Barclays Center – New York Islanders

by | Nov 23, 2016 | Hockey, NHL, Sean MacDonald | 0 comments

Fanfare Score

Total Score
3.14

Crowd Score

Total Score
3.14

 

 

Disaster Move?

The New York Islanders are the only club in the Big 4 to move into a new home in 2015, leaving the decaying Nassau Coliseum for the bright lights of Brooklyn and the Barclays Center. Brooklyn is still part of Long Island, so the team need not change their name, but if early indications are accurate, they will need to change their approach to avoid having this move end up in disaster.

Barclays Center was opened in 2012 for the newly-relocated Brooklyn Nets of the NBA. Sparkling and expensive, it enjoyed positive reviews initially; although among basketball fans it has become known as the Darklay’s Center as the upper bowl seats are poorly lit at best. The Islanders had played a couple of exhibition games here in previous seasons but finally made the full-time move when their lease at the Coliseum expired after the 2014-15 season.

As part of the move, the Islanders turned over their entire business operation to the owners of Barclays Center. In return, the arena’s management pays the Islanders an annual fee, which is capped at an unpublished number. All revenues go to Barclays Center, including ticket sales, so it is in their best interests to improve the arena experience to fill as many seats as possible. The term used by Barclays Center CEO Brett Yormark is “monetize”, so you can expect a much more expensive approach in Brooklyn. Will it work? Stadium Journey has attended a few games early in the 2015-2016 season to give the team time to work out the kinks, but even then, the venue has not adapted very well to hockey.

Food & Beverage 5

Barclays Center is very proud of being in Brooklyn and every concession stand has a “Brooklyn Taste,” a special item that has a local connection. As you would expect in New York, food is quite expensive, though value can be found. A small burger at Paisano’s is $10, but you can use “gourmet” toppings (relish, pickles, tomatoes, lettuce, onions, jalapenos, ketchup, and mustard) to fill up. This was given a positive review by my tasting partner, while I tried the chicken tenders and fries from the same stand (also $10) and was impressed with the portion size for the price, with the quality better than expected.

As you move around the lower concourse, you will see many choices. Calexico offers Baja Fish Tacos for $14 or a Cheese Quesadilla for $10; David’s Deli has deli-style sandwiches on thick cut rye for $16.75, while an Italian Beef Sandwich is $10. BQE has a sausage here for $10, BBQ Brisket sandwich for $12, or a Four Cheese Mac’n’Cheese for $10.

Brooklyn Bangers and Dogs has sausage, kielbasa, or brats for $8.50 each, while Carla Hall’s Southern Kitchen tempts you with a hot chicken sandwich for $11. A slice of Williamsburg Pizza will run you $6.75, while a Chicken Caesar Salad is $9.50 and a Greek Salad is $12 at the same spot. Boomer and Carton Kitchen, which uses the names of two WFAN sports talk hosts (you might have heard of Boomer Esiason from his time as an NFL quarterback), offers burgers and sandwiches for $14, a Border Dog with guacamole for $9.75, a Pastrami Reuben Eggroll for $10, and a filet steak sandwich for $14. Buffalo Boss boasts boneless wings at $10.75 or a salad for $14.

If you are thinking of something a bit different, try Habana, whose Pressed Cuban Sandwich is $13 but very tasty. Their Grilled Corn is only $7, while Mojo Chicken Bowl is $10.

Your typical arena fare is also available here, such as Nathan’s Hot Dogs for $6 or a jumbo pretzel for $5, and bottomless popcorn for $7.50. A bag of McClure’s Potato Chips is $4.75; a Black and White Cookie from Beigel’s Bakery runs $5.25, and chocolate covered animal crackers are $5.50.

You can also try Hello Sugar, a large candy store on the main concourse, which is probably the brightest spot in the entire building.

On the beverage side, beer is widely available with domestic drafts an unrealistic $11.25 and imports $12.50. Coca-Cola products are $6 for a regular fountain soda and $6.50 for a bottle, while water is a relative bargain at $5.50.

There is no designated driver program for the Islanders (the Nets do have one), but I was told that they are still working on it.

Overall, there is great variety with a lot of local flavors and generally good quality for an arena, but be prepared to overpay for your dinner.

