BROOKLYN, N.Y.– You couldn’t help but stare.
Walking inside the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., for the first time, the reaction seemed to be the same for everyone. Heads turning and spinning in all directions, looking up the immense and modern home of the Brooklyn Nets and the site of this year’s Atlantic 10 tournament.
There was disagreement about what feature people liked most. The large open concourse overlooking Brooklyn, the massive scoreboard the size of a New York apartment or, my favorite, the banner honoring Julius “Dr. J” Erving.
Atlantic City, N.J. and Boardwalk Hall had been the home of the A-10 tourney since 2007, but as one member of the Dayton media told me, the Barclays Center was a “big step up” from Boardwalk Hall.
And he’s right.
Boardwalk Hall was not what one would call a “shooter’s paradise.” On one baseline were seats like an average arena, but on the other side was nothing but a large mural of a ship painted on the wall over 100 feet behind the basket.
I had enough problems watching the ball on that side of the court, I can only imagine what the players must have felt like trying to shoot with nothing behind the basket to help them judge the distance.
After Dayton’s first round loss to Butler, 73-67, junior forward Devin Oliver said there were a couple differences between the two venues and that he enjoyed playing in the Barclays Center.
“I think this floor had a little bit more bounce,” he said. “Boardwalk Hall is kind of older, the court’s a little bit more dead. And this place is more open. I don’t know this place just kind of feels … it’s brand new.”
There’s also something to be said for Brooklyn and New York City when compared to Atlantic City, although the times in Atlantic City weren’t all bad. But that’s another story.
There wasn’t much to look at in Boardwalk Hall, besides the painted ship, but the league was also worried about the lack of fans during games. There were some games when only a couple thousand fans, sometimes not even that many, would be in attendance inside the 10,500-seat hall.
I sat courtside the last two years in Atlantic City and the fans were right behind me, but both the press and the fans felt far removed from the floor.
The Barclays Center seats 18,103, but already it feels much more intimate a setting than Boardwalk Hall. This should make for some great basketball, not just for this tournament, but for years to come.
Boardwalk Hall, though, was known for boxing and some of the tremendous fights it hosted, including most of the late, great Arturo Gatti’s fights.
Barclays can even match that as the light heavyweight fight between Bernard Hopkins and Tavoris Cloud for the International Boxing Federation title was held in the Barclays Center last Saturday, March 10.
Before the start of the first A-10 tournament game to be played in the Barclays Center between No. 8-seed Richmond and No. 9-seed Charlotte, I talked with Bucky Bockhorn, the 30-year color commentator for UD basketball on WHIO Radio.
We sat on press row as he looked around, admiring the ribbon boards circling all the way around the second level of the arena and the massive video board that hangs above the court.
I asked him what he thought about the place and he said:
“This is really neat. I’ve been to a lot of arenas in my day … but this is just outstanding.”
You really couldn’t help but stare when inside the Barclays Center. It was designed to do that.