Nets Slowly Making Their Way to Brooklyn

With the collapse of support from financiers, the Atlantic Yards community, and NJ Nets fans, one wonders if this story will end in anything other than hubris: For Nets, Barriers to Brooklyn Fall Slowly.

After the hundreds of millions of dollars lost, and final completion for the arena now set for as late as 2011, the break-even point for this project has to be in the late 20-teens. I think a lot of people would love to see this project fail and the Nets come to Newark.

But, not all is lost: the Nets will play two pre-season games here in Newark in October. Who’s coming with me?

But Forest City must break ground by Dec. 31 to meet the Internal Revenue Service’s deadline to sell tax-exempt bonds. If the developer misses the deadline, financing costs will leap. “Bruce and I have never talked about missing that deadline,” Yormark said.

The same deadline appears to loom for the 20-year, $400 million naming-rights deal between the Nets and Barclays. Barclays extended the sponsorship beyond last year because of continued construction delays, but a spokesman refused to say if it would do so again.

Daniel Goldstein, a leader and spokesman of Develop Don’t Destroy, said he did not believe Forest City would meet the deadline, not with his group’s appeal of the eminent domain decision and intention to file more lawsuits to delay the project until its death.

“They’re not going to get financing this year or control of the land this year,” Goldstein said during an interview in his condominium on Pacific Street, which would be about midcourt of the proposed arena. He, his wife and baby daughter are the only occupants of the nine-story building, the other 30 unit owners having long ago accepted Ratner’s buyout offers.

“I don’t even think they know what will make them give up,” he said.

One also wonders if this guy was living where center ice at the Prudential Center is now whether Newark’s arena ever would have been built.

Shaq Wants to Bring the Nets to Newark

Steve Politi opines for the Star Ledger on the possibility of whether the Nets might ever come to Newark.

While idle speculation has been free-flowing since construction of the Prudential Center was completed, the prospect has caught the attention of real-estate developer and NBA phenomenon Shaquille O’Neal: Shaquille O’Neal may be the man to bring New Jersey Nets to the Prudential Center.

Why the Nets insist on moving forward on what seems to be a doomed project, abhored by fans and Brooklyn residents escapes all logic. Hopefully, Shaq can bring some much needed sanity and influence into the deal and convince the Nets to stay in their home state.

The question nags at Shaquille O’Neal every time he visits his home city now, the same way it should nag at every basketball fan in this state. He sees the gleaming Prudential Center in the heart of a community that loves his sport, then shakes his head in wonder and frustration.

“Why,” he wants to know, “aren’t the Nets playing in Newark?”

On this topic, like everyone else, Shaq is stumped. The Nets should be playing in Newark, and not just for a few lousy preseason games as the team is proposing. And the 7-footer could be a major force in making them — to borrow his favorite Scrabble word — a Shaqtastic success.

Pru Center Construction Receives Industry Kudos

Newark’s Prudential Center has been named Project of the Year by a trade magazne accoring to this NY Daily News briefing: The Closer: Disclosures, appraisals, flips and splits of New York’s real estate community

The city will also host its first championship boxing match in 60 years at the Rock this weekend.

Congratulations to the Gilbane Building Company and everyone associated with Newark’s Prudential Center arena, which was just named the 2008 Project of the Year by New York Construction News, a trade magazine covering the building industry. After a disagreement between two construction companies, Gilbane  took over the job a year and a half into the construction, miraculously delivering the project on time and on-budget to exact specifications.

The Gilbane family was out celebrating Tuesday night, with their annual center table at the Waldorf Astoria hotel for the National Football Foundation’s annual College Hall of Fame dinner, where T. Boone Pickens and Lou Holtz were honored. Gilbane Building, a five-generation construction and development company, has been building the country’s stadiums, hospitals, university buildings and large-scale public projects since 1873. The company is one of the largest builders of public schools in the nation, and it just completed the architecturally stunning Capitol Visitor Center in Washington, D.C.

This weekend, the Prudential Center will hold Newark’s first championship boxing fight in 60 years. That’s a long time coming for a city on the rise whose downtown boxing scene was one of the best in the country in the 1940s.

Ringling Bros. coming to Newark arena

“Ringling Bros. coming to Newark arena”:

First, “bulls running loose”: in the city, now the Ledger has pictures of elephants storming Prudential Center.

