The Wall Street Journal has chimed in with the latest “What has the Brooklyn Nets‘ Barclays Center meant for local businesses?” story, and its answer, unsurprisingly, is “it depends who you ask.”
“I can tell you both personally and professionally I have seen a great impact on the local businesses,” says Carlo Scissura, president of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce. “You go into any restaurant or bar before or after a game or concert and they’re packed.”
Still, area businesses say that doesn’t always translate into an increase in sales. “Even if there’s no activity going on at Barclays, I tend to maintain my same numbers,” says Andre Jordan, one of the owners of Die Koelner Bierhalle, a German beer hall that opened in August on St. Marks Place. Mr. Jordan says that the bar’s core clientele is residents in surrounding neighborhoods like Park Slope and Boerum Hill.
The basic problem here is the but-for factor: When you build a sports arena in an already-booming neighborhood — and Brooklyn’s Prospect Heights was about as booming as you could get, complete with an artisanal mayonnaise store — it’s hard to tell whether all the foot traffic came for the arena, or was there anyway. Or whether the arena traffic displaced the usual traffic, as Jordan told the WSJ: “My customers who would normally have come in will look and say, ‘It’s too busy in there, let’s find some other place.'”
There’s obviously some impact when you have 18,000 people streaming in and out of a neighborhood most nights, but it’s complicated, especially since everyone is going to want to eat at the same time (nobody’s going to head for the beer hall during a Nets game). There are ways of doing a more fine-tuned analysis here, which I hope to do at some point; you’ll be the first to know when it happens.
[UPDATE: Atlantic Yards Report notes that the same fan survey that prompted the WSJ article also revealed that only 8% of Nets ticket buyers came from New Jersey, as opposed to more than 15% in pre-Brooklyn-move projections. Which has been good for easing traffic fears, since Brooklynites are more likely to take public transit or walk to the games, but less good for economic impact on New York City, since luring fans from New Jersey was key to the project’s economic benefit claims.]