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Ratner Thinking about Brooklyn Beyond Basketball

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When the winners of the AVP Brooklyn Open were given their $28,000 check Saturday in Coney Island, the presenter was none other than Vince Carter...and the winning volleyballers were both wearing those red Nets' jerseys with the number 15 emblazoned across the front. (In keeping with a recent trend in volleyball, the winners were both Carter-sized...and a lot bigger than Nets owner Bruce Ratner, whose head can barely be seen peering over the over sized check.)

To make sure no one missed the linkage, the Nets and AVP gave each other coverage on their websites. And Carter, a volleyball player in high school, pronounced it a good time.

It shouldn't really surprise anyone that the Nets are pushing their connection to Brooklyn, but the AVP Open is not just about marketing the team. It's about other opportunities the Nets' owners see in sports, both professional and amateur, as well as entertainment. And not just now and not just in Coney Island, but in the future and at the Nets' Brooklyn arena, the Barclays Center.

Chris Brahe is one of the lesser known members of the Nets' front office team. His official title is vice president of property sales. He is also vice president of Brooklyn Sports and Entertainment, a Nets affiliate but his Nets' bio doesn't give much detail on what he is responsible for: selling that arena not just to Nets fans but to a wide variety of sports and entertainment promoters. Brahe, a NASCAR marketing executive in a previous life, could become Brooklyn's impresario.

In an interview with Brooklyn Community Access Television last year, Brahe laid out BSE's plans: "As you know we are moving our team to Brooklyn, hopefully for the 2009 season and Bruce Ratner felt it was very important to start developing relationships with the community now.

"We wanted to bring world class events to Brooklyn years before the arena opens. So he set up a separate company, called Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment, in partnership with Atlantic Yards (the Ratner real estate development to be anchored by the Nets' new arena) with the goal of allowing us to do business in Brooklyn before the Nets moved there"...AND when the Nets move there as well.

The Nets should fill the arena on average of 47 times a year, according to a Ratner planning document obtained by an arena critic. That's one preseason game, 41 regular season games, and five playoff games (two rounds and out?). That leaves more than 300 dates open. BSE will try to fill more than 200 of them.

The Ratner planning document looks at what would be a typical year at the Barclays Center beyond the Nets: eight dates for college basketball (an invitational tournament or NCAA March Madness?); another eight for Major League Lacrosse; three for WWE wrestling; two each for the Harlem Globetrotters, New York City high school basketball, the Pro Figure Skating tour and Monster Truck Show (the last two not likely to draw the same audience); as well as one each for the Boom Boom Huck Jam Extreme Sports show, Motorcross and that most Brooklyn of sports, Rodeo and Bull Riding.

That's just the sports part. Entertainment would take up another 40 dates, including 16 "ethnic shows", not further described. Scattered about the calendar would be 26 dates reserved for college and high school graduations and "fixed fee rentals" (possibly including mass Hasidic weddings...no joke); 20 for religious and motivational shows (Yes, the Dalai Lama, but what about Tony Robbins? Lawrence Frank?); 20 for "childrens' productions"; 25 for Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey (Elephants in the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel?) and 33 for Disney on Ice.

A more recent and public statement from Ratner promises a similar slate, but doesn't provide specifics. It does promise that "at least ten events a year will be set aside for multicultural, recreational and nonprofit uses, with proceeds from those days going to benefit local nonprofit community groups. The Center will also include a non-denominational meditation room" (available for Nets fans after losses?)

Although Jay-Z's role is not mentioned in the planning document, he has said he will have a role in booking the arena. And why not? But what about other Net investors like Mary Higgins Clark, the mystery writer, and Ratner's brother, Michael, the radical lawyer? Anything for them? Imagine the possibilities.

None of this can happen until the arena is built and that 2009-10 deadline looks increasingly unlikely. Until then, Brahe and his team will be dealing mostly with events in the great outdoors, like volleyball, basketball clinics and other community projects. But that's not stopping Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment from marketing the best seats in the house. Sometime in the next few weeks, a 10,000 square foot Barclays Center Showroom will be opened on the 38th floor of the New York Times building opposite the Port Authority. Models of the arena, as well as Frank Gehry-designed corporate box, will be on display...as will a lot of sales people.