“I think the building’s going to be spectacular,” said Mr. Lansing. “You know, a lot of the arenas, historically, have been, well, not cookie-cutterish because they’re all a little bit different, but they follow a similar mold. But when you have Frank Gehry design an arena and really break the mold—that’s pretty ambitious.”
He added, “Some of the things that we’re going to do with the Nets are going to be revolutionary.”
Of course, it will also feature the usual Brooklyn staples. Can you say egg creams? “Absolutely,” Mr. Lansing said. “We know Brooklyn pizza, you know, we get it. We understand the locals. We understand what they want.”
Still, it’s the U.S. Open—not the ever-litigated debacle at Atlantic Yards—that remains the company’s biggest challenge.
“I think this might have the highest degree of difficulty of anything we do,” said Mr. Lansing, whose own stomach seems at great risk of bursting under the Open’s heavy strain every time he arrives in Flushing.
“One of the things I like to do when I’m here is to taste everything in the complex over the course of the day,” he said. “Let’s think about what I just put in my mouth today: pastrami sandwich, corned beef sandwich, turkey sandwich, three salads, a hot dog, a hamburger, two different kinds of crepes, a milkshake, an omelet, hash browns—I’m just taking inventory.” He continued: “Two different kinds of pizzas, a wrap, two Indian dishes, a filet, chicken, risotto, sushi.”
And he had yet to make it over to the adjacent eatery, a steakhouse called Champions.
That’s what’s great about the Open, he said—the diversity of stuff that’s available: “If you want to go outside and get a hot dog, no problem. You want kosher food? No problem. You want a crepe? No problem. You want a Carnegie Deli sandwich? No problem. You want Cuban food and mojitos? No problem.
“Historically, with stadiums, people come in with very low expectations,” Mr. Lansing said. “People grew up at sporting events treated like captives. I mean, the attitude was sort of, ‘Next! Next!’ That was the mentality. We got into this business to bring restaurant-quality food to places where people least expect it.”
He’s quickly learned that in New York, people expect a lot. “I can’t imagine any more variety,” Mr. Lansing said. “Yet I was talking to a gentleman today who very politely asked why we didn’t do chicken wings. We do chicken tenders, we do all sorts of things, but we don’t do the old traditional Buffalo chicken wing. Interestingly, we used to do it, then took it off the menu two years ago because it wasn’t a big seller for us.”