As Brooklyn gets set to welcome its first professional sports team in more than 50 years, Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov, one of the principal owners of the Nets, took a tour of the new arena on Tuesday. Borough reporter Jeanine Ramirez filed the following report.
He may live in Russia, but Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov says he is involved with the team and its move to Brooklyn. On Tuesday, he toured the team's future arena, the Barclays Center, which is now 75 percent complete.
Prokhorov said he is impressed with the progress and now he needs to make the Nets, which are winding down their losing season in New Jersey, just as impressive.
"The Nets, like the arena, is still under construction. It's in the building stage. And I'll keep my prediction of the championship," said Prokhorov. "We'll make the Brooklyn Nets the champion of the NBA."
Prokhorov said he met with Nets star Deron Williams about his future role on the team.
"He really wants to win. And I want to win maybe even more. We're on the same page," said Prokhorov.
The Nets owner also said he is on the same page as his co-owners, developer Bruce Ratner and hip-hop entrepreneur Jay-Z.
"I have a new hobby, rap music," said Prokhorov. "And now we're in a great negotiation with Jay-Z. He wants me to open a concert for him. So we're discussing this."
While Prokhorov would not rap for the camera, the 6-feet-8-inches tall billionaire says he fits in Brooklyn as a sports fan and a foodie.
"I like, for example, River Cafe. I like good cuisine. Peter Luger, I've been there several times," he said.
Brooklyn eateries are to be included in the food selection at the arena. In addition to basketball, the Barclays Center will also be a year-round entertainment venue.
Prokhorov said although the arena has caused much controversy, he's confident it will be embraced.
"It's impossible to make everyone happy. But I hope that as soon as we start our season, because it's not only basketball, it has great cultural events, tennis and another opportunity to make this place like a center, a heart of Brooklyn," said Prokhorov. "I think even those who are skeptical now will join us."
Officials said the arena is expected to be completed in August. They will work out some of the kinks and the opening is set for September 28 with a concert by Jay-Z.