Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Star-Ledger: Nets will schedule three (of four) pre-season games at Newark's Prudential Center

With a report that three (of four) pre-season home games will be scheduled at the Prudential Center next year, the New Jersey Nets are apparently making an about-face in their willingness to consider Newark as an interim home, at least.

Interviewed December 2 on WFAN radio, New Jersey Nets CEO Brett Yormark was asked by host Craig Carton why the team didn't move to The Rock, at least until the Brooklyn arena arrived.

Yormark shrugged it off, praising the Izod Center in the Meadowlands: "Over the course of the last two years, the state has invested like never before in that venue. During our Nets games, we have incredible lounges for season ticket-holders, the service is better than ever before. We’ve rebranded the entire arena, we’ve got greater technology than ever before. And it’s a perfect setting for us right now. One of the key things for me is that I want to be the main tenant. I want to be the big dog…. And the Izod Center… is having the most successful year it’s had in ten years now that the Devils aren’t there.”
(Emphasis as spoken)

Exhibition games coming?

Last night, however, the Newark Star-Ledger reported:
Nets management has begun negotiations with Devils owner Jeffrey Vanderbeek to play three preseason games at the Prudential Center next October, according to several people with knowledge of the discussions who asked not to be identified out of concern for affecting the talks.

Nets CEO Brett Yormark would neither confirm nor deny the discussions Monday night, but he strongly implied such an arrangement could be feasible for his team.

"We're exploring many different options, continue to regionalize the franchise," Yormark said through a team spokesman. "Preseason games afford us the opportunity to do this."


Vanderbeek wouldn't confirm it either.

Newark a test?

And it's unclear whether Newark is an experiment or a prelude to a move, one that likely wouldn't happen next season. The Star-Ledger reported:
"That's what everyone is wondering," one high-ranking Nets official said Monday night. "With Brooklyn still up in the air, the question is whether they're warming to the idea of moving to Newark, even though it's clear that getting to Brooklyn is best for the long-term health of the franchise.

Yes, the naming rights and suite revenue from the Brooklyn arena are calculated to bring the profits projected. However, if Atlantic Yards falls through completely, a track record in Newark would make it easier to move the Nets there or sell it to local investors. (Yesterday, the stock of parent Forest City Enterprises fell 16% after Moody's Investors Service warned that high debt meant a negative credit outlook.)

The Newark location, near a train station, would likely draw a larger audience, and make it easier to distribute free or discount seats. After all, the Nets are having trouble drawing crowds even when they give tickets away. Announced attendance last night was 12,972, or 65% capacity, but that surely well exceeds the gate count. (It didn't look that full.)

The Nets would have to pay a penalty to the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority (NJSEA) were they to move--$12 million this year, though it declines in the future--though a re-elected Gov. Jon Corzine might get that penalty waived next year.

Yormark's contradictions

Meanwhile, Yormark has begun to contradict himself, telling the newspaper:
"We love our relationship with the NJSEA, they partner with us in every aspect of that building -- from the lounges to the LEDs (ad boards) to everything we've done there," Yormark said. "But (Izod Center) still doesn't provide us with the resources we need, and the contemporary look and feel of some of the newer building."

Not "the perfect setting for us right now."

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