Both women insist that construction and ticket sales are on schedule for the 2012-2013 season. Half of the 100 suites have been sold, and Pavlova says the Nets are steadily gaining Brooklynites while holding on to much of the core New Jersey base. The steel frame is 92% erected, the weathered-steel façade panels are going up, risers are in place and a new transit entrance for nine subway lines and the Long Island Rail Road is underway. The roof will be finished in the first quarter of 2012, allowing the interior work to begin. “When you announce the first concert,” says Gilmartin, “you had better be prepared to open.” Beyond basketball, the venue will host 200 events annually, kicking off with a Jay-Z concert on Sept. 28. “He’s the best spokesperson that you can have,” Pavlova says of Jay-Z, a minority Nets stakeholder who this year announced the team’s name change. “He is a Brooklyn icon. Having him on board has been a huge positive.”
MaryAnne Gilmartin Rumors
Spearheading the excitement over the 18,000-seat arena, Pavlova, 41, gets a live video feed of construction on her desktop and gushes that she cheers so hard at Nets’ home games she loses her voice. The Russian-American has dual citizenship, speaks five languages (with varying levels of fluency) and has worked all over the world. She started her career at Prudential in New York, and in 2005 launched the Moscow office of Google. In 2010, the chief executive of Onexim, Prokhorov’s company, told Pavlova over a casual dinner about a little deal with an American team, and asked if she’d be interested in “keeping an eye on things” in the States. “I don’t know a thing about basketball,” she said, but soon agreed. And she learned quick. “It took me a few months to get my hands around the business and get comfortable with how things work,” Pavlova says with a subtle accent. “I’ve learned it’s tickets, sponsorships and suite sales. It’s not rocket science.”
If real estate mogul Bruce Ratner and Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov are the faces of the New York-bound basketball franchise, Gilmartin and Irina Pavlova are the feet on the ground, clearing the way. As EVP of Forest City Ratner Companies, Gilmartin manages development of the near $1 billion arena, which anchors the larger $4.9 billion, 22-acre Atlantic Yards project in the heart of Brooklyn. Pavlova represents the interests of Prokhorov, the minority owner of the arena and majority owner of the Nets, its major tenant. Together, they are changing the landscape of the borough and female power players in the business of sports.
Deep inside the steel skeleton of the soon-to-be Barclays Center in Brooklyn, NY, drills are whirring, hammers striking and cranes excavating. The air is dusty and the ground littered with piles of wires, metal beams and loose hardware. Despite her suit dress and open-toed heels, an unconcerned MaryAnne Gilmartin, the arena’s lead developer, simply steps around the debris. In just 10 months, these gaping bones will welcome the NBA’s New Jersey Nets to their new home—as the Brooklyn Nets—thanks to two powerful women working vigorously behind the scenes.