Before the move to Downtown Brooklyn, I actually only attended one New Jersey Nets game – last season at Prudential Center in Newark, also known as “The Rock.”
After now experiencing a Nets’ game from the stands at Barclays Center rather than the press box, it’s an incredibly different experience.
I settled into my seat in Section 211, just two rows away from the roof, for Tuesday night’s contest between the Nets and Raptors, which Brooklyn of course won 113-106.
Right from the start, the energy level in the arena was off the charts. Even though the players looked like ants from my perspective, I still felt like I was part of the action. These fans have certainly rallied around their new hometown team.
Even in the very last row, a group of young gentlemen were screaming at the top of their lungs the entire game. They probably could barely see what was going on, but just that fact that they were so passionate about their team speaks volumes to what the new Brooklyn Nets represent.
This is the borough's team, and the county of Kings has supported its new team well so far.
The stadium itself is so modern and immaculate, which really enhances a fan’s experience. Prudential Center was very clean as well and actually offered a bit more space in the concourses, but the atmosphere is totally different.
The lighting in the arena is not only great for the players, but it's also great for the fans who can focus on the game action without much distraction. It's like a total blackout – with black seats and a black ceiling – and the only light shines right on the court.
My favorite aspect of the whole Barclays Center experience was actually waiting outside under the oculus, complete with a 3,000-foot LCD screen. That structure is likely to become one of the iconic images of Brooklyn, along with the Williamsburgh Savings Bank clock tower down the block and the Brooklyn Bridge just a few blocks away.
Fans are bustling around outside the arena before the game trying to find their friends coming up from the subway station right at the corner of Flatbush and Atlantic Ave., while cars are whizzing by one of the busiest intersections in Brooklyn. It's flat out crazy!
And it's certainly loud and can be quite confusing for fans not familiar with the area. Cars and buses are beeping each other; people are yelling; and sirens are constantly screeching. It feels like a sports arena just as much outside as it does inside the building.
It's this atmosphere that offers so much more for a Nets fan now than the last two seasons at Prudential Center. The Championship Plaza right outside "The Rock" is a great area to meet with friends before or after the game, but it's all about the New Jersey Devils, who shared the stadium with the Nets. It would be easy for Nets fans to forget what game they are going to when waiting outside the arena.
Even on Nets game nights, the traces of the Devils were everywhere at "The Rock." Most of the seats at Prudential are even embroidered with the Devils logo.
Now, I’m also a Devils fan – weird combination being from Long Island, I know – so I’ve been to “The Rock” for a few Devils games as well. Just like Barclays feels like home for the Nets, Prudential Center feels like home for the Devils.
But that was not the case for the Nets when they played there.
Barclays Center actually feels like the Nets home. There are actually fans decked out in Nets gear everywhere you look.
The one game I went to at “The Rock,” the Nets played the Pacers, and there were just as many Pacers fans there that night as Nets fans. That should be the case for maybe the Knicks, Lakers or Heat, but definitely not the Indiana Pacers.
The problem was that the Nets were second-class citizens at “The Rock."
Maybe it had to do with the fact that the team never even sniffed the playoffs during its two seasons in Newark, but the fans at “The Rock” had little energy compared to the Brooklynites from Tuesday.
The idea of Brooklyn pride is overly stressed at Barclays, so maybe the initial sensation hasn’t quite worn off nearly halfway through the inaugural season. Plus it certainly helps that the team is on a hot streak.
But either way, it’s a thrilling experience for a Nets fan, especially one who has attended a game at “The Rock.”
The Nets would have to host a few meaningful playoff series in the new few seasons for the arena’s atmosphere to rival that of Madison Square Garden. The Garden is still the Mecca of New York sports.
But even after sitting amongst the fans for one game, I have a good feeling that a Nets game at Barclays Center will someday be the hottest ticket in town.
Jim Mancari is a Contributor to SNYNets.com. Follow him on Twitter @JMMancari.