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April 19, 2011

Forest City executive says shrinking arena to preclude major league hockey was conscious choice, downplays modular construction as "research project"

Atlantic Yards Report

So much for Nets CEO Brett Yormark's coy statements about how arena promoters would "would love the [New York] Islanders [hockey team] to play a couple of games at the Barclays Center."

It's long been suspected that the arena would be too small to accommodate major league hockey, and even a market analysis commissioned by Forest City Ratner stated that "the arena would need to be retrofitted to accommodate the ice-making abilities the NHL requires for its franchises."

Last week, Bob Sanna, Forest City Ratner Executive VP for Construction, told a Pratt Institute School of Architecture audience that, to design a smaller arena that could be financed, "we made some pretty deliberate decisions early on: we weren't going to have a [professional] hockey team."

He noted that, to make an ice floor, the seats move in one direction only, which doesn't make for good hockey sightlines.

That doesn't preclude some hockey games, just a season. The tight, smaller arena--675,000 square feet in the Ellerbe Becket (plus SHoP on the facade) design, opposed to 850,000 square feet in the original Frank Gehry design--furthers a focus on basketball.

Reality, of course, never prevented Yormark, Bruce Ratner and others from misleadingly dangling the notion of a resident pro hockey team during the process of selling arena bonds.

[Sanna] spoke as part of the Pratt Institute's spring 2011 School of Architecture Lecture Series. While Sanna's lecture, according to the promotion, was titled "Development as a Contact Sport," it was more a nuts-and-bolts description of the challenges faced by construction managers on such a project, and a class of would-be construction managers made up the bulk of the audience.

What about the developer's modular plans?

Sanna again said it was a question outside the scope of his presentation but downplayed it as "an experiment... It is for all intents and purposes a research project."

If it's a research project, perhaps it's a negotiating ploy with the unions.

Or perhaps Forest City Ratner just isn't ready to tip its hand.


NoLandGrab: If history and Forest City Ratner executives teach us one thing, it's that nothing they say can ever be trusted.

Posted by eric at April 19, 2011 10:59 AM