New Barclays Design Nets A Yawn

Any hopes of the New Jersey Nets shooting hoops in a Frank Gehry-designed arena are dashed, but the team’s still in for some new digs.

While the Barclays Center, a cornerstone of developer Forest City Ratner’s $4 billion Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn, N.Y., has languished amid economic and legal setbacks in recent years, the project is finally set to break ground in late ’09 – with a revamped design.

Forest City has tapped sports architectural firm Ellerbe Becket to take over the reins on the Nets’ future home. The developer previously said the firm had been enlisted to help “implement cost-cutting measures” to Gehry’s $1 billion vision for the arena.

Forest City CEO Bruce Ratner thanked Gehry for his partnership on the project in a statement, adding “the current economic climate is not right for this design.”

Ratner said that by working with Ellerbe Becket, Forest City expects to “meet all of our design objectives while providing a dynamic environment and the best sightlines for basketball fans and spectators for all events.”

However, after preliminary designs were leaked to local press, some nearby residents begged to differ with Ratner’s view that the new arena would keep the integrity of Gehry’s vision intact. The curved-roof structure was likened to an airport hangar.

One local told the New York Daily News he moved to the neighborhood to live next to what he expected would be a work of art.

“These are obviously two very different designs,” he said. “We’ve been duped.”

Another Brooklynite was more scathing in his review of the Nets’ future home.

“The entirety of the design is dull,” writer Aharon Levy told the News. “It’s suburban. We have [garbage] here now and in the future we’re going to have [garbage].”

A spokesman for the developer told the paper the preliminary designs are not final. Forest City expects to break ground on the arena within the year in anticipation of completing the development in time for the 2011-2012 NBA season.