The indefatigable Norman Oder — at least, we’ve never seen him defatigued — reported yesterday on his Atlantic Yards Report that Brooklyn’s new Nets arena is about to get a “honking big” Barclays logo on its roof. This is normal and expected for roofed sports facilities these days (check out the lid on Newark’s Prudential Center, for example), except that “honking big roof logo” apparently was never mentioned in the design guidelines that arena builder Bruce Ratner presented to the state in 2006. At the time, the roof was going to be a Frank Gehry-designed green space; now that it’s instead a big expanse of white metal, apparently the state Empire State Development Corporation, which owns the arena site and oversees the project, gave the okay for logorifficness.
So, who should care? Aside from condo buyers in the former Williamsburgh Bank building, who are going to have to stare at this thing every time they look out their landmarked windows, it’s not likely to make much of a dent on many Brooklynite eyeballs, something that the ESDC cited to Oder as a reason for okaying the deal. Mostly, the only people who will be confronted with this enormous reminder of the stars of the LIBOR scandal will be Google Earth browsers and passengers in passing planes.
Those eyeballs in the sky, however, could mean big money for Ratner. E.J. Narcise, a principal partner at Team Services LLC, which markets naming-rights deals for stadium and arena owners, says that in the sports marketing biz, “rooftop signage became very prominent within the last ten years.” And the two things corporate sponsors look for when shopping for roofs are a sizable population center and proximity to a major flight path, both of which the Brooklyn arena has in abundance. Passengers on the left side of LaGuardia-bound flights, in fact, will have a perfect view of the giant not-Nazi-related-at-all-really eagle as they return their seat backs to an upright position.
“Like anything in real estate, it’s location, location, location,” says Narcise. “If you talk about an arena for a university in Columbia, Missouri, that roof pales in comparison to a roof in Brooklyn.”
Sadly, Narcise declines to put a number on the value of that location, though he does call it “an extremely valuable piece of inventory.” And since it’s valuable for pretty much only one thing — “you’re not going to put ‘Eat at Joe’s’ up there” — if you can’t use it for the logo of the company that just paid you $20-million-a-year-or-maybe-it’s-really-only-$10-million for naming rights, then you’re stuck giving them more fungible ad space elsewhere in your building, leaving fewer bare walls to sell off to the next corporate logo jockey who comes along.
Narcise notes that one reason roof ads have become so ubiquitous is that they’re fairly unobtrusive from ground level, unlike pretty much everything else about a sports facility. Even if the arena’s curved roof leaves a sliver of the new logo visible from street level, it’s certainly going to have less of an impact on Brooklynites’ psyches than the newly renamed “Atlantic Avenue-Barclays Center” subway station that has spawned protests. On the other hand, at least we the taxpayers, via the MTA, are getting paid for that one. Pick your poison.