,813 (hockey)

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