Bruce Ratner is chairman/CEO of Forest City Ratner Cos., developer of Brooklyn's new Barclays Center and the 22-acre Atlantic Yards development planned around the venue. He's also a minority owner in the Brooklyn Nets, the arena's anchor tenant.
Ratner is the man, more than any other, responsible for the Nets moving to Brooklyn and, more importantly, the arrival of Brooklyn as a new center within New York for professional sports and arena-level entertainment. The journey has taken a decade, so when you ask Ratner, "Why Brooklyn?," he's ready.
Bruce Ratner, left, with Jay-Z (Photo: Taylor Hill/FilmMagic.com)
Billboard.biz: Why Brooklyn?
Bruce Ratner: There's no better place in the world than Brooklyn. It's got it all: food, technology, music, media. It is one of the few areas in the country that is growing population-wise, job-wise. It's cutting edge. It's what this whole country should be like, and in a way it is a microcosm of this country. And it's also a great basketball place.
Brooklyn has also become important in contemporary culture, and the Barclays Center will add a lot of juice to that process.
Yes. The arena is kind of the heart and soul of this tremendous culture that has, frankly, been in Brooklyn for 150 years. It's the right exact time for it. The arena will have the Nets, shows for children, boxing, cultural events, tennis, college basketball, amazing artists from Jay-Z to Barbra Streisand, from Brooklyn to all over this country. The amazing thing is we've already booked 200 of our 220 dates. This is the place to play.
It's apparent that you feel good about where you stand with this project today.
In October it will be a decade since we began this process, and it's been well worth it. It's great to give this to Brooklyn. Yes, it was a struggle, but it's a struggle to do anything. It's never easy to build stuff in urban areas, and that's OK, because when you get them, they're pretty special.
I've seldom seen a building with a design so integrated into the community. Clearly that was important to you.
It was very important. This could have been built in a very different way. There were originally railroad tracks there, which had to be moved at a tremendous cost, and a rail yard relocated. The Garden in Manhattan makes sense-it's the right height-but in Brooklyn, it's pretty much low-rise. We made an intentional decision to move the rail yards and basically sink [the arena] so that when you enter you're on the main concourse, half the seats are above grade and half are below grade. When you live in an urban environment, you want to have beautiful surroundings-it really makes the experience that much better. We really paid attention to the architecture and we had an architectural firm in SHoP, which did an amazing job. It's got the steel on the outside, which gives a certain grittiness much like Brooklyn. The colors blend in with Brooklyn, yet it's so contemporary. It has that sleek look that says, "I'm taking off into the 21st century."
It's also apparent that you wanted to keep ticket prices affordable for all events.
Like any urban area, we have all kinds of income. We have Jay-Z to thank for 50% of his tickets being $30. For the Nets, we have 2,000 $15 seats. We're very conscious of the idea that this is the kind of venue that ought to be available to everybody. It's a little different from building an arena in the suburbs, where many have been in the past and it was a good thing at one point. But our cities have come back, and young people like to live in cities. It's changed dramatically over the last 10 or 15 years, so it's appropriate that an arena be very urban.
How was it working with Jay-Z on this project?
Jay-Z is not only a great artist, but he's a great person. He has a tremendous ability to analyze problems and come up with answers, whether they be marketing problems or business problems. He's very easy to work with, and he's a lovely man. We had a board meeting the other day and an issue came up and we turned to Jay-Z. It didn't involve music, it didn't involve the marketing of clothes or anything like that, it was just a judgment question, and Jay-Z laid out a real good plan for us. But that's typical-he has tremendous skills in all areas. He's obviously an entrepreneur, but I don't think people realize that Jay-Z, with all the experience he has, is very wise.