The arena was conceived by Bruce Ratner of real estate developer Forest City Ratner Companies, the New York division of Forest City Enterprises that Ratner founded. He acquired the New Jersey Nets basketball team in 2004 for $300 million (he has since sold most of his shares to continue funding the project) with the purpose of moving them to the Pacific Park development on Brooklyn's Prospect Heights play in the arena that would be the centerpiece of the Pacific Park commercial and residential redevelopment project. The move had marked the return of major league sports to Brooklyn, which had been absent since the departure of the Dodgers to Los Angeles in 1957. Coincidentally, the original proposal for a domed stadium for the Brooklyn Dodgers was just north of the Pacific Park Brooklyn site, where the Atlantic Terminal Mall, also owned by Forest City Ratner Companies, is currently located.
The arena was initially projected to open in 2006, with the rest of the Pacific Park Brooklyn complex to follow. However, controversies involving local residents, the use of eminent domain, potential environmental impact, lack of continued public financing, as well as a major economic downturn delayed the project. Due to these legal and financial troubles, the development deal seemed headed towards failure or collapse. Frank Gehry, an architect involved in the project's initial designs said, in March 2009, "I don't think it is going to happen," and Ratner at one point explored selling the team. The New York Supreme Court ruled in favor of Ratner on May 16, 2009. Opponents appealed the court decision. A hearing for the appeal was scheduled for October 14, 2009, with a decision to be issued no sooner than November 25.
Russian businessman Mikhail Prokhorov agreed to a $200 million deal on September 23, 2009, to become a principal owner of the Nets and a key investor in the Brooklyn arena.
The Nets played two preseason games at Prudential Center in October 2009. The two preseason games were successful, and a deal that would have the Nets play at the Prudential Center for the 2010–11 and 2011–12 NBA seasons became more likely. Negotiations nearly fell apart, when the New Jersey Sports and Exhibition Authority refused to release the Nets from their lease at Izod. Negotiations resumed, and on February 18, 2010, the Nets finalized a deal that would move them to the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey until Barclays Center opened.
The New York Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the state using eminent domain for the project on November 24, 2009. Empire State Development Corporation Vice President Warner Johnston indicated that the agency is committed to seeing the project completed and said "we can now move forward with development."
Another potential roadblock to this development resulted from the Appellate Court's negative decision regarding a similar eminent domain case, brought against Columbia University. This landmark case could have given new life to the case being brought by the community group Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB).
However, on March 1, 2010, Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Abraham Gerges struck down a challenge by property owners, regarding the state's use of eminent domain, which allowed the private property to be condemned. Groundbreaking for the project occurred on March 11, 2010.
The first concrete was poured into Barclays Center's foundation on June 29, 2010. The arena began vertical construction on November 23, 2010, with the erection of the first steel piece. The arena topped out on January 12, 2012, and was opened to the public on September 21, 2012.
The New York Islanders of the National Hockey League (NHL) announced on October 24, 2012, that the franchise would be moving to Barclays Center in 2015, following the expiration of their lease of the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum, which the team has called home since its inception in 1972. The deal didn't require the involvement of the New York Rangers, as the Islanders' agreement with the Rangers to share the New York area allows them to relocate anywhere on Long Island, including the two boroughs on the island, Brooklyn and Queens. While Barclays Center was originally conceived as a multipurpose arena that could easily accommodate both the Nets and an NHL team, it was ultimately built mainly for basketball use. While it can nevertheless accommodate an NHL-size rink, the scoreboard was off-centered above the blue line that is located closer to the southeast end of the arena. Capacity for hockey is 15,795, the second-smallest in the league (behind Winnipeg's MTS Centre). The seating arrangement for hockey is asymmetrical. There are only three rows of permanent seating on the northwest end of the arena, and at least 416 seats won't be sold at all due to poor sight lines. As a result of the signing of the lease, the two KHL games that were scheduled to be played in the arena on January 20 and 21, 2013 between Dynamo Moscow and SKA St. Petersburg were moved back to their teams' home venues. As part of the deal, the management of the Barclays Center took over the business operations of the Islanders when the team moved to Brooklyn, though Charles Wang remained principal owner and continued to oversee hockey operations. This arrangement continued after Wang sold controlling interest in the Islanders to Jon Ledecky and Scott D. Malkin.
According to Billboard Magazine, Barclays Center passed Madison Square Garden as the highest-grossing venue in the US for concerts and family shows, not counting sports events. That statistic was based on ticket sales between November 1, 2012, and May 31, 2013. On February 24, 2015, an ironworker was killed when four joists fell on him as he was helping to install the arena's green roof.
