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.”

Welcome to Newark, Mr. Melrose

Barry Melrose

?? “After angering city with negative comments, ESPN’s Melrose will tour Newark”:

[ESPN hockey analyst Barry] Melrose, who angered the Devils, their fans and Newark officials five weeks ago with his negative comments about the neighborhood surrounding the new $380 million arena, will … meet with city officials for a tour of downtown Newark.

“I want to see Newark for myself,” Melrose told The Star-Ledger today. “I want to see if my remarks were unjustified, somewhat unjustified or totally unjustified. I want my remarks to be totally unjustified. What I hope to see is a city turning itself around, a city that has a great plan and has started to rebound.”

Booker, who was notably irritated in WBGO’s Newark Today the week of the off-color remarks, has issued a statement through city hall about the visit:

The City of Newark is proud to welcome ESPN host Barry Melrose and offer him both the warmth of our hospitality and insight into the truth and reality of Newark’s dynamic revitalization. This is a great opportunity for Mr. Melrose to witness for himself our city’s many attractions, diverse neighborhoods, and the magnificent Prudential Center. Most of all, he will discover the great strength and incredible spirit of our residents who are working tirelessly to transform Newark into America’s leading example of urban safety and prosperity.

So, welcome Mr. Melrose. Enjoy a beer and a hotdog the Arena, then come to Maize or 27 Mix or Mompou or Hell’s Kitchen or any number of our great restaurants and bars for a nightcap.

A True Downtown Revitalization

??New York Times??: “Forget the Game. Where Can We Eat?”:

Emerging from Penn Station, or winding through the maze of downtown streets in search of parking, you can hardly take your eyes off the Prudential Center. The new arena (the Rock, to its fans) is an instant landmark — a mammoth brick-and-steel structure that artfully deploys curtains of glass and one of the world’s largest outdoor TV screens to avoid the curse of seeming squat and hulking.

… But for those who assumed that the neighborhood was a culinary desert, there are some nice surprises in store. What follows is a brief tour of dining spots in easy walking distance of the arena, all of them open until at least 7:30 on event evenings.

The Times provides a helpful listing of places to eat in the Newark downtown area (incredibly, they missed two of Newark’s most exciting restaurants: “Mompou”: in the Irounbound and “27 Mix”: on Halsey Street). Talking with people who have gone to Devils’ games and concerts, I’ve heard a range of feedback from “Newark looked like Manhattan!” to “I don’t think I’d go again, the area is too sketchy.” The amount of effort having gone into keeping downtown safe during events has been immense, but there’s a huge difference between safe and exciting.

A friend from the East Village in New York City who was checking out a pre-season basketball game noted that the directions getting out of Penn Station were lacking. A panhandler, cashing in on an opportunity, saw him out through the Market Street doors of the station and held out a hand. My friend tipped him a dollar and the panhandler demanded more. Hardly a good first impression, and one that could be mitigated by putting some Pru Center staffers in the station.

In an effort to keep the streets well lit, the NPD have propped up flood lighting around Market Street and McCarter Highway. A noble effort, and, I’m sure, one that keeps pedestrians safer traversing the three blocks to the Pru venue, but…flood lights? Usually associated with crime scenes and highway construction, these hardly provide an air of reassurance in a city well known for its crime rates.

Downtown Newark needs a real revitalization, particularly in this area, if the city is to succeed in its resurgence. The “architecture of fear”: that dominates the downtown financial district perpetuates the perception that Newark is unsafe. We need to establish shopping and dining in this arena corridor to welcome visitors into the city. Walking along Market Street, one is greeted by 12 feet of concrete from the Gateway complex, parking garages, parking lots and — two blocks from the giant glowing screens on the face of the arena along Route 21 — a dilapidated warehouse.

I know plans are in the works to overhaul this area. The Broad Street streetscapes project is making the area safer for pedestrians and the Booker administration is working to bring business back to Broad Street. But this city has got to capitalize on this opportunity. Let’s not just shuffle pedestrians to and from the arena. As I understand the agreement, the Devils will receive tax breaks for years, making the complex a net-zero venture for the city. We need businesses that invite sports enthusiasts and concert-goers to hang around before and after their event and spend some much-needed dollars.

Arena Opens to Enthusiasm and Local Business Concerns

??New York Times??: “Downtown Newark Is Getting Set for a Large, Shiny New Resident”: From the day before the Prudential Arena’s opening last week, the Times has an insightful article about residents’ reactions to the arena, both within the administration and down on the street. After having blogged about the city for a couple of years now, I can tell you that its just absolutely stunning to see this level of enthusiasm in Newark.

