Brooklyn's Barclays Center hosts hoops.
It has been a pretty busy two months for the brand-new Barclays Center.
The $1-billion arena located in Brooklyn, N.Y., opened its inaugural National Basketball Association season with the Brooklyn Nets despite delays caused by Hurricane Sandy, and it announced the National Hockey League's New York Islanders will be moving there in 2015. Then on Nov. 9, the new arena took the first step toward establishing itself as a college basketball venue by hosting the Barclays Center Classic.
The two-game, one-day tournament is the first of three NCAA Men's Basketball tournaments the Barclays Center will host this month. It will also hold the Coaches v. Cancer Classic slated for Nov. 16 and 17, and the Progressive Legends Classic on the 19th and 20th.
The Barclays' first tourney featured four teams: Long Island University, Morehead State, Maryland, and reigning national champion Kentucky.
The champs helped to boost the event to a sellout – selling a total of 17,732 tickets in the single-ticket event according to LIU Assistant Athletic Director Dan Lobacz.
“We felt like we wanted to open up our college basketball franchise in the right way,” said Sean Saadeh, vice president of Programming for the Barclays Center. “Our President and CEO Brett Yormark has strong relationships in sports and he had a relationship with coach Cal (Kentucky's coach John Calipari) and Maryland's Athletic Director Kevin Anderson, and we were able to put it together.”
The Barclays Classic will be a yearly event in conjunction with emerging basketball power LIU as part of a multifaceted partnership with the university.
“Our collaboration will provide far-reaching opportunities not only for our students and campus community but for our neighboring communities,” said LIU Brooklyn Provost Gale Stevens Haynes in a statement.
Tournaments held early in the NCAA basketball season have grown significantly over the past several years when many universities and arenas around the country participate in season-opening events. On the same day as the Barclays Classic, four other college basketball tournaments were held, including one on an aircraft carrier and another in Germany. Both received a great deal of exposure.
But aside from the exposure and the revenue that comes with hosting college basketball, putting on three tournaments in the month of November helped the Barclays Center introduce itself to a college basketball-friendly marketplace.
“It sent a message that we are going to be players in college basketball in the New York City area,” Saadeh said. “We wanted to show that we have a great commitment to college basketball as a part of our programming and that it is a great place to see college basketball.”
Step one in doing so was attracting college basketball's best teams. The next two tournaments on the slate will also feature NCAA basketball powers. Coaches v. Cancer will host Notre Dame, Saint Joseph’s, Florida State and BYU – all nationally recognized programs. The Progressive Legends Classic will display several of the most successful teams in NCAA history in Georgetown, Georgia, Indiana and UCLA.
“It's a small industry when it's all said and done,” Saadeh said. “If one university has played here and another is looking to play at the Barclays Center, they are going to have to move a home game and ask whether it was worth it. That is really important, so we want to come off in a first-class way.”
The hope for the Barclays Center now is that a combination of hosting the national champs, selling out and having two very close games (Morehead State and Kentucky each won by three) made for a kick-start toward becoming a power in college basketball and someday in the not-so-distant future, hosting college basketball's gem event: The NCAA Tournament.
“It is definitely one of our goals,” Saadeh said.
,Interviewed for this story: Sean Saadeh, (917) 618-6113; Dan Lobacz, (718) 488-1420