The arena is formally owned by the Brooklyn Arena Local Development Corporation, a public entity. It is leased to private entity Brooklyn Events Center, LLC for $1.00. Being publicly owned, the financing of the stadium was eligible for tax-exempt bonds, which were issued in 2009 for a total of $510,999,996.50.
Barclays Center is designed by the architect firm SHoP Architects. Ellerbe Becket/AECOM served as the project Architect of record.
Initial concepts for the area were designed by Frank Gehry, whose design proposed a rooftop park (open only to residents of the Atlantic Yards complex) ringed by an open-air running track and capable of doubling as an ice skating rink in winter with panoramic, year-round views of Manhattan. The famed architect's tallest tower, called Miss Brooklyn at 620 feet, was also part of this plan. Gehry's plans carried a projected cost of $1 billion. Forest City Ratner unveiled a scaled back version of the project on February 2008 reducing Miss Brooklyn's size 40%, and making it 109 feet shorter. Another redesign unveiled just over two months later scrapped Miss Brooklyn entirely, and in January 2009, the developer started "value engineering" the arena design, cutting its budget even more. In September 2009 the Becket/SHoP proposal with a projected cost (initially) of $800 million (ultimately itself revised to $1 billion) was unveiled.
Externally, the arena's shape features three articulated bands with features a glass curtain wall covered by a "latticework" composed of 12,000 preweathered steel panels engineered and constructed by ASI Limited/SHoP Construction meant to evoke the image of Brooklyn's brownstones. A 117-by-56-foot (36 by 17 m) oculus extends over a 5,660-square-foot (526 m2) section of the plaza outside of the main arena entrance with an irregularly shaped display screen looping the interior face of the oculus. The arena floor's location below grade allows people in the plaza to view the scoreboard.
Inside the arena bowl, there are two sports lighting systems: one for the Nets and one for everyone else. The Nets lighting creates a theater-like effect where the court pops like a stage while the rest of the arena goes dark.
Unlike most other urban venues in the US, Barclays Center has no dedicated parking lot; however, it is easily accessible by subway, bus, and railroad. To accommodate entry to the facility, the arena's 38,885-square-foot (3,613 m2) entrance plaza features a $76 million transit connection hub that serves as the plaza's focal point. The transit structure connects with the refurbished Atlantic Avenue–Barclays Center subway station, whose renovation was designed by New York City firm Stantec.
The original plan promised indoor room for bicycles but the plan was scrapped before the arena's opening with outdoor racks for 400 bicycles, which were eventually taken away. The Empire State Development corporation also promised spots for 550 cars eventually, next to the arena.
On January 18, 2007, it was announced that the arena would be called Barclays Center, after London-based banking group Barclays. It was reported that the banking and financial services company agreed to pay the team $400 million over the next 20 years for the naming rights of their Brooklyn home, eclipsing the previous record for naming rights to an American indoor arena, set by Royal Philips Electronics in 1999, for $185 million over 20 years for Philips Arena in Atlanta. However, the rights were renegotiated by the end of 2009, and are somewhat more than $200 million. Barclays does not have any retail banks in the US and does not have its own ATMs in the arena.
Barclays Center is located next to Atlantic Terminal, which services the Long Island Rail Road's Atlantic Branch. Barclays Center is also accessible via the New York City Subway, via the 2 3 4 5 B Q D N R trains, which stop at Atlantic Avenue–Barclays Center.
MTA Regional Bus Operations service is provided by B37, B41, B45, B63, B65, B67, and B103 buses.
The first NBA basketball game played at the new arena was an NBA preseason game between the Nets and the Washington Wizards on October 15, 2012.
The first regular season NBA game at the Barclays Center took place on November 3, 2012, when the Nets beat the visiting Toronto Raptors 107–100. The originally scheduled season opener home game was supposed to take place on November 1 against now-cross town rivals the New York Knicks, in what was planned to be a historic event; however, the game was canceled by NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg due to mass transportation outages and a shortage of available police caused by Hurricane Sandy.
The venue hosted the 2013 NBA draft on June 27, 2013 and the 2015 NBA All-Star Weekend festivities on February 13–14, 2015. It will also host the 2016 NBA draft.
Barclays Center will also be the hosts for the Long Island Nets of the NBA Development League during the 2016–17 season while the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum is being renovated where the team will move in for the 2017–18 season.
Since its opening, the center has hosted a number of college basketball events. Kentucky and Maryland signed multi-year agreements to play games at the arena after competing head-to-head in 2012. The arena currently hosts three early-season basketball tournaments: Barclays Center Classic, Coaches vs. Cancer Classic, and Legends Classic.
