Last night, the Brooklyn Nets beat the Washington Wizards 98-88 in an exhibition game; Brook Lopez had eighteen points and eleven rebounds, five guys didn’t play (not a good sign for their chances at making the team), and Deron Williams almost got in a fight with Wizard guard A.J. Price. (And then mocked him after the game.) But nobody cares about any of that. Last night was the first-ever Nets game at the Barclays Center. The place is now officially open. We were there, and we had lots of observations. Well, eleven anyway.
So, here they are.
1. The food is undeniably better than the Garden’s. Barclays Center has an inherent advantage over MSG in that it is brand new and trying to impress; it can therefore get the best stuff from the beginning rather than deal with the inertia of having been around for decades. This is most evident in the food; there are tons of options at Barclays. Nathan’s and Junior’s, of course — though we have no idea why someone would want to buy cheesecake at a basketball game — but also Habana Cuban Sandwichs, Fresco, Calexico, Avenue K Deli, Fatty Cue, Paisano’s Butcher, Brooklyn Bangers & Dogs, and a bunch more. The Garden has better sushi options, and you can buy a lobster roll at MSG and you can’t here — though it costs freaking twenty bucks — but it’s impressive.
2. They are really trying to make you like them. Three small, simple customer-friendly things: (1) The ATMs are no-fee, (2) the cell service at the arena actually works, and (3) we counted three cell-phone charging stations at the arena. They charge really slow, but in an emergency, they’ll do. It’s the little things.
3. They love their corporate sponsors. Barclays talks a lot about their “founding partners,” the big-ticket sponsors that were with the arena from the get-go. Not only are their logos everywhere, but they have this little section of the arena that’s devoted to pointless little corporate hubs, like the Honda Interactive Zone and the National Grid Grid Zone. There is nothing to do in these “zones,” but if you want to read literature about the new line of Honda at halftime, hey, here’s your place.
4. Seriously, sponsors everywhere. It cracked us up that the entrance to the VIP area is actually called the Calvin Klein VIP Entrance. At first we wondered if the entrance was just for Calvin Klein himself, but then we remembered that he probably should keep his distance from NBA hardwood floors.
5. You can’t see the training court yet. One of our favorite features of Barclays is a practice court on the VIP level that you can actually see from a couple of places in the arena, including the 1876 Budweiser bar. But you couldn’t see it last night: They had the windows draped off. There are still people shooting on the court, though; we could see them between the cracks in the tarp. (One of them was holding a beer.) We hope they open that up so everyone can see it.
6. There’s some new merchandise. We don’t know how the T-shirt that said “DEEZ NETS” made it past the T-shirt censors, but we sorta like it. (Also, what a terrible job, “T-shirt censor.”)
7. The food lines in the upper concourse are going to be a problem. There are many more food places in the main concourse than the upper concourse, or at least it seems like it. If you’re in the upper concourse, prepare for lots of lines. Plenty of bathrooms, though.
8. Speaking of the upper concourse, there are going to be some crammed escalators. There are only two escalators heading up to the upper concourse, which is really high and steep. (It’s honestly the longest escalator ride we’ve ever taken.) There are a few elevators, but they’re not large, and most people aren’t going to want to take the stairs that high. In other words: You’re going to get very intimate with your fellow fans if you’re in the upper deck and you arrive five minutes before tipoff.
9. These are, without question, the steepest upper concourse seats we’ve ever seen. We walked all the way up to Section 223, Row 22, the very tippy-top of the arena at center court … and we nearly lost our breath looking down. The sightline onto the court is fine, but the angle is so steep, we found ourselves a bit terrified. It honestly felt like we were about to go down a ski slope.
10. There might be some fun scoreboard operating business. The scoreboard folks were likely saving a lot of their good stuff for the regular season, but without question, there is potential here. You know the whole “Hey, fans, welcome to Barclays Center, here are the ground rules” announcement? That one was narrated by Rosie Perez and, the best part, when she said, “Don’t throw objects onto the court,” we cut to the scene of Mookie throwing the garbage can through the window of Sal’s Pizzeria. Now, that’s awesome. (It didn’t hurt that the next cut was to a scene from Parks and Recreation.)
11. When you walk out onto the street from the front entrance on a comfortable fall night, there’s a great view of the Freedom Tower. We hadn’t noticed that. That was pleasant.