Thursday, January 15, 2015

Izod Center expected to close, move events to Prudential Center, but may be revamped at a later date

A lot of people thought the metropolitan area had too many arenas, especially with the advent of the transit-accessible Barclays Center in 2012. Since then, the Nassau Coliseum has announced a renovation and downsizing, with the coming loss of its hockey team to Brooklyn, and now the suburban Izod Center in New Jersey is closing, having been eclipsed by the Prudential Center in Newark.

But the fate of the building is unclear, since it may not be demolished and may be reopened/rebranded, not unlike the Nassau arena.

The 18,000-seat Izod Center, formerly the Brendan Byrne Arena (a former governor) when it opened in 1981, became home to the New Jersey Nets through its renaming as Continental Airlines Arena in 1996 and then Izod in 2007. 

The New Jersey Devils and Seton Hall basketball team both moved to Newark permanently in 2007. The Nets left for an interim stay in Newark in 2010, after it was tougher and tougher to get fans who didn't strongly support a winning team to show up for a losing one.

From NJ.com, Deal closing Izod Center expected to be announced Thursday
TRENTON — The Izod Center — the arena that has been part of the Meadowlands Sports Complex in East Rutherford for more than three decades and was once the home to the New Jersey Devils and Nets — is expected to close its doors by the end of the month.
Under an agreement that will be announced Thursday, the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority — which oversees the 34-year-old, state-owned venue — has reached an agreement with the Prudential Center that grants the arena in Newark official hosting rights to the events calendar of the Izod Center, according to a source familiar with the agreement who asked not to be identified because the source was not authorized to publicly discuss it.
The two-year deal called for all future events currently scheduled for the Izod Center to be moved to the Prudential Center, effective Jan. 31. According to the Izod calendar, those upcoming events include concerts by Chris Brown and Maroon 5, a Ringling Bros. circus, and a Disney event.
The source said as part of the agreement, the Izod Center will remain dark for the two-year duration of the contract.
Nearby construction the problem
Only a handful of concerts have been held at the arena in the past two years, although three dozen schools held graduation ceremonies there last spring and the arena still attracts family-oriented holiday shows.
Wayne Hasenbalg, the president of the sports authority, said the decision, though difficult, was a matter of economics and a component of the ongoing transformation of the Meadowlands Sports Complex, highlighted by the American Dream entertainment and retail project.
There will be major construction in the next 18 months, until the project opens.

State Sen. Paul Sarlo, whose district includes the Sports Complex, criticized the move.

“This is only devaluing the facility and any potential for being taken over by a new operator in the future,” Sarlo told the Record. "The rational way of doing things would be to keep the arena open and allow entities such as Triple Five, Barclays Center, or Prudential Center to bid." It's not clear if that was viable.

At least one promoter, John Scher, said there was a big enough market for arena shows to exceed the capacity of one "northern New Jersey arena.” 

That doesn't necessarily make it profitable. The Izod Center was projected to lose $8.5 million in 2015,  and the naming rights deal, "for a reported $2 million annually, expired in 2010," without changing the name of the arena.

The Record's John Brennan reports that the  developer of American Dream Meadowlands, Triple Five, told real estate executives it would “re-brand Izod Center to American Dream Center in partnership with the owners of Barclays Center & [concert promoter] Live Nation.”

They now say that claim was an error. The politics are such that some think in-state operators should get priority. So stay tuned.

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