This is an archived version of a Field of Schemes article. Comments on this page are closed. To find the current version of the article with updated comments, click here.
April 28, 2010
Devils arena creates development, except for the actual development part
Ken Belson, the New York Times' favorite rose-colored sports business reporter, has an article today headlined "Devils' Move Paying Off for Team, and Newark." For the team, no duh — after all, the Devils got $358 million in public money to help build the place. As for the city, Belson's evidence comes down to this single paragraph:
The additional foot traffic has helped generate nearly $15 million in economic activity and helped created 708 jobs in Newark, on top of the 1,400 people who work in the arena when there are events. Marriott plans to break ground on a new hotel in September. Several housing developments and a park across from the arena are planned. A few sports bars will open on a street adjacent to the arena.
Belson doesn't give a source on the job-creation stats, but presumably they come from an economic impact report by the city, and we all know how unreliable those numbers can be. As for the rest, I last walked the area around the Newark arena the summer before last, and I described what I saw at the time (for a magazine that subsequently folded before my article ran) as:
The building is surrounded on three sides by parking lots, on the fourth by vacant storefronts. A large "Going Out of Business" sign looms across the street, advertising a furniture store that's been forced out after 85 years when the city took its building under the threat of eminent domain. Jack Stoecker, co-owner of the Green Street Cafe adjacent to one of the parking lots, says, "Hockey nights I'm sold out"; a block away from the arena on Market Street, meanwhile, merchants say they seldom see spillover business from fans, who prefer to go straight from their cars to the game.
That was pre-economic collapse, though it's certainly possible that, as Belson concludes, "the real gauge of the arena's success will coming in the next few years, as the economy recovers." Still, "too soon to tell" is a far cry from that cheery headline.