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Brooklyn 'courts' more tourists with Barclays Center venue

Barclays Center in downtown Brooklyn. (Danny Ghitis/amNY)

Barclays Center in downtown Brooklyn. (Danny Ghitis/amNY) Credit: Barclays Center in downtown Brooklyn. (Danny Ghitis/amNY)

Brooklyn's making a play for the millions of tourists who come to the city -- and wagering that its new arena will win over more visitors.

Elected officials and sports execs want to give Manhattan a run for its tourism dollars, although it is uncertain whether the new Barclays Center -- set to open Sept. 28 with a gala concert by Jay-Z, a part owner of the Nets -- will score.

"When all is said and done, it will be another jewel in the crown of Brooklyn," Tony Muia, who runs "A Slice of Brooklyn" bus tour, said of the upcoming arena.

He added that the downtown hotel boom of recent years has given the borough an edge.

"We've told tourists that now you can stay in Brooklyn -- and you don't have to pay the Manhattan prices," Muia said.

Brooklyn welcomed about 15 million snap-happy tourists in 2010, according to borough officials, with the top draws being Coney Island, the Brooklyn Bridge and the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. All of Gotham saw 48.8 million visitors that year, with 50.5 million -- a record -- in 2011.

Borough President Marty Markowitz said the Atlantic Yards development, with the arena as its centerpiece, will be a "slam dunk" for growth.

Barclays Center, set to open this fall, has booked more than 180 events for its first calendar year. It will host the Nets (currently playing their final season in New Jersey) and other sporting and entertainment shows, including a Devils-Islanders NHL preseason game in October.

But while the influx of development and tourism dollars is largely welcomed for the area, some Brooklynites don't like the idea that its transformation would rival Times Square or the Garden in midtown Manhattan.

"It seems like people do not want it to turn into the vicinity of Madison Square Garden, where there are a lot of bars, a lot of drinking, a lot of rowdy behavior," said Robert Perris, district manager of Brooklyn's Community Board 2. "This arena here is very close to a lot of residential neighborhoods."

Atlantic and Flatbush avenues border the 18,000-seat arena -- serving as a focal point for Prospect Heights, Fort Greene and Park Slope.

"Once it gets closer to the Barclays opening, you're going to see people with money investing in the area -- restaurants, sporting goods stores and other shops," said Brooklyn Borough Historian Ron Schweiger. "A lot of people will be coming, and the location is appropriate because you have nine subway lines and the Long Island Rail Road all converging there."

Triangle Sports, a 96-year-old business across from Barclays Center, is being sold. It could become an upscale restaurant or retailer catering to visitors and locals alike.

"The stretch [of Flatbush Avenue] is packed," said Geoff Bailey, vice president of retail services for TerraCRG, which is marketing the Triangle Sports property. "There are new restaurants coming and [that are] rumored to include big New York chefs. It gives people a reason to come to the area and linger."