A proposed operating agreement between Izod Center and Prudential Center would put all sports in Newark and most other events — like concerts and ice shows –in the Meadowlands. With the New Jersey Nets and New Jersey Devils reportedly looking closely at the plan, it looks like the Jersey arena wars could be over, but whether it’s a long-term solution is under some debate.
An agreement under consideration by officials with New Jersey’s Prudential Center and Izod Center would shift the NBA’s New Jersey Nets to the Rock while upping the number of concerts at Izod Center. The plan would for the first time coordinate events and scheduling between the two venues, ending a war that’s financially hurt both.
Management of the Nets and the NHL’s New Jersey Devils were involved in the talks. The Nets are in a limbo of sorts: a move to a new Brooklyn arena is far from a done deal (most insiders peg the chances of Barclays Center construction happening as no more than 50-50), and even if a new arena happens the Nets will need a home for at least two more seasons.
It is a truism that arenas cannot thrive financially when two are located in the same metro area; the same scenario has played out in Minneapolis-St. Paul, Kansas City and Portland, where two venues compete for the same acts and events, giving power to promoters and driving down fees. That’s what happened in New Jersey, where both Izod Center and Prudential Center have struggled financially since the Rock opened. Newark Mayor Cory Booker at one time called for the closing of Izod Center; the Meadowlands folks responded by slashing staff and lowered costs to an extreme. Yes, the arena breaks even — but under no circumstances could you argue it’s thriving.
The agreement, as first reported by NorthJersey.com, calls for the two arenas to form an LLC that would handle bookings for each. Prudential Center would become the sports venue, hosting Nets, Devils and Seton Hall basketball games. Izod Center would host the majority of concerts and events like ice shows, though some could still be scheduled at Prudential Center. By centralizing booking, power shifts from promoters to the venues.
The agreement also has a few other benefits for arena management. The Devils and Newark have been involved in a rent dispute since the opening of Prudential Center: the NHL team hasn’t paid a cent in rent, saying there were too many deficiencies in the building. The agreement would settle that dispute.
Everyone will need to give up a little here. The Meadowlands Authority will need to waive a $7 million penalty payment due it should the Nets moves to Newark. The Devils will need to give some some revenues to the Nets and give the team some level of say in arena management. And Newark officials will need to give up concerts and family shows, as well as take a haircut on past rent owed by the Devils.
Cooperative management isn’t always a panacea; it’s done little to raise the fortunes of Kansas City’s Kemper Arena, where AEG books and manages that facility as well as Sprint Center. But Kansas City ain’t New Jersey, where the much higher population gives both venues a chance to succeed.
This article originally appeared in the Arena Digest newsletter. Sign up for the free weekly Arena Digest newsletter and keep up with the latest happenings! You can sign up here.