Nets arena’s rusted steel facade could crumble, drip orange goo everywhere

For those of you not fortunate enough to live within eyeballing distance of the soon-to-be-open new Brooklyn Nets arena, it’s covered with what looks like (and is) rusting metal. And yes, that’s intentional:

For the facade of the Barclays Center, more traditional materials were rejected in favor of 12,000 separate pieces of what is called “weathering steel,” and that leathery brown hue, which is the arena’s final finish, is not paint but an intended layer of rust.

Weathering steel — often known by its old brand name, Cor-Ten — develops a fine layer of rust, which then acts as a protective coating against moisture, slowing its own corrosion process almost to a stop.

Where the New York Times calls this “both rugged and rusty,” Deadspin’s Jack Dickey insists that weathering steel is actually a terrible idea for a sports arena, and not just because it’s butt-ugly:

But when used on something more complicated and functional—such as a sports arena—this simple, natural material is incredibly finicky and unstable. Where the steel is welded together or there’s space to catch water, the protective rust has a way of turning into regular old destructive rust. Atlanta’s Omni Coliseum, which opened in October 1972, had a weathering steel frame. The structure never stopped rusting, the elements bored holes in the roof, and the city had to replace the building with Philips Arena 25 years later.

Things were even worse at the New Haven Coliseum, which opened in September 1972. I got to see it from the inside in 2001, because my youth hockey team was practicing there. That’s how bad it had gotten. Within a little more than a decade of its opening, the steel in the parking garage had rusted to the extent that the concrete it supported would crumble and fall on the street below. The rusty runoff also stained the glowing logos on the building’s front, the ones you could see from Route 34.

Of course, it’s also butt-ugly — one Deadspin commenter calls the arena’s look “a giant, Brutalist version of a novelty dog turd.” And as the Times acknowledges, it has a tendency to drip orange rust all over the sidewalk. No wonder everybody wants to buy property near there!

You’d almost think that this whole rusted-steel look was thrown together over a holiday weekend because the previous designs were either too expensive or critically panned. Nah, that could never happen.

4 comments on “Nets arena’s rusted steel facade could crumble, drip orange goo everywhere

  1. This is the best example of how FCR was looking to cut costs in the construction and design of the arena.

    According to the ESDC, the total cost of the arena is now less than $850 million dollars-FCR saved 50% of the cost of the Geary designed arena by going with both the Ellerbe-Beckett design (and the SHOP architects idea of the weathering steel panels along with the other design features).

    The MSG gut renovation will cost more-they did not use an Indianapolis based construction group (Hunt)-but used Turner Construction-they constructed both the new Yankee Stadium (which cost 1.5 billion) and MCU park in Coney Island.

    In those instances the Yankees and the CIty (as well as Cablevision-the owners of MSG) did not look to cut costs in the construction and design of those venues.

    If the arena is successful, the weathering steel panels will probably have to be replaced in a few years and knowing FCR, they will probably try to have the ESDC pay for it.

    It will be interesting to see what other cost saving measures FCR took in the arena’s interior.

    You get what you pay for.

    Stay tuned.

  2. The facade of this dog looks less like a building facade than something designed to obscure a building.

  3. I think the short life is the stadium is probably a feature not a bug from the owners perspective. The next round of subsidies will be all the closer.