Well, not quite. Minnie the Elephant is a part of the Ringling Bros Circus, posing with Mayor Booker and Bello the daredevil clown. The circus will be returning to the city at the Prudential Center with shows starting up in October.

“This is so meaningful to me,” Booker told the children, recalling his annual birthday circus trips with four friends when he was a boy. “We had to travel to New York to do it, and now I’m so excited that we’re bringing this great family entertainment home to Newark, N.J.”

The circus will perform seven shows at the Prudential Center, from Oct. 16 to 19, according to the show’s producer, Feld Entertainment. Feld has also booked the arena for two more of its family shows: Disney Playhouse Live from Sept. 5 to 7 and Disney on Ice in December.

Metallica's coming to Newark

“Metallica to Play Pru”:

Looks like Pru, with its city sponsorship, access to major highways, and link to the rails through Penn Station might just be a good deal more successful than that Izod thing in the swamp.

It will be the biggest heavy-metal tour of the Fall/Winter season, and it’s coming to Newark. The Prudential Center has booked Metallica for a Jan. 31 concert.

Nets Arena May Not Be Finished Until 2011, Ratner Says

“Nets Arena May Not Be Finished Until 2011, Ratner Says”:

This in from a tipster: the New Jersey Nets arena planned for Brooklyn’s Atlantic Yards will not be completed now until 2011 — three long years from now.

Seriously, Nets? Newark can get this done for you by next season. The arena is here and ready for you. Do New Jersey proud and stay here, do something good for a city that will welcome you here, and maintain your current fans.

Newark is a win-win for everyone except Forest City Ratner, who is just totally screwing with you guys.

The planned new Brooklyn basketball arena for the Nets now may not be ready until 2011, according to developer Forest City Ratner, as the company acknowledges that the time to build the structure may take it past its current completion goal of calendar year 2010.

Got a tip for the Daily Newarker?

Judge reopens Prudential Center after 'technical' closure

“Judge reopens Prudential Center after ‘technical’ closure”:

A city inspector closes the Pru Center for the weekend over an expired certificate of occupancy. The arena has operated under a temporary certificate since opening last October, because the building lacks a smoke evacuation system.

Pru Center management has been compensating for the lack of the system — which sucks the smoke out of the stairwells in the event of a fire — by employing a dozen or so “fire watchers” during events.

A state judge reinstated a temporary certificate of occupancy that has allowed the Prudential Center to reopen after it was closed early Friday by a Newark construction code official.

The 18,000-seat home of the New Jersey Devils hockey team was ordered shuttered after the temporary certificate of occupancy expired at midnight. The completion of a smoke evacuation system to help clear the stairwells in the event of a fire is the subject of the dispute.

“It’s safe. It’s just technicalities, paperwork, bureaucracy and miscommunication,” Devils co-owner Michael Gilfillan said Friday afternoon as he was leaving negotiations between the city and the Devils management.

Newark Live: Nets say showroom is proof of move

“Nets say showroom is proof of move”:

The Nets CEO delivers a total buzzkill to the possibility of bringing the team to the Prudential Center.

The Nets Thursday showed off a full-size replica of the luxury suites they expect to feature in their $950 million Brooklyn arena, in yet another push to demonstrate they are serious about leaving New Jersey in 2010.

The opening of the Barclays Center’s midtown Manhattan showroom kicks off the Nets’ public effort to market 130 suites with an average price tag of $300,000, as well as 3,200 premium seats, said Brett Yormark, the team’s chief executive.

“We would just love to have the Nets here in Newark,” said Joseph DiVincenzo, the Essex County executive who is involved in the effort. “I strongly believe that it would be good for them and for us economically.”

Yormark dismissed that as a possibility, saying sharing the Prudential Center with the Devils “is of no interest to us.”

Theories Abound on the Newark Nets

Developer Bruce Ratner published a column in the Sunday New York Daily News that the Atlantic Yards project is moving forward at a steady — if not rapid — pace. Is it a timely public relations message? Or a sign that Ratner is on the ropes?

Rumors of Atlantic Yards’ demise, stirred by opponents, have been greatly exaggerated. The project is moving forward in its entirety, and in the coming years it will bring jobs, housing and an improved quality of life to Brooklyn.

