The recent announcement that the New Jersey Nets NBA franchise is to be renamed the Brooklyn Nets, as per its new home in New York City’s most populous borough, was greeted with celebration by some Brooklyn residents, but elicited groans from others–namely, the borough’s minor-league teams, which find themselves threatened by the recent influx of larger, wealthier organizations.
“The more rich teams that move here, the higher the rent goes,” said Rob Miller, head coach and president of the Brooklyn Aviators, a local single-A hockey team. “I remember when you could find a decent one-team stadium in Park Slope for under $50 million. The community’s changed so much since then. The sports community, I mean.”
The Nets are not the only major-league franchise setting up shop in the borough. Following the enthusiasm generated by the name change, the New York Knicks announced that they would also be relocating to Brooklyn; Knicks owner James Dolan cited a desire to be somewhere more “authentic” and “down with what’s going on in the street” as having influenced the decision. Meanwhile, the New York Yankees have just settled on a new location in Williamsburg, with sources close to the front office indicating that the neighborhood’s cultural vibrancy is its main draw. General Manager Brian Cashman specifically is said to have been fixated on being in the area “just in case Das Racist ever does that Paul’s Boutique show for real.”
Even the borough’s beloved Dodgers may be returning. That franchise moved to Los Angeles in 1958 in search of mainstream success, but has reportedly found the other members of the NL West to be, like, total airheads.
This has left Brooklyn’s minor-league organizations in a precarious position. The Brooklyn Kings basketball team has already folded under the pressure; its facilities were bought out by the Nets for the purpose of being converted into parking lots for Barclays Center parking attendants.
Many local businesses have found themselves caught up in the area’s transformation as well. Adam Hankewycz, manager of a Dick’s Sporting Goods in Brooklyn Heights, says that he ends up having to stock two classes of equipment: High-end, ultra-sophisticated gear for the majors; and, for the minors, more affordable items, such as leather football caps and Dixie-brand protective paper cups.
The major-league franchises, however, show few signs of being deterred by these issues. When asked about the plight of lower-level teams–and about the possibility that this whole situation could be seen as a ridiculously un-subtle metaphor for the gentrification of Brooklyn as a whole–Nets part-owner Jay-Z dodged the question, offering only an assurance that the borough would, in one form or another, go hard.
– Matt Hoffman