NEW YORK, Jan. 18(AP)-- A British bank hoping to expand its U.S. profile will spend as much as $400 million over the next 20 years to put its name on the New Jersey Nets' planned Brooklyn arena.

Nets owner Bruce Ratner announced Thursday the 18,000-seat stadium designed by architect Frank Gehry will be called The Barclays Center when it opens later this decade.

He declined to say how much London-based Barclays paid to attach its name to the complex. Bank executives and city officials described the investment as "more than $300 million.'' A person with knowledge of the deal, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to reveal the price, said its total value was almost $400 million.

That total would be among the steepest ever paid for the naming rights to an indoor American sports arena, but comparable to the $20 million per year that Citigroup Inc. reportedly agreed to pay to name the New York Mets stadium being built in Queens.

Barclays PLC president Robert Diamond said he is convinced the exposure will be well worth the price.

"Building our brand in the U.S. is very, very important to us,'' he said.

The bank also is the title sponsor of the PGA Tour's area event, The Barclays at Westchester Country Club in Harrison.

Nets stars Jason Kidd and Vince Carter, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, NBA commissioner David Stern, Gehry and Nets minority owner and rapper Jay-Z attended Thursday's announcement at the Brooklyn Museum.

Bloomberg said the marketing partnership, which includes a pledge by the bank to refurbish basketball courts in city parks, will "benefit Brooklyn and the city for many years to come.''

The sponsorship agreement might exceed Ratner's cost of buying the team; he paid $300 million for the franchise in 2004.

The naming-rights deal was expected to help defray building costs on the 22-acre site, which will include a $4 billion mini-city atop what is now a rail yard and a mix of residential and industrial blocks. The development, dubbed Atlantic Yards, faces fierce opposition from some Brooklynites who say the collection of high-rises will overwhelm what is now a neighborhood of brownstones, brick townhouses and small shops and restaurants.

About a dozen picketers protested outside the museum Thursday in the falling snow.

Sports marketing deals are nothing new for Barclays, the leading sponsor of Premier League soccer in England, but this arrangement eclipsed other recent naming deals for indoor sports arenas.

Prudential Financial Inc. announced this month that it would pay $105.3 million over 20 years to put its name on the New Jersey Devils' new arena in Newark, N.J.


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