News for the Hospitality Executive
|By John Brennan, The Record, Hackensack, N.J.
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
Mar. 26, 2004 - NEW YORK -- The Jets would leave New Jersey for the most expensive stadium in U.S. history as part of a larger project on Manhattan's West Side, New York officials said Thursday.
"This is not a stadium standing alone," New York Gov. George Pataki said, explaining that it would be an integral part of an expanded Jacob Javits Convention Center.
The $1.4 billion stadium is a major component of the $2.8 billion proposal, but expanding the Javits Center is an easier sell. So although Jets quarterback Chad Pennington, head coach Herman Edwards, and famed fan "Fireman Ed" Anzalone had front-row seats at Thursday's news conference, the stadium was on the backburner of discussion.
The team's lease runs until 2008, and its departure could leave the Meadowlands Sports Complex with just one team, the Giants. The Nets plan to move to Brooklyn about the same time, the Devils say they're moving to Newark as early as 2007, and the soccer MetroStars have said they want to relocate to Harrison.
Javits is being emphasized in New York for two reasons. The first is that expanding it would increase the city's convention business and have a much greater financial impact than the stadium. The second reason is political: The stadium plan has generated the bulk of the opposition from community groups, whose legal efforts could sink the entire project.
On Thursday, Pataki and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg offered their most detailed defense to date of the controversial 75,000-seat stadium, which would be called the New York Sports and Convention Center -- or, equally inelegantly, NYSCC.
The stadium, Bloomberg said, also could serve as a 200,000-square-foot exhibit hall at the southern end of the newly expanded 1.5 million-square-foot Javits Center. And with a flat, retractable roof and a prime location, stadium boosters say that Super Bowls, NCAA basketball championships, and an annual college football bowl game also could become occasional tenants.
Johnson confirmed that the Jets would spend $800 million to build the stadium, and Bloomberg said that the city and state would split the $600 million cost of building a platform above the rail yards currently on the site between 30th and 33rd streets, and 11th Avenue and the West Side Highway.
The cost is nearly three times higher than the latest National Football League stadium to open, Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, which cost $512 million to build.
But the focus Thursday was on Javits, which Bloomberg noted could fit inside just the new addition at the mammoth McCormick Convention Center in Chicago. Louisville and Cleveland, he added with a hint of embarrassment, are among the 17 U.S. cities that have larger convention centers than New York does.
"Virtually from the moment that the Javits Center opened in 1986, it was already inadequate in size and design," Bloomberg said. "Its weaknesses have put New York City at a distinct disadvantage in the highly competitive convention business. Today, we are making a capital investment that will catapult New York into the front ranks of the industry."
"We're at what is called the Javits Convention Center, but it really is a large exhibit hall," he said. "It doesn't have the square footage you need to attract the type of conventions that bring in more people, more money, more hotel rooms, and more construction."
The city's bid to attract the 2012 Summer Olympics also got only passing attention Thursday, even though the stadium is a key component in convincing the International Olympic Committee that New York is a viable host for the 2012 Games when a site is chosen in 16 months.
Paris and London are more likely choices for the 2012 bid in the minds of many experts, and that may be why the so-called "New York City Convention Corridor" is being pushed with or without an Olympic bid.
At the end of his speech, Pataki called the possibility of New York getting the Olympics "one added bonus." The other, he said, was bringing the Jets back to New York after 20 years in New Jersey at Giants Stadium.
Dan Doctoroff, the deputy mayor and the founder of the New York Olympic effort, stressed the relative desolation of the Convention Corridor area compared with the rest of midtown Manhattan.
"Take a walk around outside, and block after block after block what you'll find are rail yards, vacant lots, parking lots, auto body shops," he said.
Javits Center Chairman Robert Boyle agreed.
"You are probably at the only spot in Manhattan where you can walk six blocks before you see a restaurant," he said.
"In fact, you may walk six blocks on a cold winter night before you see another living person.
"Now we'll be a real destination."
But not if local activists have their way.
John Fisher, spokesman for the West Side Coalition, an umbrella group for the plan's opponents, noted, "Financing, zoning, and environmental approvals are not easily obtained."
According to the group's figures, 20,000 residents could be displaced and $7.5 billion in tax revenue lost in the "mega-project."
The Jets' spending on the stadium would far exceed any previous NFL team's financial commitment for a stadium, even assuming the club can get the league to split the cost, as it has for many other stadiums.
Johnson suggested that luxury suite revenue and naming rights, both of which would carry premium price tags given the New York market, could make it financially feasible.
"It's not like we're in the hinterlands here," he said.
Only 10,000 parking spaces are available near the Javits Center, according to the city's estimates, but a survey commissioned by the Jets found that 70 percent of their season-ticket holders would take mass transit to a Manhattan football stadium. Tailgating, however, would be a thing of the past.
"But they'd get their own building," Johnson said of Jets fans who suffer the indignity of cheering on their team at a place called Giants Stadium. "If they have to make a tradeoff, they'll make that trade."
The last time the Jets franchise played a game in Manhattan, Johnson noted, was in 1963 at the Polo Grounds.
"Now the New York Jets are finally coming home," he said.
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(c) 2004, The Record, Hackensack, N.J. Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News.