(The Root) — In Brooklyn, N.Y., press, local politicians, investors and curious onlookers got their first glimpse of the completed Barclays Center on Friday. While Brooklyn Nets minority share investor Jay-Z wasn’t on hand to personally cut the opening-ceremony ribbon, Bruce Ratner, chairman and CEO of Forest City Ratner Companies, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Nets Owner Mikhail Prokhorov introduced the structure that’s been both a symbol of progress and unstoppable change to locals since construction began in 2010.
The migration of the Nets to Brooklyn means the borough gets its first local sports team since 1957, when the Dodgers found a new home in Los Angeles, but jobs were the hot topic of the day.
“The staff in the arena will create 2,000 more jobs. Nearly 1,700 people have been hired already,” Bloomberg told the sizeable crowd. “More than 1,300 are from Brooklyn and 550 of them live in Brooklyn’s public housing.”
Critics of the arena have cited traffic congestion in the downtown Brooklyn location, slammed the use of eminent domain evictions to clear the space and even complained about the purposely rusted “weathering steel” facade. But Friday was all about showing off the amenities the Barclays Center boasts.
Approaching the 675,000 square-foot arena’s front entrance, visitors can see a 3,000-square-foot, 360-degree LED marquee screen, 30 feet above ground, listing upcoming events and possibly the latest Nets’ game score. The team plays its first game against the New York Knicks on Nov. 1. Boasting 11 Vault Suites designed by Jay-Z and 101 luxury suites featuring refrigerators and food-warming stations, the 19,000-seat Barclays Center also has an array of sponsored spaces like the Calvin Klein Courtside Club and retail venues like the Nets Shop by adidas, Metro PCS, Rocawear and Starbucks, some of which are accessible from the street.
For food, organizers pulled in local fare, including BBQ joint Fatty ‘Cue. A 40/40 Club restaurant, which is still under construction, is tucked away near the Center’s VIP entrance. A gluten-free trolley sits in a hallway dotted with quaint eatery options named after Brooklyn neighborhoods like Clinton Hill Burgers and Bed-Stuy Grill.
Still, the most famous man behind the Barclays Center, whose financial involvement, string of approaching concerts dates and personal endorsement have done much to publicize the space, was noticeably absent. But when Jay-Z begins his eight-night Barclays performance series on Sept. 28, just minutes away from the Bed-Stuy projects where he once lived, people near and far will see whether the right mix of celebrity and sport can truly change a neighborhood — for better or worse.
Hillary Crosley is The Root‘s New York City bureau chief. Follow her on Twitter.