Friday, October 16, 2009

Newark Mayor Booker says he's now focusing on a temporary Nets move to the Prudential Center

With a new owner for the Nets and more momentum for a team move to Brooklyn, figures in New Jersey, including Newark Mayor Cory Booker, are now focusing on a push for a temporary move to Newark's Prudential Center rather than a permanent move.

Yesterday, Record columnist Al Iannazzone, reflecting on the relative success of the first preseason game in Newark, offered a message for prospective Nets' owner Mikhail Prokhorov:
Then someone should ask Prokhorov: Which do you want to play in until the proposed Brooklyn arena is built potentially during the 2011-12 season? After he says The Rock, then tell him there may be a penalty if the Nets break their Izod Center lease, which expires in 2013, but if you're willing to pay, we'll start talking to the Devils and the state.

Playing in a state-of-the-art arena could mean the difference between recruiting a major free agent next summer and not. That's a card the Nets could draw, and if Prokhorov really cares about building a winner he'll be willing to pay the penalty – if there is one.

The state could waive it if it feels the Nets playing in Newark would be a good thing.


Booker's take

Last night, on WBGO radio's Newark Today with Cory Booker, at about 21 minutes, host Andrew Meyer suggested that Booker's effort to get the Nets to move to Newark "took a big hit since our last call-in show" in September.

Did the Prokhorov news come out of left field, Meyer asked.

"Da," responded Booker, explaining it was "Russian for 'yes'."

So, is a move to Brooklyn inevitable, Meyer asked?

"No, no, no, no," Booker responded energetically, but he focused on the short term.

Given the turnout at the preseason game, the mayor said he'd heard Nets players say that "Brooklyn may or may not come, " but the team should play in Newark soon.

The two-arena rivalry

So, for the next two or three seasons, the team should go to Newark, Booker said, explaining that "the conversations between Izod and us are going very well, we're all realizing we can do revenue sharing."

The two facilities are significant rivals for concerts, with the more antiquated Izod Center in the lead.

Meyer asked if Booker had tried to reach out to Prokhorov.

Booker didn't answer directly: "I have to say there are a lot of legal challenges in Brooklyn. I'm willing to let that run its course. In the short term, we have a New Jersey team that can have energy and can life here in Newark, we believe, in a way that doesn't hurt Izod."

"My focus right now is on the short term, one to three years, to see if we can get the Nets in Newark and really show NBA basketball could thrive here in this city," he said.

That could lead to a number of things, he said, including perhaps even another NBA team.

But Booker's no longer talking up a potential Newark ownership group that could snap up the Nets.

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