Three Bad Ideas: 1) The notion that the State of New Jersey could do a good job running Sports & Entertainment venues; 2. that Xanadu would become a great success; and 3) that the NJ Nets Basketball team could be successfully moved to Brooklyn.
First lets address one delusion of Governor Christie, as reported in today’s Record. Regarding any deal between the Nets and the Devils under which the the basketball team would move to Newark, Governor Christie said,”Nothing comes to my desk unless I want it to come to my desk.” Dear Mr. Governor, you are the governor, and like it or not you can’t always control what lands on your desk. Check with your predecessors.
The State’s ownership and management of Sports & Entertainment venues historically has been rife with over-bloated salaries, perks for politicians, waste, and fraud. The result: a run on the State treasury. The state should sell off its assets, get out of this business, and turn it over to private enterprise.
Only other delusional people could have believed in the success of Xanadu. Beyond being the turnpike’s great eyesore, it had little to offer. Yes, an indoor ski slope was an innovative idea, but most of the other projects – restaurants, shops, a movie theater – are already available in many malls without having to face the potential Meadowlands traffic congestion, turnpike toll fees, Xanadu parking fees, and long walks within the huge facility. As a nearby resident I saw little in Xanadu that I could not find find a few miles from where I live (or probably from where you live) – and without the headaches. (Naturally sunday football rituals at the stadium are not materially affected.)
The state could wait several years until the economy improves substantially and perhaps negotiate a strong financial deal for the Xanadu property, but in the meantime the existing structures would deteriorate while the state treasury struggles. According to the Record, real estate executive Steve Ross is in serious talks to take over Xanadu. Such a deal, negotiated wisely by the state, could be a win-win. The state would get revenue from the sale, and with some fresh rethinking from new ownership, Xanadu might yet become a success.
As a longtime NJ Nets fan, the plan of its real estate owner to move the team to Brooklyn has been so far an equally ill-conceived venture – fraught with delays, uncertainty and the Perils of Pauline. The results: the owner has starved the team of money and talent, reduced the fan base, entered into a convoluted ownership arrangement with a wealthy Russian sports team owner whose plans are unclear, and as a final insult removed “NJ”, leaving only “NETS”, as the name for this team whose roots are long entwined in the history of NJ sports.
NJ fans want a NJ basketball team. It belongs in Newark’s Prudential Center. The IZOD Arena is an aging venue that inside resembles a larger version of your high school basketball arena, full of concrete blocks, few amenities, and ugliness. It did serve a purpose and offered value to sports fans, but it no longer meets the needs of a modern sports arena. It would cost a huge sum to renovate – funds for which the State is in no position to borrow money.
If a private buyer for the IZOD Arena could be found, that would be great. Let the buyer refurbish it. However, without at least one major sports team in the arena it probably is not financially viable. Prolonging its life as a state entity will only result in ongoing deficits and in reduced income for both Prudential Center and IZOD Arena as they compete for entertainment attractions.
Our state has more pressing problems now. It should get out of the S&E business, make as good a deal as it can over the Xanadu property, shed itself of the IZOD Arena, and encourage the NJ Nets to move to Newark. The Governor, wearing his hat as S&E Czar, has tough decisions to make. They will land on his desk whether he wants them to or not. But heck, isn’t that his job?