It looks as though things are going swimmingly in court — Ratner cites 18 favorable court decisions out of 18 cases so far — and that deals are getting done. But in the whole piece, Ratner mentions the New Jersey Nets exactly once.

Meanwhile, Jersey officials are sharing their opinions freely in the media.

“Four years later, we’re getting a rendering?” Codey said yesterday. “It’s becoming ridiculous. They’re not going to be playing in Brooklyn in 2010.”

“Instead of him fighting with the constituents there in Brooklyn we would welcome him here in Newark,” DiVincenzo said.

Esmeralda Diaz Cameron, a city spokeswoman, said Newark “would love to have the New Jersey Nets call the city of Newark home.”

Sure, some of it is just that good, old-fashioned brand of trash talk that only you only find in New Jersey. But, I particularly love the “on message” feel of Ms. Cameron’s statement: it’s wonderfully positive and polished without revealing any information that isn’t meant to be public — I hope they pay her well. ;-)

While light on inside information (the title is pure speculation), a Jersey Journal piece also published today would throw water on Ratner’s column: The Nets may stay in Jersey after all.

Ratner had hoped to move the team into the New York home for the 2009-2010 season, but there is no way the arena will be ready. In fact, the entire Atlantic Yards project is progressing very slowly.

The Nets owner is facing a very tough credit market that is getting tighter every week. A bleak economy will only continue to hurt the prospects of the Brooklyn development. It is the perfect time for New Jersey interests to put on a full-court press and have the NBA squad become the second tenant in Newark.

So, stacking up against the arena in Brooklyn are local opposition, tight credit markets, and increasing construction costs — and legal battles only add to the costs as deal maker Goldman Slacks can’t find funding until Forest City Ratner can close the books on their court cases. But, according to this New York Sun piece, moving to Newark might not be a slam-dunk either:

Getting the Nets into Vanderbeek’s building is simple on paper, but it is also extremely complicated, because of how revenues generated inside his building are distributed. Ratner would need access to monies from luxury boxes, club seats, and in-arena concession areas.

Vanderbeek would theoretically have to give up lucrative revenue streams from NBA games that he would normally keep from non-Devils events in the building. But Ratner could not financially survive without getting the lion’s share of those revenues.

As I read it, Ratner purchased the Nets for the purpose of getting leverage to begin a building project in Brooklyn, the centerpiece of which would be the Barclay’s Center arena. Due to legal delays and increased costs, the developer has scaled the project back to phases — the first of which will be the arena planned to begin later this year, and the last of which will be completed in 2018.

Booker and Vanderbeek are reportedly hoping to find investors to bring the Nets to Newark, which would be fantastic for the city, for fans, the team, and its investors. But, in order to do that, Ratner has to be selling.

The question really lies in whether the Atlantic Yards project can move forward without the Nets. Nobody’s going to build an arena without a team to play there, and it’s unclear what would be left of the project without the arena. In his column, Ratner highlights more than a dozen residential buildings and a Frank Gehry-designed commercial tower.

What do you think? Could Atlantic Yards move forward without the Nets or the arena? Do you think Vanderbeek and Booker have a card or two up their sleeve to entice Forest City Ratner to sell the team?

Star Ledger: Booker to Brooklyn: Let's settle Nets matter on basketball court

“Booker to Brooklyn: Let’s settle Nets matter on basketball court”:

“After years of obscurity mired in the Meadowlands, the Nets are ready for a slam dunk in the Brooklyn big leagues. Who knows, maybe the Devils want to lace up and come here too! If my esteemed colleague Cory Booker in Brooklyn’s ‘western suburb,’ a.k.a. Newark, New Jersey, is looking for a professional basketball team, maybe he should ask the Knicks,” Markowitz said in a statement.

Booker responded by saying he would continue to pursue his “personal dream” of bringing the Nets to the $375 million Prudential Center “no matter how unrealistic.”

“I yield to…Marty Markowitz, my esteemed colleague in the “eastern suburb” of Newark a.k.a Brooklyn, and would like to officially challenge him with the remaining shreds of my athletic pride to a one and one basketball game to battle for the Nets!”

Looks like our Rhodes scholar mayor can trash-talk with the best of them. Seriously, Booker, I hope there’s more to this plan to bring the Nets to Newark than your jab step and jump shot.

