When Bruce Ratner opens Barclays Center, the greater New York City market will sport five major arenas. Can they all thrive?
Generally speaking, it's an unusual market that can support more than one major arena. Time and time again we've seen situations where two arenas in a metro area limp along because neither can corner the market, so to speak: In Minneapolis-St. Paul, both Target Center and Xcel Energy Center have required financial bailouts; in Phoenix, Jobing.com faces an uncertain future even if the Phoenix Coyotes return. It's no surprise the arenas on the most solid financial footings are the only major facility in their market, like Chicago's United Center and Boston's TD Bank Garden.
Which makes the upcoming situation in the greater New York City area so intriguing. When Barclays Center opens, the NYC metro area will feature five arenas: Madison Square Garden, Prudential Center, Izod Center, Nassau Coliuseum and the new Brooklyn facility. On one level, this would seem to be overkill: are there truly enough acts and sports teams to fill 100,000 seats a night?
We're not sure this is a valid concern: the greater New York City region is so big it's hard to view it as one market. New Jersey, Long Island and Manhattan are arguably distinct markets, each with their own clientele and base. Madison Square Garden, the flagship, will be fine: with NHL, NBA and WNBA franchises providing plenty of dates annually, as well as a host of college games and boxing matches, MSG will continue to thrive.
If a renovation of Nassau Coliseum ever happens, that facility should do fine as well.
It's New Jersey and Brooklyn that provides the most intrigue. With less than 10 miles separating Prudential Center and Izod Center, there seems to be little reason for both to exist in the same market, especially when the New Jersey Nets leave for Brooklyn. Izod Center turns a slight profit after paring expenses to the bone; we don't see that happening after you take away the Nets' dates. Like it or not the future lies in Prudential Center.
And what about Brooklyn, the future home of the Nets? It's an interesting proposition to look at where Barclays Center will fit in the marketplace. Right now management is making noise about filling available dates with college basketball and boxing — the same plan using by Madison Square Garden. Maybe that will work, but we're guessing management will need to come up with some twists to compete with one of the most prestigious venues in all of sports and music. Bruce Ratner is taking a huge risk in building the world's most expensive arena; the challenge will be in thinking even bigger.
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