On March 16, John J. McMullen sold his team, the New Jersey Devils, to a Yankee-Nets’ affiliate for $175 million, nearly six times the $30,000 he paid for the franchise in 1982. As he took the money, a bitter McMullen railed against Governor Whitman for refusing to grant him the air rights over the historic Erie Lackawanna Station despite his offer to build the arena without public subsidies. This sale now opens the way for the basketball owners’ plans to build a new arena in Newark.
This is good news for Hoboken residents who have vigorously fought McMullen’s proposal to locate the 18,500 seat Devils’ arena atop the Hoboken Train Terminal. The Quality of Life Coalition and its constituent groups, the Coalition for a Better Waterfront, the Environment Committee of Hoboken and Hoboken Alliance for Lower Taxes, collected over 1,000 signatures on a petition that they submitted to Governor Whitman last summer. These groups also sparked a campaign that resulted in scores of letters and e-mails sent to the governor’s office complaining of the serious degradation of Hoboken’s quality life that would result from such a facility. By last September, Hoboken’s Mayor and City Council passed a resolution prohibiting the siting of the arena at the Hoboken Terminal.
The owners of the Nets, led by philanthropist Raymond Chambers, have been seeking to revive downtown Newark through the construction of their proposed arena. The Nets, who are owned by a holding company that also owns the New York Yankees, are said to be willing to spend $200 million to move to Newark. The City of Newark has also committed to float bonds to cover $300 million for the arena, parking garages and road repairs.
This sale clearly jeopardizes the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority’s plan to rebuild the area in the Meadowlands. The authority has developed a master plan which calls for a $272 million arena that includes luxury suites as well as a privately financed retail complex of theme restaurants and entertainment venues. The aim of the authority’s plan is to retain the Nets and Devils at a newly build arena in the Meadowlands along side Giants Stadium and the Meadowlands Racetrack. Governor Whitman has insisted that the two sports teams play their home games under a single roof. Arenas housing one team are not considered economically viable.
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