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October 19, 2007

Public cost of Newark arena nears $400m

With the New Jersey Devils' Prudential Center set to open next week, the city of Newark is pulling out all the stops to make sure that hockey fans (and Bon Jovi fans, since they're the official opening-night act) feel comfortable in the big, scary city. Reports the Newark Star-Ledger:

Newark has posted signs, added lighting and assigned extra police downtown. NJ Transit has assigned scores of yellow-jacketed "ambassadors" at Penn Station and Broad Street Station. And the arena will post train schedules after the event.

Not that any of this is a bad thing - well, arguably some of it - but it does all cost money, driving the public cost of the arena still higher. The Star-Ledger reported on Monday that the public cost will reach $358 million (out of a half-billion-dollar-plus project) once money is found to build a pedestrian walkway over the McCarter Highway, which inconveniently sits between the nearby commuter rail station and the arena site. The city also agreed to build an additional $19 million in parks near the arena as part of the development agreement.

While the paper doesn't give estimates for the cost of the extra police and lighting, urban planner Judith Grant Long has estimated that police, fire, and other services for a sports facility can run between $2 million and $6 million a year. At even a fraction of that rate, it won't take too many years of calming jumpy visitors for the public's arena price tag to top $400 million total. For that kind of money, you'd think they could have just bribed people to visit downtown.


Well the devil fans better support there team now because if they don't when the arena gets old the devils will move out of jersey.

Posted by dan on October 21, 2007 06:32 PM

So funding police is the responsibility of professional sports?

Posted by undrafted on October 22, 2007 06:17 PM

No, undrafted: The funding should be provided by the occupants.

Posted by MikeM on October 22, 2007 08:24 PM

MikeM - do you write a special check (outside of standard taxes) to the local police where you reside?

Posted by undrafted on October 22, 2007 09:06 PM

No, I personally don't. But when private events held at arenas increase the need for police protection around those private events above and beyond the normal costs of police protection, I think the people holding the public event SHOULD write the check for that protection.

Just put in in the budget.

(Note: I said "SHOULD". I suspect that can be changed to "should, but do not.")

Posted by MikeM on October 23, 2007 03:13 PM

Fair enough if that's your view. I disagree. Regardless I think it's a stretch to call it a public subsidy if they don't pay extra for police.

I'm suspicious of deals like the Nationals where a league extorts a fully paid building. I tend to agree it's not worth the public burden. But when a team wants too build their own house, but the community won't build roads and infrastructure (like sewers) or provide them police service, I think community is generally saying no thanks to that teams presence. Maybe Newark's paying too much for the NHL. But I think some of these reports overinflate the actual subsidy provided.

Posted by undrafted on October 23, 2007 05:40 PM

It's not a matter of whether it's a subsidy or not, it's a matter of whether the city is getting a return on its investment. Arena boosters claimed that the taxes generated by fans would pay back the city's costs - if they're instead needed to pay for extra police staffing, then the arena expense is just a straight subsidy.

If a developer wants city help in building a building, but it turns out that it will require huge increases in infrastructure and police services - more than, say, an apartment building or an office tower would - then I think it's fair to ask why on earth the city would want to encourage this kind of money pit of a building. Unless Newark residents have suffering because they're deprived of hockey. (Or Bon Jovi.)

Posted by Neil on October 23, 2007 07:32 PM

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