By: Damon Salvadore
Walk anywhere in New York City and you’ll see there’s a large and deep passion for professional sports teams. The Big Apple is filled with teams that have brought the city together with championship runs, Hall of Fame athletes, and some amazing storylines throughout the decades.
But there’s something missing in Gotham’s largest borough.
Brooklynites haven’t been able to sink their paws into a team that is truly theirs for quite some time. The last time a Brooklyn-based team went on to win a major championship was in 1955 when the Brooklyn Dodgers topped the New York Yankees in a thrilling seven-game series. That’s when it truly was “battle of the boroughs.” Baseball fans in Brooklyn not only had a deep affection for their team but hatred for Manhattan’s New York Giants and of course, the Bronx Bombers.
Walter O’Malley’s decision to move the Dodgers across the country as well as Robert Moses’s decision to not allow a new stadium to be built in Brooklyn has left a scar on the borough ever since. Other Brooklyn-based teams such as the Lions (former NFL team who shared Ebbets field) have folded throughout the years.
Today Brooklyn is home to two major pro sports teams; the Islanders and the Nets. The Nets, who yet again have the worst record in the NBA, are also near the bottom in attendance numbers. Despite playing in the second-newest stadium in the league, the Nets have failed to attract loyal basketball fans on a consistent basis. This season the Nets rank 24th in attendance percentage and 28th in average fan attendance per game. Is mediocre play the sole reason the Nets can’t sell out? Hardly. The Knicks, who have been as dysfunctional as any team in the league, have an average home attendance rate of 100 percent and rank fifth in total home presence.
Barclays Center hasn’t been kind to the Islanders either. The Islanders, who are playing their second season in Brooklyn after playing in Long Island since 1972, haven’t been able to convince sports fans in Brooklyn that they can be the boroughs shining light. The Islanders average home attendance is the second lowest in the NHL ahead of only the Carolina Hurricanes. As for the Islanders rival across the East River, the Rangers, their home attendance rate at Madison Square Garden is 100.1 percent, nearly 20 percent higher than the Islanders.
Reports have already begun to swirl that Barclays Center is set to end its relationship with the Islanders sooner rather than later leaving Brooklyn without an NHL team.New York sports teams have also had more luck across the Hudson River with fan loyalty. Both the Giants and Jets have no problem attracting fans in East Rutherford to watch their NFL teams play at MetLife Stadium regardless of performance. Even the Red Bulls, who play in Harrison, about a 20-minute PATH Train ride from downtown Manhattan, are averaging more than 5,000 fans per game than the Nets.
One could argue that Barclays center is better suited to handle UFC fights, WWE events, and boxing matches, all of which have brought success to the arena.It’s hard to point out what the biggest flaw is with Brooklyn and its ability to lure sports fans across the city. Brooklyn’s crime rate has dramatically declined in the 21st century, tickets are cheaper than Madison Square Garden, and it’s also home to more subway stations than any other borough in New York City. The MTA has provided Barclays Center with nine different subway options to get directly to the stadium as well as the Long Island Railroad and numerous bus routes. Just for perspective, Cit Field only has one subway (7 train) option directly to their stadium. Public transportation doesn’t appear to be the problem with Barclays Center. Of course parking and traffic are chaotic in Brooklyn, making a fans experience less desirable, but that can be said for anywhere in New York City as well as Jersey’s Harrison and East Rutherford.
The fact of the matter is Brooklyn just hasn’t been able to reclaim its self-identity as a sports borough since the Dodgers left. O’Malley’s tactic of temporarily playing Dodgers games at Roosevelt Stadium in Jersey City, New Jersey in 1956 and 1957 was no bluff. It was a reality that they were moving out of Brooklyn for good, and its blemish has been significant ever since.