Saturday, March 06, 2010

It's All New: Nets tout Newark move for two years (but maybe three)

With a happy talk press conference and a new web site, Nets brass, along with reps from the city of Newark, the National Basketball Association (NBA), and the New Jersey Devils yesterday launched an effort to publicize the team's interim home at the Prudential Center and the team's potential for progress via a new owner, a high pick in the NBA draft, and cap space to attract free agents.

One unresolved issue: how long they might actually stay in Newark. Nets Sports & Entertainment CEO Brett Yormark was on-message, stating it would be two years, while an NBA official and Newark Mayor Cory Booker were a little more equivocal, allowing the possibility of three years.

Given that Yormark's previous predictions have been a tad unreliable and the Newark lease has a reported two-year extension, it's best not to be too certain.

The press conference video



From the press conference

At the press conference, Devils owner Jeff Vanderbeek said "we look forward to providing a game day experience second to none. Chip Hallock, President/CEO of Newark Regional Business Partnership, cited the impact of the arena on restaurants and the opportunity the team's move will provide for law firms in Newark "to give clients a great experience."

NBA Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver said, "I just want to say on behalf of the league how pleased we are that the Nets will be playing in this building for at least the next two years."

Yormark (at 10:45) was more definitive: "We look forward to our two years here at the Prudential Center in Newark. For us, the time was right for a change before we make our final relocation to Brooklyn in 2012."

Attendees, he said, "will see a best in class approach to both entertainment and basketball." He also announced that the team would sell 500 $299 season tickets to Newark residents.

Future is bright?

Yormark touted the new TV commercial (below) that kicks off the It's All New campaign and serves as the centerpiece of the new web site (right).

Citing the team's advantages, including $23.3 million to spend, he said, "I think you'll agree: our future is very bright."

New York Magazine agreed, but with a big caveat: The Nets Are Actually in Great Shape, If You’re Okay With Seizing Private Property on Behalf of a Billionaire.

And one commenter on the Star-Ledger's web site reminded readers that the proof is in the pudding:
Will moving to Newark make them play any better? Perhaps the newer wood in the Prudential Center will be more favorable to the ball bouncing better and going in the home team's basket. Let them go back to NY if they continue to play this bad. I heard court side tickets are selling for $3. BAZINGA.
Perhaps recognizing that sentiment, the one player to appear at the press conference, Kris Humphries, acknowledged the need to play well. But he was schooled in the lingo: "We're excited about getting out in the community... and building the brand."

Enthusiastic mayor

Newark Mayor Cory Booker, who later appeared with a Nets jersey (reminiscent of that press conference with jerseys for Mayor Mike Bloomberg, Gov. George Pataki, etc), called it "an extraordinary moment in the history of Newark, NJ... America's Number One comeback city."

Then Booker waxed enthusiastic. "Basketball is not just game. It is not," he said, citing the importance of events to local businesses.

Indeed, it could be argued that an arena makes more of of difference in Newark, where there was little upward movement on development, than in Brooklyn.

"Basketball is not just a game," Booker continued. "There are children all over this country, by watching basketball from afar, and especially when they get up close, find a strong source of inspiration, and models, and begin to elevate their game, not only on the basketball court but their believe in what is possible in life."

Really? Maybe after watching an NBA games, they think all timeouts should be filled with deafening, distracting entertainment.

The Q&A: impact on Newark

During the Q&A segment, the New York Times's Richard Sandomir said that, while he understands the excitement, "it's only for two, maybe three years. Won't the impact go away?"

"You can't discount the tangible impact those two to three years are going to have," Booker responded, citing new revenue and "the inspiration it will have for our kids."

"And then I have an audacious and impossible dream," he said. "My impossible dream is we will show... that NBA basketball is so exciting, so explosive, so successful... that the NBA will think hard about whether this is a city that should have basketball in perpetuity."

(Here's more from the Record on that possibility.)

Increased turnout

The Star-Ledger's Dave D'Alessandro asked about estimates for increased turnout and revenue.

Yormark noted that the more than 12,000 tickets were sold for preseason games without requiring season ticket holders to buy them, and the team's regional fan base increased. He also noted that 36% came by rail--a mode unavailable to the Izod Center.

He said new sponsors would be announced.

Silver said, in response to a question, that the NBA will approve new ownership "probably some time in early to mid-April."

Will Nets pay for police? No

A reporter asked about the cost of extra police overtime: will the Nets reimburse the city?

The answers were evasive. Booker joked that he'd play sixth man on the bench and his salary should cover it. He added that he and Vanderbeek "are inches away from a big announcement" regarding revenue-sharing issues and more.

He added that the city gets revenue from parking and hotel taxes, that season tickets would be discounted, that the Nets would be stepping up philanthropically and that players will be in neighborhoods. "We're going to have a lot of fun with an NBA team for the next two to three years," he said.

Yormark added happy talk: "I would just echo the mayor's sentiments... to be truly successful, we all must win... We are committed and very much look forward to getting this started."

From the Times

Sandomir's Times coverage, headlined Nets Laud Future Newark Home as a Bridge to Brooklyn, noted Booker's quote that “It’ll be a lot of fun for the next two to three years." (It did not disclose the Times Company's business relationship with developer Forest City Ratner.)

It gave some details:
The deal to move the Nets to Newark was announced last month by Gov. Christopher J. Christie.

The Nets agreed to pay $4 million to their landlord, the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority, to get out of their Izod Center lease, which was supposed to run through the 2012-13 season. The Nets can defray the charge by paying for two suites at the Prudential Center on behalf of the Sports Authority and by donating money to Newark Symphony Hall.
The advertisement


On CNBC

Later yesterday, in a piece headlined NJ Nets Offer Tax Giveaway, CNBC's Maria Bartiromo caught up with Yormark to talk about the promotion that got so much ink this week.

Do you think this offer is really going to work, she asked.

"We sold a couple of thousand tickets against this promotion," declared Yormark. Maybe he's right. The announced attendance was 15,320.

Then again, does this photo (cropped) look like the arena was mostly full?

Yormark also discussed the move to Brooklyn and the scheduled March 11 groundbreaking. One nugget: "Jay-Z will be there, he's part of the family."

Though Jay-Z owns a tiny slice of the team, he's a celebrity owner, and he's come through at multiple press conferences.










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