Rethinking Nets Arena

With the recession and credit crisis casting a dark shadow on construction projects throughout the U.S., developer Bruce Ratner may be rethinking shelling out so much dough for the proposed $1 billion, Frank Gehry-designed arena for the New Jersey Nets basketball team in New York City.

Comparatively, The Prudential Center in Newark, N.J., which opened in 2007 as home to the National Hockey League’s Devils, cost about $400 million, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The downtown Brooklyn arena is the centerpiece of Ratner’s $4 billion Atlantic Yards project, a plan that includes an office tower Gehry nicknamed “Miss Brooklyn” and thousands of new apartments.

Gehry, the architect of modern masterpieces including the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain, had overseen the design of almost every detail of the proposed arena and surrounding development. His designs are known for their curving glass and metal surfaces. Preliminary designs for the Nets arena included massive glass atriums and levels of seats tilted to resemble butterfly wings, according to the WSJ.

Although the Nets and Ratner are looking into making the arena less of a masterpiece and more of a traditional sports venue, a spokesman for Ratner’s development company, Forest City, told the WSJ Jan. 8 Gehry had not been fired.

“We are continuing to speak with many arena experts and working hard to find ways to build a world-class venue in an incredibly difficult economic environment,” the spokesman said in a statement.

When the economic downturn hit last year, Ratner announced he would be concentrating his efforts solely on the arena until the market for residential and commercial structures improved. The New York Post reported that in December the developer has stopped all work on Atlantic Yards until a lawsuit trying to block the project is resolved.

The Nets hope that’s sooner rather than later because the team is losing more than $30 million a year playing at their current digs, the Izod Center in East Rutherford, N.J., according to the WSJ.