With Nets and Islanders struggling, Barclays Center is having a winter of discontent
“Brooklyn” the brand has had an excellent decade, and some of the reasons were evident on the main concourse at Barclays Center on Wednesday night.
The place teemed with mostly young, mostly fashionable, ethnically and racially diverse people sampling bars and restaurants and generally seeming to have a fine, cosmopolitan time on Pride Night, living the life of New York City’s hottest borough.
What they were not doing was watching the game taking place on the nearby basketball court, in which the Nets led by 18 points over the Heat, then inevitably found a way to lose, 109-106, to fall to 9-36.
So it has gone during Barclays Center’s winter of discontent, in which the Nets have the worst record in the NBA by a comfortable margin and the Islanders got off to a woeful start and fired coach Jack Capuano.
Even an uptick under interim coach Doug Weight had the Isles (21-17-9) in 11th place in the Eastern Conference entering All-Star Weekend. So as of now, Barclays is en route to not hosting an NBA or NHL playoff game for the first time in its five-season history.
The people who run the business side hope that during these lean times in the standings, the arena will sell itself.
“The building isn’t based on wins and losses,” Brett Yormark, CEO of Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment, said before the Heat-Nets game. “What we’re selling every day is the experience of Barclays Center. That experience hasn’t changed.”
Yormark noted what he considers unsurpassed customer service and food and beverage options. “People still look at Barclays Center as a destination,” he said. “It’s a great night out.”
But . . . “Would we like the teams to be living up to their potential? Absolutely.”
Yormark said he is heartened by the fact that actual, in-the-building turnstile attendance for Nets games is up 6 percent compared to last season and that the Islanders’ is down only 2 percent. “So from an attendance perspective, we haven’t been compromised at all,” he said.
Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment would not share raw turnstile numbers, though, so it is difficult to assess precisely what they mean.
The more commonly used and publicly available data involves paid attendance. According to ESPN.com, the Nets average 15,442, ranking 26th in a 30-team league. The Islanders average 12,858, which is 28th of 30.
“It’s a cyclical business,” said Yormark, who added the organization has been “very open and honest with the fan base” when it comes to what the Nets are up to.
“We told them that hey, we’re going through a bit of a reset; it’s about player development,” Yormark said. “And they’re coming out, and they love the grittiness of this team . . . They see the positive signs. They see the commitment of the coaching staff, the organization, the players, and it’s resonating.
“Fans want to see hope; they’re in the hope business. They see that there’s a future here with these young kids, and what Sean [Marks, the general manager] and Kenny [Atkinson, the coach] are doing, so I think they’re excited about the future, and so am I.”
That would be an easier sell if the Celtics did not have the right to swap first-round draft picks with the Nets this summer, which they most certainly will. But we shall see.
As for the Islanders, their season has been a bummer after last spring’s mini-playoff run, and there is urgency to progress before John Tavares’ contract runs out after next season.
For now, well, at least the food is interesting.
HOME SWEET HOME?
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