The Atlantic 10 Conference announced that Barclays Center will be the new home of the conference's men's basketball tournament beginning in 2013. The Atlantic Coast Conference has announced that the 2017 and 2018 ACC Men's Basketball Tournament will be hosted at the Barclays Center. This is a break of tradition from being hosted at the "unofficial" home of the tournament at the Greensboro Coliseum in Greensboro, North Carolina where it is usually held. As part of a three-way agreement with Barclays and the ACC, the A-10 will return its men's basketball championship to the Barclays Center in 2019, 2020 and 2021.
In 2016, Barclays Center hosted games in the NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Tournament for the first time. Notable moments at the Brooklyn site include a tip-in at the buzzer by Adam Woodbury to lift the Iowa Hawkeyes past Temple in overtime, and 14th-seeded Stephen F. Austin's upset win over West Virginia.
The Islanders played the first NHL hockey game at Barclays Center in a preseason game on September 21, 2013, losing to the New Jersey Devils 3–0 in front of a crowd of 14,689. The first goal in the arena's history was scored by Jacob Josefson of the New Jersey Devils. An Islanders game was scheduled for the previous preseason but was canceled due to the 2012–13 NHL lockout. The Islanders and Devils played again on September 26, 2014. This time, the Islanders defeated New Jersey 3–2 in a shootout. The first goal in Islanders Brooklyn history was scored in the first period on a power play (and a delayed penalty call) by defenseman Ryan Pulock.
The first regular season game was played on October 9, 2015 against the 2015 Stanley Cup champions the Chicago Blackhawks, who won the game 3–2 in overtime. This was the sixth NHL game at Barclays Center, following five total preseason contests (three in 2015), and one Islanders rookie scrimmage. The first NHL regular season goal scored in the Barclays Center was a shorthanded goal by Artem Anisimov for the Blackhawks in the first period, while John Tavares scored in the second period and was the first Islander to do so.
The first Stanley Cup playoffs game at Barclays Center was held on April 17, 2016, when the Islanders defeated the Florida Panthers 4–3 in game three of the first-round series between the two teams. Seven nights later, the arena hosted game 6 of the series, which turned out to be the longest home game in Islanders history. In that game, the Islanders were trailing 1–0 when Tavares scored the game-tying goal with 53.2 seconds left in regulation; he would score the series-clinching goal in double overtime to give the Islanders their first playoff series win since 1993.
Several boxing matches have taken place in the arena, including Danny Garcia v Zab Judah and Ruslan Provodnikov v Chris Algieri. The arena has also hosted many wrestling events, including WWE TLC: Tables, Ladders, and Chairs (2012) and several WWE Monday Night Raw events. Following the success of three consecutive sold out nights in the arena for Monday Night Raw, NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn, and SummerSlam on August 22–24, 2015, it was announced on September 28, 2015 that WWE would return for three consecutive nights for Monday Night Raw, NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn, and SummerSlam in 2016 and 2017.
In addition to many concerts from a variety of musical acts, the center hosted the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards on August 25, 2013, bringing the show to a New York City borough other than Manhattan for the first time.
During its building, the center was the source of a number of controversies involving local residents, the use of eminent domain, potential environmental impact, lack of continued public financing, as well as a major economic downturn delayed the project. The New York Supreme Court ruled in favor of Ratner on May 16, 2009. Opponents appealed the court decision, and a hearing for the appeal was scheduled for October 14, 2009, with a decision to be issued no sooner than November 25.
On November 24, 2009, the New York Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the state using eminent domain for the project. Empire State Development Corporation Vice President Warner Johnston indicated that the agency is committed to seeing the project completed and said "we can now move forward with development."
The Barclays Center has also been accused of mistreating luxury box holders who are African-American. Three employees of Ludwig's Pharmacy in Prospect Heights claimed in a lawsuit, filed in October 2013, that they were singled out for bad treatment at the arena just because they are black. They are suing for $4 million.
A group of 120 part-time construction workers who work to convert the arena from concert hall to sports venue unsuccessfully tried to switch unions in February 2013. The pay for part-time work is structured differently than that of the same work at Madison Square Garden, workers have complained about not being able to make a living on one-day-a-month work at $14/hour, and being barred from collecting unemployment.
Since the Islanders moved to the Barclays Center, there have been numerous complaints about obstructed view seats, due to the fact that the arena was not built with ice hockey in mind. Business Insider has called sections 201 to 204 and 228 to 231, "the worst seat in American professional sports". In an interview with Sports Illustrated, Barclays Center CEO Brett Yormark acknowledged the issue, but insisted nothing can be done: "There's really nothing we’re going to do from a capital improvement standpoint. You can watch the game on your mobile device. The game is on the scoreboard."
Since the Islanders moved to the Barclays Center, there have been numerous complaints about the quality of the ice during hockey games. The stadium uses PVC piping instead of steel piping under the ice surface, making it much harder for the place to maintain NHL standards and temperature.