A city real estate developer is "extremely close" to buying the New Jersey Nets, sources said last night - but his dream of bringing the team to Brooklyn is still far from a slam dunk. Builder Bruce Ratner is expected to soon ink a deal in which he would shell out about $300 million for the basketball franchise, sources familiar with the negotiations said.
"No papers have been signed yet, but it should be very soon, possibly within a few days," said a source close to Ratner. "The money is about right, but they're extremely close to a deal."
Another source said Ratner already has told government officials he's getting the team.
Both Ratner and Nets owner Lewis Katz declined to talk about the negotiations.
"If somebody is going to make a comment, it is not going to be me," said Katz, who has been seen with Ratner more and more in recent days.
Ratner upped his offer for the Nets from $275 million to $300 million last month after rap impresario Jay-Z joined forces with him. Two other groups are vying for the team, including one led by Sen. Jon Corzine (D-N.J.), who wants to keep the team in Jersey.
If the Ratner deal comes off, Brooklyn will have its first big league sports team since the Dodgers left in 1957. The Brooklyn Nets could be a reality by the 2006-07 season.
But Ratner's interest in the team is directly hinged to building an arena in downtown Brooklyn - a project that faces a number of hurdles:
Ratner can't write a check until 21 of the 28 other NBA owners approve the sale and the move from the Meadowlands to Brooklyn. There have been rumblings that the Knicks may lobby hard against the plan.
The city also would have to give Ratner the okay to build the proposed 20,000-seat arena. The Frank Gehry-designed stadium is part of a controversial $2.5 billion development that also includes Manhattan-sized office and residential towers.
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority must grant Ratner air rights to build the arena over the Long Island Rail Road yard at Flatbush and Atlantic Aves. If everything comes together, Ratner has said, construction on the stadium would begin next year.
Last month, Mayor Bloomberg hailed the plans as a way to revitalize Brooklyn, saying, "This is the place for a professional basketball team."
But critics contend the arena complex would overwhelm the low-rise communities of Fort Greene and Prospect Heights.
And while Ratner has estimated 100 people would be displaced under his plan, foes put the number at 1,000, and say more than 400 small-business jobs would be lost.
"Ratner doesn't give a damn about the neighborhood," said Patti Hagan of the Prospect Heights Action Coalition. "He's never walked around this community to find out who would be affected."
Excellent news, only because I've always felt guilty being a life-long New Jersey resident yet a life-long Knick fan. If the Brooklyn Nets become a reality, I will have no guilt. I just hope this doesn't result in a New Jersey expansion team, because then I have no excuse for dropping the Knicks and going with the home team.
Originally posted by ParagonOfVirtueExcellent news, only because I've always felt guilty being a life-long New Jersey resident yet a life-long Knick fan. If the Brooklyn Nets become a reality, I will have no guilt. I just hope this doesn't result in a New Jersey expansion team, because then I have no excuse for dropping the Knicks and going with the home team.
I doubt the NBA will expand anytime soon. I think you could argue that they should have contraction for a few teams. (*coughAtlantacough*....*hackClippercough*)
Believe me, I'm not defending message boards -- they can be evil places
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