Star Ledger: Effort under way to bring Nets to Newark's Prudential Center

“Effort under way to bring Nets to Newark’s Prudential Center”:

The owner of the Devils hockey team and Newark Mayor Cory Booker are seeking to assemble a group of investors to buy the Nets and move the basketball team to Newark, people familiar with the effort said.

In recent weeks, Devils owner Jeffrey Vanderbeek has met with Nets owner Bruce Ratner, while Booker has spoken to an official at Ratner’s development company, Forest City Ratner Cos., according to three people with direct knowledge of the discussions. The outcome of each talk was characterized as “open-ended.” The parties spoke on the condition they not be identified.

The effort to bring the Nets to Newark, where they would play at the Prudential Center along with the Devils, comes amid growing speculation on whether Ratner can complete a $4 billion retail and residential development in Brooklyn, given the deepening crisis in the credit markets.

To date, there is no indication the Nets are for sale, and Ratner repeatedly has said he is happy owning the team and looks forward to moving to a new arena in Brooklyn.

“The team is absolutely not for sale,” Ratner said through his spokesman, Howard Rubenstein. “We’re inches away from completing the deal in Brooklyn.”

Great job by the Ledger on breaking this story. I sincerely hope it has legs: bringing the Nets to Newark would not only help keep a great New Jersey team in Jersey, but would be a boon to Newarkers in the “virtuous circle”: that the Prudential Arena brings to the teams, the city, and fans at large.

Plus, this could _totally_ get me watching basketball again.

Star Ledger: Newark hoop dreams

??Star Ledger??: “Newark hoop dreams”:

Apart from whatever Ratner may be dreaming, there is the stumbling block of a clause in the Nets’ contract with the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority, which owns the Izod Center. If the Nets leave to play anywhere other than Brooklyn, the team must pay the authority a penalty that starts out at $12 million a year.

That clause was generally considered to be anti-Newark.

Something has happened. The hateful clause is being explained as a nonhostile means of preventing the Nets from pitting the Meadowlands against Newark. It was meant to avoid a bidding war for a short-term contract while the Brooklyn arena was built.

In fact, sources have told The Star-Ledger editorial board that if the Nets sign a long-term deal to play in Newark, the sports authority would waive that clause and happily cooperate with the Prudential Center for the greater glory and profit of both New Jersey venues.

It’s amazing how much Newark can benefit from clearheaded common sense. Having another sports team come to Newark would be huge for the virtuous circle I blogged about yesterday: Newark clearly has the infrastructure to bring another pro team to the city.

But will sanity and cooler heads prevail?

New York Times: For Devils Fans, Trains Seem to Work Fine

??New York Times??: “For Devils Fans, Trains Seem to Work Fine”:

Before the arena’s opening in late October, Mr. Vanderbeek said team surveys predicted that about 35 percent of fans would use mass transportation to get to the Prudential Center. The actual number, according to surveys done since, is closer to 50 percent.

“It’s just been fabulous for us,” Mr. Vanderbeek said in a recent interview. “And what that’s done is open up the state for us.”

As the arena was being built, many fans themselves said they would not be following the team to Newark. Some have not. But clearly many others are, and many of those are taking mass transit to get there, and they are finding it quicker, cheaper and simpler.

Great article on Devils fans making use of public transit to get to and from games. The Devils played a playoff game against the Rangers this weekend — we hardly noticed.

The city really seems to have put an excellent plan together to deal with traffic, and the fact that so many people are taking mass transit is just win-win for everyone: Newarkers, NJ Transit, the arena, fans, and the environment.

Star Ledger: Essex exec wants to shut arena in the Meadowlands

??Star Ledger??: “Essex exec wants to shut arena in the Meadowlands”:

The way Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo sees it, the $375 million Prudential Center has proved it can be a success. Since opening in October, the venue has attracted crowds to sporting events and concerts.

But there is one thing standing in the way of the Newark arena achieving its full potential: The Izod Center.

“The Meadowlands should have been closed as soon as this arena opened up,” said DiVincenzo. “Saying two arenas can make it is absolutely not true. Every day the Izod Center stays open, it hurts our arena and hurts what we are trying to do by redeveloping Newark.”

DiVincenzo thinks one of the reasons Gov. Jon Corzine has not closed the Izod Center is pressure from an organized group of Bergen County politicians. Now he’s called together a coalition of Essex County politicians to fight for “The Rock.”