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Abbamondi: Barclays Center using shutdown to improve fan experience at arena

NBA: Miami Heat at Brooklyn Nets Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports

In talking with Brian Lewis, John Abbamondi, the Nets and Barclays Center CEO, says he wants to be “strategic” in using the time afforded by the NBA shutdown to improve fan experience at the arena — from installing new x-ray machines at security check points to improving the high-end clubs to adding new entrances to the Barclays Center.

“We’re taking advantage of this time,” Abbamondi told The Post. “We’ve tried to be strategic … use this time to prepare ourselves for when we do bring fans back. We’re investing a lot right now to make the Barclays Center experience even better than it was...

“We have lots of plans. Those plans have served as a template, but we’ll adapt. I know we’ll be ready whenever the season starts. And we’ll do everything in our power to keep not only our players, but our fans healthy as we come back in some sense of normalcy as we wage this fight against the virus.”

Bottom line for Abbamondi: something he learned as a Navy fighter pilot who flew combat missions over Iraq: “We used to say improvise, adapt and overcome. That’s the mindset our whole organization is in right now.”

No one knows, of course, when fans will come back this season or in 2021-22. That depends on the virus. Still, Abbamondi listed some of what’s been going on at Atlantic and Flatbush.

Lewis enumerated some of the changes...

Among those ways was the hiring of executive chef Livio Velardo, who’d been the Executive Chef at Balthazar. They’re also making a significantly larger team store in a different part of the arena, renovating some of their club spaces, including the Diamond Club and building new entrances to help with ingress and egress.

Once fans finally get to use those new entrances, they’ll have their bags run through new X-ray machines rather than manually searched.

Getting in and out of the arena has been a sore point among some fans with time-consuming security checks just inside the entrances as well as along streets bordering the arena. That’s particularly been a problem during construction of apartment towers on the arena periphery which has often meant channeling fans through tight spaces constrained by scaffolding. There are currently two such towers —one 52 stories, the other 26— underway on Sixth Street “behind” the arena. No word on where the new entrances will be located but there are currently no arena entrances along Flatbush.

Similarly, there are often lines outside the Swag Shoppe on the main concourse. Expanding and improving the team store should help team revenue as well. NBA teams make a higher profit on gear sold on-site than they do online.

The improvements, Abbamondi noted, is more about safety than convenience, keeping fans — and employees — free of COVID-19. This is particularly true at the security checkpoints where so much of the process has been very much hands-on.

“We want to keep our workers safe, so rather than manual bag checks, to help social distancing — which permeates everything we’re doing — we’re going to run them through X-ray machines,” Abbamondi told Lewis. “Just one way we’re trying to make the building safe in a post-COVID environment.”

Although Abbamondi wouldn’t directly say the Nets throwback uniforms and accompanying court is about luring fans from New Jersey, he did not dismiss the marketing aspect.

“It’s just a great jersey, such a good-looking jersey. We felt as an organization the time was right to bring that back,” Abbamondi said.

“No question this organization has deep roots in New Jersey, and spent the majority of the franchise’s history there. I don’t know if it’s a change of strategy so much as just acknowledging there’s a lot of fans of the team in New Jersey. If this will make them happy, I’m all for it.”

Prior to the arrival of Joe and Clara Wu Tsai, fans from the 35 years the team spent in New Jersey felt they were being treated as second-class citizens. Privately, team officials would admit the Nets had “given up” on the state.

Abbamondi added that the team is working with YES Network to improve the fan experience on television and screening services. Of course, just the addition of a healthy Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, plus Steve Nash, should get fans watching. YES ratings jumped by 10 percent last season despite all the injuries (and national ratings increased by 42 percent).

“We have a really exciting season coming up. We’re thrilled with the coaching staff Steve’s put together, excited to see KD and Kyrie on the court together, and there’s a whole bunch of talented players on this roster,” Abbamondi said.

“There’s a lot to look forward to. We do hope to have fans back in the building at some point, although we have to be realistic: Everybody’s safety and health comes first. We have a real exciting season coming up, and we can’t wait to get started.”

The new season could start as early as December 22, seven weeks from Thursday. The players union will vote at the end of this week on when to begin play.