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A Sports Arena Grows in Brooklyn

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It’s been a rollercoaster for Bruce Ratner’s plan to build a giant sports arena on a mostly derelict sliver of land in Brooklyn: First, it was, “Frank Gehry’s gonna design it!” And then the funding became shaking, because of the recession. Gehry’s plan was scaled back, then scrapped. Looked dead. But SHoP came aboard, for a faster, cheaper design! Then…silence. Finally, there’s light: Ratner has secured the sale of $511 million in tax-exempt bonds to fund the construction. And quick as a wink, the traffic detours are going up, and the construction is set to begin any day now.

This entire drama came down to the wire, as Architects Newspaper points out: The bonds had to have been sold by the end of 2009 for the project to go forward. Sure, there are a couple of hurdles remaining–namely, some outstanding lawsuits and holdouts fighting the eminent domain ruling–but the expectation is that those issues can be smoothed over by sweet-talking and politics. They aren’t make or break.

The $511 million in bonds will fund only half of the total project budget–the remainder is to be raised privately. And although the project is far smaller than Gehry’s massive–and to some, scary–plan to remake a broad swath of downtown Brooklyn, it’s still huge: Spanning 22 acres, the development will include 6,000 condos. The stadium will seat upwards of 18,000. (Not surprisingly, renderings don’t show the potential traffic nightmare the stadium will likely bring.)

And too bad about the stadium’s residents: The New Jersey Nets, an NBA basketball franchise are a woeful 2-22. Perhaps by 2012, when the stadium is slated for completion, they’ll get good. Or at least okay. Or maybe just less bad. Hey, anything can happen, right? Even a sports stadium in Brooklyn.

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