Jay-Z confirms that he’ll christen the Barclays Center

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Rap mogul Jay-Z will christen the Barclays Center when the under-construction $1-billion home for the “Brooklyn Nets” opens on the corner of Atlantic and Flatbush avenues next year.

The hip hop star, who owns a very small portion of the basketball team, announced on Monday that he will headline the venue’s first several performances during a three-week grand-opening at the Prospect Heights arena in September, 2012.

Jay-Z did not say how many shows he would play, but vowed that the number would be “definitely more than one.”

“Maybe one, maybe two, maybe three,” said the rapper, whose real name is Shawn Carter.

Nets spokesman Barry Baum said the exact dates have not been finalized.

There was never much doubt as to who the opening act would be; arena officials began spreading rumors that the “mystery” guest was Jay-Z months before the announcement was made.

Indeed, the world-famous entertainer has been marketed as the face of the franchise even before his was the main attraction at the arena’s ground-breaking in 2010. Before that, Jay-Z was the highest-profile member of a group of investors that bought a tiny portion of the team with developer Bruce Ratner. His image is now popping up on ads for expensive all-access passes to the Barclays Center.

So he’s the logical choice to play the arena’s first shows.

Still, in choosing Jay-Z — who was raised in Bedford-Stuyvesant and has broad crossover appeal with African-Americans and whites — the Nets seem to be sending several messages at once, including the idea that the Barclays Center will take on Madison Square Garden for talent.

The booking of Jay-Z also suggests that the team intends to market across a broad demographic a building that some are already calling “The Barc.” Indeed, the symbolism would have been different had the team gone with Beatles legend Paul McCartney, say, or the mega rock band U2.

Beyond its cultural implications, the strategy is also a good business move.

With an estimated net worth of more than $450 million, the 41-year-old MC is one of the most successful musicians — in any genre — of all-time.

Jay-Z raked in $63 million in 2010, trailing just five artists, among them his wife Beyonce Knowles, on Forbes.com’s annual list of top-earning musicians.

And the vast majority of his revenue doesn’t come from his puny ownership stake in the Nets, for which he paid less than $5 million in 2004, but from concert tours.

Even at this late date in his career, Jay-Z consistently sells out concerts at Madison Square Garden in Manhattan, which has room for roughly 19,500 people.

The Barclays Center has 18,000 seats when configured for basketball.

The arena is the centerpiece of Ratner’s $5-billion Atlantic Yards mega-project, which was once slated to contain 16 residential towers stretching from Flatbush to Vanderbilt avenues — but all but one of the towers are on hold due to a weak economy.

At the press conference unveiling the Nets’ new name, Ratner said he’s betting that the rapper has the best chance of selling out shows in Brooklyn.

“Who else but Jay-Z could open the Barclays Center?” Ratner asked, apparently rhetorically.

Updated 11:48 am, September 28, 2011: Includes much more information.
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