Atmosphere 3

The oculus in front of the main entrance is the signature architectural element of Barclays Center. It has an electronic sign board that rotates through many ads. As you wait for gates to open one hour before game time, a recorded announcement plays on a loop welcoming you to the arena and then listing all the things you cannot bring in. This sets the tone for what is not a particularly fan friendly experience. Security requires you to remove all metal objects from your pockets and place them on a table before passing through a metal detector. This is typical in New York these days, and lines move quickly enough as long as you don’t end up behind some fans who don’t understand what “No Outside Food or Beverage” means. Tablets are permitted in the building, but are not allowed to be used in the seating bowl.

When you enter, you are at the east end of the rink, and this is where the obstructed view seats can be found. The seating bowl was designed for basketball, so many of the seats do not allow for full views of the ice, including those at one end of the upper deck that have no view of one of the goals. Seats in that half of the lower bowl point towards center ice, forcing fans to look over their shoulder when play enters the far end. I would guess that about 30% of the seating bowl suffers from poor seating options, but there is little that can be done. Make sure to avoid sections 201-204 and 229-232 at a minimum.

Barclays Center controls the game day experience, and thus many of the Islanders entertainment elements, such as the Ice Girls and the mascot, Sparky the Dragon, did not accompany the team from Long Island. Management also temporarily did away with the goal horn, though fan reaction to that decision had them reversing it immediately. Organist Paul Cartier was brought along and sits above the east end goal, playing the arena staples during the game.

The pregame intro begins with a countdown from 10 and then the arena goes dark while Islander highlights are played. The players emerge, the starting lineup is introduced, the anthem is sung, and the puck is dropped; all a standard NHL pregame.

During the games, the ice scrape breaks are filled with promotions advertising other upcoming events at Barclays Center or even worse, an ad plays on the scoreboard. Other than the Zambonis, nothing happens on the ice during the intermission, perhaps because New York City doesn’t have many pee-wee hockey players.

A positive aspect is that there is no scoreboard attempt to get the fans to make noise; the “Let’s Go Islanders” chants emerge organically on occasion, but rarely last long due to the relative lack of fans in attendance. Fans also continue with “Woo!” chants after the goal horn followed by “Yes! Yes! Yes!” after every goal, a tradition that was actually started only in 2013. At least once per game, fans join in the “If you know the Rangers suck, clap your hands” chant. Overall though, the arena is too quiet at times, because there are not enough fans and much of the obstructed view side is completely empty.

The scoreboard is top notch, with HD quality video, and includes basic player stats for those on the ice (much like in basketball), a nice addition that I have not seen elsewhere in the NHL. Replays are shown for opposition goals as well, something that some NHL teams refuse to do. During intermissions, detailed team stats are displayed on the scoreboard as well, while an out-of-town scoreboard is found on the ribbon boards between the seating levels, and includes games from other sports.

Leg room is not a problem, because most of the seat below rests against the riser. However, there is not much room to pass other fans, even if everyone stands up. Cup holders are provided but in many cases in some sections they have broken off as they were resting right against the floor and were being kicked by fans struggling to get to their seat.

The darkness is an issue in the top rows of the upper deck along the sides; it is too dark to even read the free lineup cards that are handed out.

Neighborhood 4

Located in the Atlantic Yards development at the corner of Atlantic Avenue and Flatbush Avenue, the arena is in the center of this quickly expanding area of New York. Brooklyn is rapidly gentrifying, but with a population of 2.6 million, (4th in the nation if it were an independent city), there are many interesting areas to visit, ranging from eclectic, hipster Williamsburg to Coney Island, where the Brooklyn Cyclones play baseball. Exploring each of these could take days, but for those visiting only for the game, there is more than enough in the vicinity of Barclays Center to keep you busy.

Culturally, there are several theatres blocks away and art galleries dot the area as well. If you only have time to visit one attraction, consider the Brooklyn Museum, just one stop away on the 4 express train.

LIU Brooklyn and Saint Francis University are nearby and occasionally have afternoon athletic events if you are an avid sports traveler and want to pack in as many games as you can. The nearest sports bar is a Buffalo Wild Wings in the Atlantic Terminal just across Atlantic Avenue from the arena, but there are several other superior options such as Pacific Standard on 4th Avenue, known for its microbrew selection, and The KBH, a large beer hall with brats and burgers. Popular fast food chain Shake Shack is just across Flatbush for those in need of a cheap hamburger before or after the game.

