Monday, March 05, 2007

Nets to Newark? The option emerges, as Ratner hedges on Brooklyn timing

Could the Nets be headed to Newark, as an interim option before the arena Brooklyn in Brooklyn is completed? And could that be the fallback if the Atlantic Yards plan dies?

That's what the tea leaves suggest. First, last week, the New York Times reported on a press conference held by Nets majority owner Bruce Ratner:
To some, rebuilding seems a logical step for the Nets because they are scheduled to move to Brooklyn by the 2009-10 season. The Nets’ new arena will be the centerpiece of Ratner’s $4 billion Atlantic Yards project. Construction crews have already begun clearing the area for the arena to be built, and Ratner said that the time frame for having the arena ready was “aggressive, but I think we can do it.”

Translation: it may not be ready by 2009.

Newark option

Now, the subscription-only Crain's NY Insider has reported, in an article headlined Jumping through hoops in Jersey,
It would make sense for the New Jersey Nets to decamp to the new Prudential Center in Newark before relocating to Brooklyn in 2009 or 2010, but such a move is a long shot, one insider says. The center is slated to open for the Devils hockey team in October; it could also handle basketball.

Unlike the relatively inaccessible Meadowlands, where Nets attendance has been dismal for years, the Prudential Center is near a transit hub and universities, colleges, hotels, restaurants and the popular Ironbound district. Newark Mayor Cory Booker has been calling for the Meadowlands to be closed and all its activities transferred to the new facility.

"It seems logical, but I guess that's the problem," the source says, referring to state politics. Gov. Jon Corzine is not inclined to deprive the Meadowlands of a major tenant.


Translation: it may not be ready by 2009.

Yes, it would make sense for the Nets to move to Newark as soon as possible, for the reasons noted by Crain's. Also, unmentioned, is that if the Atlantic Yards project is further delayed, or even killed, the Nets could establish some longevity in their new (temporary?) home.

Remember, the state and Forest City Ratner have predicted 225 events annually at the Brooklyn arena--but that's predicated on the absence of an arena in Newark. The presence of the Newark arena would reduce revenues in Brooklyn.

Who's the insider?

So, who might Crain's be quoting? The newspaper does have an inside line to Forest City Ratner, which obviously has an interest in a move to Newark. But the newspaper could just as easily be quoting an official from Newark, or the new Newark arena, who could be in contact with the owners of the Nets.

Also--synergy watch!--the press spokesperson for Newark Mayor Cory Booker is Lupe Todd, who formerly worked for Dan Klores Communications, most recently on the Forest City Ratner account.

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