The average person with a $300 million fortune doesn’t spend it all in one place. But Charlie Kusher decided to do just the opposite. The real estate developer decided to buy the NBA’s New Jersey Nets. Unfortunately for Charlie, his bid came too late. Another real estate developer, Bruce C. Ratner, acquired the team for the same amount just hours earlier.
Ratner plans to uproot the team from their Meadowlands home to a new $2.5 billion stadium in Brooklyn. Brooklyn natives are excited, and there is talk of using the sale to compensate for the loss of their beloved Dodgers.
Borough President Marty Markowitz describes the sale as correcting the “great mistake of 1957,” when the Brooklyn Dodgers moved to Los Angeles. Senator Charles Schumer says the sale will let the borough “heal” and “mend.”
That’s what therapy is for.
Apparently, Schumer hasn’t learned there are other ways of healing and mending besides acquiring a basketball team. Even rap superstar Jay-Z joined the action by obtaining part ownership of the team. He refers to the Nets as the “new Dodgers.” Obviously the new owners of the Nets just want to cash in on the Brooklyn name.
New York already has two football, baseball and hockey teams each. Basketball will be added to that list when the new arena is completed in 2006. Each two-team professional sport there has a hometown favorite and an underdog. In baseball, the favored Yankees prevail over the Mets. The Nets will suffer the same fate, becoming the underdog to the Knicks.
Even though the Knicks haven’t won a championship in 30 years, they continue to sell out more games than the Eastern Conference champions across the river. In fact, the New Jersey Nets were the New York Nets for one season, until the team moved to New Jersey in 1977. No one was bidding on them for $300 million in cash back then.
Neighborhood groups in Brooklyn are opposed to the arena’s construction since it requires demolition of at least 150 homes, displacing longtime residents of the borough’s Atlantic Avenue neighborhood.
Despite this, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and state Governor George Pataki approved construction, citing millions in economic growth and the creation of new jobs. At least the soon-to-be-homeless will have jobs. A new apartment building is planned, but that’s no consolation to families who do not wish to see their current residences literally in the shadow of a sports arena.
The Community Youth Organization, who bought the Nets in 1998, planned on moving the team to Newark. However, that plan fell through after the Nets lost millions of dollars over the past couple of years.
The ratings for the 2003 finals between the Nets and the San Antonio Spurs were the lowest since Neilsen ratings were first taken 27 years ago. Despite these difficulties, the sale of the Nets was the second highest purchase price for an NBA team in history, right behind the $360 million paid for the Boston Celtics in 2002.
The success of the Nets in a new Brooklyn home is uncertain, but one thing is sure: They won’t be selling out games there either.
Stephanie Young can be reached at Sunbeam@temple.edu.