As it turns out, the operators of Newark’s Prudential Center are indeed paying to have the Izod Center in the New Jersey Meadowlands close for two years: The owners of the New Jersey Devils will pay the state of New Jersey a whopping $2 million to shut their competition down, in addition to freeing the state from the responsibility of a projected $8.5 million in red ink for each of the next two seasons.
And for their money, the Devils owners are also getting the right to restrict how the Izod Center is used once it reopens, if it reopens, in 2017:
In the letter [from the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority], the sports authority agreed either to keep the Izod Center closed in 2017 and in 2018 as well, or alternatively to reopen in 2017 in a format that is not directly competitive with the Newark arena.
In the latter case, the sports authority would agree that from 2017-2021, the Meadowlands facility would only offer a “single theatrical residency production” — a series of performances such as Cirque du Soleil — or cut the capacity of the Izod Center in half, to a maximum of 10,000 seats. Popular family shows such as the traditional traveling circus and ice-skating events that are featured in most or all arenas in the region also would not be held at Izod Center at that time, with an exception for shows produced by a new operator.
The Prudential Center will also produce and get all revenue from the run of the Ringling Bros. circus in March that’s scheduled to be the last events at Izod before its closure. All in all, it seems like a pretty sweet deal for the Devils owners, but given that all New Jersey had was a mostly empty arena, a sea of red ink, and a governor who has wanted the place closed for a while, it’s not like the state had much leverage.
Some Jersey lawmakers have objected to the deal, with State Sen. Loretta Weinberg charging that this is just a ploy to help out Gov. Chris Christie’s pal Jerry Jones — owner of both the Dallas Cowboys and part of Legends Entertainment, which runs concessions at the Prudential Center — and threatening to sue to stop it. Presumably once the center is actually closed, this kerfuffle will die down and … oh, who am I kidding, Chris Christie is involved, this controversy will go on and on forever! Especially if Christie can’t keep a handle on his itchy texting fingers.