Brooklyn's New Barclays Center Opens Friday: Will It Give Madison Square Garden A Run For Its Money?
Brooklyn's New Barclays Center Opens Friday: Will It Give Madison Square Garden A Run For Its Money?

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Saadeh stresses that the Barclays Center isn't aligned with any specific promoter, and all programming runs through his office.

THIS ARTICLE FIRST APPEARED IN THE SEPT. 15, 2012 ISSUE OF BILLBOARD MAGAZINE
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"We're a completely open building," Saadeh says. "I work with every single promoter out there, from Live Nation to AEG to Bowery Presents to Metropolitan, all of which are well-known in New York City. But there are a ton of these multicultural independent promoters that do a great job at their own venues in some cases, but also do shows at other facilities around the tri-state area."

AEG's facilities division is onboard to help open the building and manage operations.

"AEG has done a fantastic job for us operationally, and on the live side we want to do AEG shows," Saadeh says. "They've been great at bringing in shows. But Live Nation has also been great, and Bowery has been great -- they've all been active with us. That's what I love about being an open building: We can have success with everybody."

Promoters see an opportunity. "We are thrilled with the introduction of the new venue in the market," says Mark Campana, co-president of North American concerts for Live Nation, which will open the building with Jay-Z.

outside (Courtesy: Shop Architects)

"New York is an enormous market, and even with the number of arenas in the market, believe it or not, [open dates] can still be a problem," he adds. "They have spared no expense on the building, and we knew we needed to be a part of it. We entered into negotiations with the Barclays Center more than two years ago, and signed a booking deal for the building over a year ago. We know the place is going to be a smash."

Likewise, AEG Live, with a busy New York office, plans on being active in Brooklyn. "The lack of competition in the New York market has, over the years, turned Madison Square Garden into an 800-pound gorilla that artists and promoters felt compelled to play, even though the costs have been exorbitant," AEG Live CEO Randy Phillips says. "With the opening of the magnificent Barclays Center, we now have a clear choice where the consumer experience has been of paramount concern and the costs to a tour are sustainable."

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Phillips agrees that Brooklyn can be a play on its own. "The venues in New Jersey were never a substitute for a New York City play." The area around the Barclays Center "has gone through major renewal, has become a destination location for Manhattanites and is very accessible to the other boroughs," he adds.

"When the refurbished Garden opens, with its great history," Phillips says, "the touring industry will have two great choices and, finally, real competition in America's No. 1 market."

The Barclays Center is also willing to promote in-house, as it will with the Streisand show.

"We will look at every situation as an independent situation," Saadeh says. "We have and we will take a risk, but that's not our long-term strategy. Our long-term strategy is to work with our partners and to take calculated risks when the time calls for us on certain projects."

For some artists coming to Brooklyn, like Bocelli and Streisand, the Barclays Center is the only New York venue they'll play this fall. Other acts will play both the Garden and Barclays, with Bieber adding a third show, at the Izod Center in East Rutherford, N.J., to his route, and Rush playing Barclays and the Prudential Center. The Who, meanwhile, will play Barclays, the Garden, the Prudential Center and the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Uniondale, N.Y.

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Bruce Ratner, left, with Jay-Z (Photo: Taylor Hill/FilmMagic.com)

For agents, having the new arena in the mix is welcome. "Barclays Center will give the New York area another option in terms of availability and competitive building costs," says veteran agent Dennis Arfa, president of Artist Group International, which booked Rush into the Barclays.

When Billboard visited Saadeh in July, he had 183 committed ticketed events, and by August that number had climbed to 200. In addition to anchor tenant the Nets, the arena will host a lot of hoops, starting with Kentucky vs. Maryland in the Barclays Center Classic.

There will be boxing, too, through an association with Oscar de la Hoya's Golden Boy Productions, and the family shows will be presented in association with Feld Productions.

The strength of the talent and the curiosity factor alone will drive people to the Barclays Center in its first year, but the goal is to extend that fan traffic well into the future.

"We want the experience at the Barclays Center to be first-class from front of house to back," Saadeh says. "Front of house, we're all going to go through 'Disney' training, and we'll deal with the customers so that they really feel welcome and want to come back."

Saadeh says that philosophy extends to back-of-house. "Part of my strategy is to make sure that when promoters, agents, managers and artists come to the Barclays Center, they're going to feel the same way as the patrons," he says. "They enjoy their experience, they feel welcome, they feel like they're at home that night, with good catering and a staff that's welcoming. So when they come back the second time it's because they want to come back, not because it's New York, or due to the routing, or whatever."

For Yormark, he's not overly concerned with competition in Manhattan. "I wake up every morning thinking about how we can be the best at what we do," he says, "and I don't really think about anyone else in this market.

"We have a very special moment in time, and it's not because we're going to compete with one guy or the other," Yormark says. "It's because of being in Brooklyn, and being the first pro team back here since 1957. That is an incredible story. When you walk down Flatbush and Atlantic and you see kids wearing our jersey with 'Brooklyn' across the chest, that's when I'll know we've arrived."

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