The Nets are set to begin marketing 11 luxury suites that will be known as “The Vault at Barclays Center,” a small, high-end space on the event level of the arena. Yes, Jay-Z chose the forks—in addition to offering his input on the Champagne ($300 bottles of Armand de Brignac), the layout (asymmetrical) and much of the décor (lots of black and shimmering metallics).
For the Nets, this is all by design. Jay-Z has the sort of cachet as a cultural icon that makes him uniquely marketable, said Tony Ponturo, the CEO of Ponturo Management Group, a sports consulting firm—particularly for a franchise that’s new to the neighborhood. “If you have someone who’s a bit of a taste maker as part of your ownership, I think you find a way to bring that element into your overall process,” Ponturo said.
The suites themselves, which are still under construction, will be unabashedly bold—and that includes the price tag: $550,000 per year, with a minimum three-year term. That works out to $45,833 per month, instantly making them some of the most expensive rental properties in the city. That’s just slightly less than the $50,000-per-month asking rent on the townhouse in TriBeCa where Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the beleaguered former director of the International Monetary Fund, recently resided.
The tenants of each suite will receive eight tickets in the first 10 rows to all Barclays Center events, including Nets games, other sporting events, concerts and family shows. Yormark said he hopes to book 220 events per year. So here’s some rough math: If each event averages five hours, that means tenants will be paying $500 per hour—or about $8.33 per minute—for access to The Vault. “It enables us to appeal to a different demographic,” Yormark said.
Yormark said Jay-Z actually approached him with a rough concept several years ago, shortly after he acquired a piece of the team. Jay-Z used the word “premium,” Yormark said, and told him that he wanted the new arena to feature a small area where the “who’s who of New York” would congregate. Not just luxury suites, Jay-Z told him, which were essential to any new stadium construction. No, he wanted something more than that.
Last spring, when Sharples and his team first met with Jay-Z, they had him watch an animation that revealed some of the details of the building’s ongoing construction. Sharples recalled that Jay-Z got up from behind his desk, leaned toward the screen and, when it was over, sat quietly for several moments before he shared his vision for the suites—the ambience, the color, the experience.
Indeed, while Barclays Center will feature 100 suites in different parts of the arena (average annual lease: $267,000), The Vault was conceived as a collection of uber-suites, part club scene and part Kasbah, replete with a VIP entrance framed by a 15-foot sheer curtain. The first tenant? Jay-Z himself.
Part of the aesthetic, Sharples said, was based on the metal bottles of Armand de Brignac, which is sponsoring a communal 2,400-square-foot bar at the center of the space. Jay-Z is a big fan. “I think he treats it the way I treat Diet Coke,” said a spokeswoman for the winemaker.