This area of town is usually considered safe, but sadly, it was the site of a murder in October 2015 when a teenager was gunned down at the corner of DeKalb and Flatbush, just a few blocks away from Barclays Center. Reports of gang activity after school, when fans are arriving for the game, don’t help matters. Gun violence in the city is nothing new, but it is usually kept to areas not frequented by tourists. It might be crass to include this sort of tragic event in a stadium review, but it is important that visitors are aware of the current situation in any area they are planning to see.

Fans 2

The biggest problem with the move to Barclays Center is that most true Islander fans were left behind. Early attendance is horrid after the first month of the inaugural season at 76% of the arena’s 15,795 capacity (though again, many of those seats are obstructed) and is second worst in the league in terms of average per game at time of writing. The Mets 2015 playoff success might have played a part as many Mets supporters are also Islanders fans, but a recent Friday night game against the Bruins drew just over 13,000 despite baseball having the day off. For a team in new digs playing an Original 6 club on a weekend, this is a terrible harbinger.

The main reason for the poor turnout is that too many Islander fans live out on Long Island and cannot afford the regular commute (a return peak/off-peak ticket from Hempstead is $19.75) or the time it takes, particularly on weeknights. There are still a good number of long-standing supporters in the rink but the challenge is to build a new fan base out of previously uninterested corporate types and Brooklyn hipsters. As it is still early, these new fans have yet to emerge. Having the worst attendance in the league might not be a bad thing if the team is generating big bucks for premium suites and glass seats (face value for one ticket I saw was $1,250). But it is a bad thing for this category. Islander fans were great at Nassau Coliseum, but they are not here in enough numbers to give any real home ice advantage.

Access 3

Getting to Barclays Center couldn’t be easier on public transit. There are nine subway lines that have a stop at Atlantic Avenue stop plus two more nearby. The Long Island Railroad is another option, though more expensive. In most cases, you will exit the station into the large plaza in front, with the oculus in clear view. This is as dramatic an approach as you will get in a downtown venue and most fans stop to take a picture. The main entrance might have long lines if you show up just as gates open, while the Atlantic Avenue entrance is just down the street to the left and should provide a quicker entry to the venue. Get there early as the lines tend to form again as the opening face off approaches.

If you want to stand by the glass while the players warm up, you need to be a season-ticket holder. There are 91 “glass passes” handed out before every game and even then, you are limited to Section 25. This is a silly rule; hockey fans love to get close to their heroes and they all leave to return to their regular seats when the warm-ups conclude.

The lower concourse is not that wide as the arena has a relatively small footprint given that it is surrounded by city streets on all sides. The upper concourse is even narrower and gets crowded during intermissions. There are two sets of escalators on the north and south sides of the building to take you between levels. These move fairly well after the game.

Ushers here check your ticket regardless of where you are sitting, so have it ready for inspection, even after you have sat down once. The usher in my section yelled “Make sure you bring your tickets” as fans left for the concessions during the first intermission. One bright spot is that all ushers prevent fans from going to their seats during play.

As is usually the case at hockey games, lines form at restrooms during intermissions, but they move quickly enough. After the game, the crowd empties quickly through the main entrance, with most fans returning to the subway or LIRR for the train ride home.

Return on Investment 3

The Islanders are employing a dynamic pricing system, so tickets for the Rangers visits are quadruple what you would pay when the Coyotes are in town. But given how poorly the team is drawing early, ignore the box office and get something on the secondary market. The Islanders did well in season ticket sales, but many of those people are finding the experience less than ideal and unloading their tickets for far less than they paid. Just remember that sections 201-204 and 228-231 in the east end have obstructed views. Also note that the end zone seats are closer to the ice than those along the sides; rows higher than 10 along the sides are very far away. I prefer section 215 and 217 in the west end, where the Islanders attack twice, as those provide the best combination of value and view.

The Islanders look to be a talented and enjoyable team to watch and that is what makes for an average return on investment , because you can see quality hockey here for far less than you would pay at Madison Square Garden, as long as you are not sitting in the first few rows of the lower bowl or any of the obstructed view seats.

