Brett Yormark Has Big Goals for the Nets
by r. couri hay
With inaugural concerts by Jay-Z and Barbra Streisand and the first marquee championship boxing match in Brooklyn for more than 80 years, Brett Yormark, the CEO of Barclays Center and his colleagues—the arena’s developer and majority owner Bruce Ratner and Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov—have changed the game for venues in the borough. “We are in the big event business,” says Yormark, who is also the CEO of the Brooklyn Nets. The arena, built by SHoP Architects and Ellerbe Becket (now operating as AECOM) has allowed for more than 2,000 jobs and will also be the home of professional hockey team, the New York Islanders, starting in the 2015–2016 season. “We have over 220 events planned for this year,” he says. “Our goal was to bring a wealth of entertainment to Brooklyn.”
Having studied basketball and coaching under the legendary Bob Knight at Indiana University, Yormark’s goals for Brooklyn also included a world-class basketball team. “My passion for the game started early,” he says of the Nets, who won their home opener against the Toronto Raptors—the first Brooklyn “home game” since 1957, when the Dodgers left for Los Angeles. “As a kid, I used to watch the Nets play, so it is a dream come true to rebrand the Nets and bring the team to Brooklyn. The Nets logo [created by the team’s part-owner Jay-Z] is the new badge of honor in Brooklyn. It’s about creating a great rivalry so the nights that the Knicks come to us or the Nets go to [Madison Square] Garden, those will be some of the biggest nights in sports in the New York metropolitan area.”
As part of the team’s move to Brooklyn after 35 years in New Jersey, the Nets have been making efforts to become an integral part of the community with philanthropic initiatives that deal with health, wellness, and education. “Our players are very involved with clinics at schools, we built many playgrounds, and we had a court refurbishment program,” says Yormark, noting that the team celebrated April 30, the launch date of the Brooklyn Nets brand with a weeklong community effort including library readings, sports clinics, and beautifying projects in Prospect Park. “We’ve done a lot around Thanksgiving and Christmas in terms of hospital visits and feeding the hungry. And it really is not only players, but it is our front office management as well; our coach, Avery Johnson, has done a lot at the public library in Brooklyn.”
A father of two—daughter Madison, 11, and son Drake, 8—Yormark also used his business and leadership acumen to launch the Yormark Family Foundation, an organization that has been refurbishing a gymnasium at Madison Square Boys & Girls Club. “It hit me really hard, walking the streets in Brooklyn and realizing that there are so many people who need help,” says Yormark, whose twin brother, Michael, also works in sports as the president of the NHL’s Florida Panthers.
But the arena’s arrival in Brooklyn isn’t just affecting the sports and charitable communities; it’s also helping to grow local businesses with the creation of Barclays Center Business Alliance. “Within that group you have key stakeholders, suite holders, season ticket holder companies, sponsors, and key vendors, all participating in networking forums throughout the year,” says Yormark. “We can serve as a catalyst to create meaningful introductions amongst companies that can drive their business forward.”
Whether on or off the court, bringing the Nets to Brooklyn and growing the purpose of Barclays Center has been truly a team effort. “Jay-Z has been terrific and critical; he gives us incredible credibility, obviously, as one of the faces of our franchise. He is a global entertainer—that is certainly a big time influencer to consumers and having him on our team and a big part of it is a big part of our success,” says Yormark. “But I look at everything coming together. We have a global owner in Mikhail Prokhorov and an alignment with an incredible entertainer in Jay-Z, one of the best developers in the world with Bruce Ratner, and now we have an incredible team that has a chance to win big. And the combination of all those things working together truly puts us on the map.”
photography by gregg delman (yormark); BRUCE DAMONTE (BARCLAYS CENTER); MELANIE FIDLER (GAME)
We go behind the scenes with Henrik Lundqvist for his Gotham magazine cover shoot.