MANKATO — When NBA players arrive at the new Barclays Center, home of the Brooklyn Nets, they take an elevator a few floors up to the main level of the complex. But the players don’t have to get off their bus to do it.
Rural Mankato-based Minnesota Elevators Inc. designed and built two massive elevators that are producing awe among NBA players, entertainers and New Yorkers. After a recent ride on the elevator, Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant said, “It’s like a basketball version of Willy Wonka.”
“It was a neat project,” said Mike Klehr, vice president of sales and marketing at MEI.
Buses drive into an underground parking area and into the 81-foot elevator, outfitted with two large hydraulic lifts that carry up to 80,000 pounds of weight — as well as the 120,000 weight of the elevator itself.
After going up more than two stories, the bus drives straight out a door on the other end of the elevator and onto a large, round platform that turns the bus around so it can drive back in. (The big Lazy Susan for buses was built by another company.) MEI, which employs 225 people, including 125 in the local plant, assembled the two elevators in the MEI parking lot.
“Our niche is the custom applications,” Klehr said. “It can be a big one like this or a lower capacity elevator with an odd shape or size.”
MEI, which builds, installs and services elevators in a nine-state region, is hired by other elevator companies around the country to build specialty elevators.
Besides catering to NBA players the Barclays Center elevators are used to lift a variety of vehicles, including bringing in concert equipment for stars such as Jay-Z — who is part owner of the Brooklyn Nets — and Barbra Streisand, who recently performed there.