After 9 Years, Vision Becomes Reality at Barclays Center

Friday morning, shortly after developer Bruce Ratner took stage in the Geico Atrium at Barclays Center, the lights came on. Nine years of vision had become a reality.

"We first needed to buy a basketball team, and against all odds, we did it," Ratner said. "We needed to find a location with the very best public transportation, and we did it. We had to win 35 judicial decisions, and we did it. We had to survive the worst economic climate in 70 years, and we did it. We needed to keep our promise to bring the first major professional sports team back to Brooklyn, and we did it. And we needed to build for Brooklyn the most architecturally beautiful arena in this country, and we did it!"

The triumphant tone of Ratner's momentum-gaining refrain spilled over into the following speakers. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg touted the jobs and opportunities gained by New Yorkers, pointing to the 800-plus daily construction jobs and 2,000 arena staff positions that will be filled by more than 1,300 Brooklyn residents, 500 of them New York City Housing Authority residents.

Brooklyn Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov, who also maintains an interest in the arena, praised Ratner for his dogged commitment to the project. Brought in to partner on the team and arena, Prokhorov joked that Ratner showed him a "hole" two years ago, and was glad the developer wielded enough vision to see the design through to completion.

"Not everyone gets to be part of a project that changes the face and the destiny of this city," Prokhorov said. "Maybe those who were at the opening of the Brooklyn Bridge, they could say, 'We saw a symbol being born.' And I do believe we are all the lucky witnesses to such an event, because Barclays Center arena is so much more than just a building. It will be the place where everything is happening and everyone is welcome, if you are Brooklyn or Manhattan, Miami or Moscow. Barclays Center will be the heart of the Brooklyn borough."

Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz followed, using stilted (and Brooklynese-inflected) Russian to tell Prokhorov and Ratner, "We're proud of you." He assured Brooklyn Nets CEO Brett Yormark that "Brooklyn is in the house" -- a sentiment echoed by New York State Lieutenant Governor Robert Duffy, who joked that his lifelong Knicks fandom had come to an end.

Thomas Kalaris, Executive Chairman of the Americas for Barclays, spoke about his company's belief in the arena's ability to bring the community together to watch the world's best sports and entertainment. And Charles Ratner, cousin of Bruce and chairman of Forest City Enterprises, recalled his wonderment at the opportunities provided by a country his father emigrated to just one generation earlier.

The Community Benefits Agreement Board was represented by Chair Delia Hunley-Adossa, who spoke of the desired commitment to ensure "the next Deron Williams" had a chance to watch the Nets play. And Yormark closed the ceremony, announcing the arena has exceeded any expectation placed upon it since initial conception.

"Both Barclays Center and the Brooklyn Nets will be part of the fabric of this community," Yormark said. "We'll provide long-lasting memories and make a positive difference in people's lives. You have my word that we are committed to being the best, and doing our best. Thank you, Brooklyn."

Check out these exclusive photos of the ribbon-cutting ceremony.

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