Extras 2

The 2015-2016 season is the first year for hockey at Barclays Center, so there is little here outside of the Islanders Stanley Cup banners and retired numbers.

The Ebbets Field flagpole at the corner of Atlantic and Flatbush, installed to honor the return of pro sports to Brooklyn, is worth a point.

There is a nice display on the Black Fives era, but this is a basketball tribute. I’d like to see something related to the history of the Islanders.

There are charging stations that are good for most devices in case you need a bit of juice, as well as photo booths that allow you to take a picture and email it to yourself or friends and family.

Final Thoughts

It is still very early, but the initial feeling is that the Islanders have made a huge mistake with this move. Sure, they get a lot more money, and they are in a much better situation than they were at the Nassau Coliseum, but the arena is simply not right for hockey and their fan base is stranded far away. Unable to fill the building and with the Rangers the established team in New York City, the Islanders are going to struggle to attract and keep new fans in a venue not suited for the sport. Imagine a first-time visitor in an obstructed view seat; the chance of that individual returning is very slim indeed. To make matters worse, Barclays Center staff are not accustomed to hockey fans and the hockey fans are not accustomed to Barclays Center’s silly rules. Puckheads are a different breed than hoops followers and they might not appreciate being taken advantage of so cynically.

To be fair, the Islanders had very few options once their lease at Nassau Coliseum expired, and again, they are satisfied with the amount that they are receiving from Barclays Center, who themselves must be happy to have 44 more events per year, plus playoffs, in which to generate revenue. Will it be enough to cover their payments to the Islanders? That is the question that will need to be answered before we can really understand the long-term prospects of this move, but such answers will take a year or two to emerge.

Our purpose, though, is to rate the experience from a traveling fan’s point of view. The FANFARE score is not terrible, because we consider all elements equally, and Barclays Center does well in terms of food and its location. However, the overall hockey experience leaves much to be desired. Barclays Center needs to hire some people with hockey marketing experience who can turn the arena into a friendly, welcoming, and affordable venue that will create new hockey fans and bring the old ones back to the fold.

As is always the case in pro sports, a winning product will improve matters, and the Islanders have the makings of a solid, likable team who should contend for the division title. If they can add to their total of Stanley Cups and attract front running fans, the move to Brooklyn might work out, but if not, expect to see the franchise return to a renovated Nassau Coliseum (or another city) when Barclays Center exercises a reported opt-out clause in 2020.

Food and Drink Recommendations

Junior’s Restaurant and Bakery

386 Flatbush Ave. Ext.

Brooklyn, NY 11201

(718) 852-5257

https://www.juniorscheesecake.com/


Lady’s

572 Fulton St.123 Somestreet Road

Brooklyn, NY 11217

(929) 307-2822

https://ladysnyc.com/


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Entertainment Recommendations

Brooklyn Academy of Music

30 Lafayette Ave.

Brooklyn, NY 11217

(718) 636-4100

http://www.bam.org/


New York Transit Museum

Boerum Place and Schermerhorn Street

Brooklyn, NY 11201

(718) 694-1600

http://www.nytransitmuseum.org/


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Lodging Recommendations

 

Aloft New York Brooklyn

216 Duffield St.

Brooklyn, NY 11201

(718) 256-3833

http://www.aloftnewyorkbrooklyn.com/?SWAQ=958P


 

Holiday Inn Express New York-Brooklyn

625 Union St.

Brooklyn, NY 11215

(718) 797-1133

https://www.ihg.com/holidayinnexpress/hotels/us/en/brooklyn/bxyln/hoteldetail?cm_mmc=GoogleMaps-_-EX-_-US-_-BXYLN


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Crowd Reviews

Latest Crowd Reviews

Date: 2017-11-06 10:10:25
By: Legacy Review

Total Score
3.14

The New York Islanders are the only club in the Big 4 to move into a new home in 2015, leaving the decaying Nassau Coliseum for the bright lights of Brooklyn and the Barclays Center. Brooklyn is still part of Long Island, so the team need not change their name, but if early indications are accurate, they will need to change their approach to avoid having this move end up in disaster.

 

Stadium Info

Barclays Center 

620 Atlantic Ave

Brooklyn, NY 11217

New York Islanders website

Barclays Center website

Year Opened: 2012

Capacity: 15,795

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