Not from everybody, mind you, as the piece reveals the story of at least one small business on Market that foresees losing her affordable space from an anticipated rise in rents in the area. Still, what was once a mild optimism about the city’s progress now appears to be effusive as people approach me about how the Newark Arena is doing. I’m hoping to get in touch with someone close to the arena soon to get some more information about the Arena’s first week of business, so stay tuned.

When 17,000 people pour into the heart of New Jersey’s largest city on Thursday night to hear Bon Jovi perform the first of 10 shows, they will undoubtedly be impressed by the glimmering Prudential Center, the first new sports arena in the metropolitan region in 25 years.

The metropolitan area’s first new sports arena in 25 years has a 4,800-square-foot high-definition billboard, an upscale restaurant and a food court with outlets for eight local restaurants.

They will squint into the glare of a towering 4,800-square-foot high-definition billboard, gaze at $1 million worth of hockey-themed art — including some painted portraits of grinning men without front teeth — and may react with some perplexity when a man who calls himself a sommelier arrives to take their wine order at the arena’s unarenalike restaurant.

“This is not something people are used to,” said Jeff Vanderbeek, the owner of the Devils hockey team, during a tour last week of one of the arena’s 76 luxury boxes, as men in hard hats worked to make the place presentable for its inauguration. “I think they are going to be overwhelmed.”

The question that many people here are asking is whether the millions of visitors expected to traipse through Newark on their way to and from the $375 million arena in the coming years will be equally entranced by a city that might be charitably described as a work in progress.

For now, when they look out through the arena’s soaring glass facade or make the two-block hike from Pennsylvania Station, they will see a landscape of parking lots and ramshackle buildings. Their dining choices on Broad Street near Market Street, the city’s storied but tattered main intersection, will be limited to a Burger King, a Popeyes and a Bojangles’. If they want to grab a beer or a wine spritzer after the show, they will have to satisfy their thirst at Arena Bar or Scully’s Publick House, the only new drinking establishments within four blocks.

“At this point, I thought there would be a lot more going on around the arena,” said Joseph Aratow, a commercial real estate broker who has spent four years eagerly pitching the area’s potential allure to national restaurant chains, banks and boutique cigar bars. “I think a lot of people are in denial. They still can’t believe it’s happening.”

Prudential Center Continues to Generate Buzz

We’re just days away from Bon Jovi;s opening night at the Rock, and Devils owner and Pru Center dealmaker Jeff Vanderbeek is gladly showing the press through the arena in this piece by the ??New York Times??: “Devils Win the Race to be First”:

It was Jeffrey Vanderbeek, the Devils’ owner, who was giving a tour yesterday of the $375-million Prudential Center, nicknamed the Rock, in Newark six days before its opening Thursday with a Bon Jovi concert. The arena includes an austere and capacious white concourse; slick $222,000 to $285,000 luxury suites; restaurants and club lounges that overlook the ice; intimate seating (17,625 for hockey, 18,500 for Seton Hall basketball and 19,500-plus for concerts); displays of New Jersey high school hockey jerseys; hockey-themed artwork; and an enormous outdoor L.E.D. screen that will emit high definition images allegedly visible in Manhattan.

This is clearly the Devils’ building, built by the Devils (with $210 million in Newark money) for the Devils. There is no N.B.A. team (there is an indoor soccer club, the Ironmen) to deflect attention (or to add revenues) from the Devils. As Vanderbeek skillfully gave a tour for dozens of reporters, it was difficult not to think of McMullen. He loved this team. He hated the Continental Airlines Arena (now the Izod Center) and only considered migrating to the country music capital of Nashville to make the money he couldn’t make in the state-run Meadowlands. Heck, he was an owner, but a delightfully cantankerous and bluntly candid one. He would have loved to have beaten Steinbrenner to the finish line with the first arena or stadium to open in this market since the Continental Arena in 1981.

Instead, it was Vanderbeek, the former Lehman Brothers investment banker, who opened his building before the Yankees and Mets, whose new ballparks are to open in the spring of 2009; the Giants and Jets, whose joint, $1.3-billion stadium beside Giants Stadium is scheduled to open in 2010; the Nets, who haven’t broken ground near downtown Brooklyn on a Frank Gehry-designed arena that is still expected to open in 2009; and the Red Bulls’ $140-million soccer stadium in Harrison, N.J.

“I’ve always felt it was important to be first,” Vanderbeek said, not the least because of the edge it gives him in selling luxury suites and club seats before the other teams flood the market with the elite seating from their new arenas and stadiums.

“This is different than anybody in this area is used to,” he said.