Giants Sue to Force ’State of the Art’ Changes to Stadium

Wed April 20, 2005 - Northeast Edition

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ (AP) Less than a month after a deal to build a new $750-million stadium fell apart, the New York Giants on April 5 filed a lawsuit to force New Jersey to make “state of the art” renovations to Giants Stadium and to block the $1.3-billion Xanadu entertainment project.

“This was not a step we wanted to take, but we had no choice,” Giants Executive Vice President John K. Mara said at a news conference at Giants Stadium. “The Meadowlands has been our home for nearly 30 years and we needed to take action to protect our home. This is not a happy occasion for us.”

In their lawsuit against the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority, the Giants alleged that their Meadowlands landlord breached its lease obligations by failing to provide the team with a “state of the art” facility as provided under a lease amended in 1995.

Opened in 1976, the stadium is one of the NFL’s oldest. The Giants had proposed paying for the new stadium, but the deal hit last-minute glitches in March and stalled.

The lawsuit filed in state Superior Court in Bergen County also sought an injunction to stop construction on the Xanadu project, the Meadowlands makeover that started on March 28 with work on a parking lot. An April 29 court hearing is scheduled.

Xanadu is to include sports-themed theaters, bars, restaurants and shopping outlets. It is to be built around Continental Airlines Arena, across Route 120 from Giants Stadium in the 400-acre Meadowlands complex.

The Giants’ lease gives them the right to sign off on all construction at the Meadowlands. The team did not give its approval, Mara said.

Kelley Heck, a spokeswoman for acting Gov. Richard J. Codey, said, “The governor remains optimistic that we can still get a deal done with the Giants that will be good for the residents of New Jersey. He looks forward to continuing the negotiations and hopes that the Giants ultimately also come to a resolution with Xanadu.”

She said Codey has not met with Giants representatives in the past month, but said his staff had continued to talk to the team.

Sports authority chief executive George Zoffinger said he welcomed the Giants’ actions, saying the two sides needed an independent party to define “state of the art” renovations.

“I believe Giants Stadium is one of the best places to watch an NFL game,” Zoffinger said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press. “If we have to do something [with the stadium], we are prepared to do it.”

Xanadu Spokesman Robert Sommer said the lawsuit would hurt construction workers.

“Meadowlands-Xanadu is already providing hundreds of construction jobs on our way to 20,000 for New Jersey residents and the Giants’ action is a shot across the bow to these people and harmful to their families,” Sommer said.

In response to a question, Mara said the team has no interest in joining their co-tenant, the New York Jets, who are seeking to build a stadium on the West Side of Manhattan. He maintained that the Giants want a new stadium at the Meadowlands or improvements to the existing stadium.

The Giants’ lawsuit came approximately a month after the sports authority took the team to court in an effort to have an independent third party determine what upgrades it must make to the current Giants Stadium to be in compliance with a “state of the art” clause in the NFL team’s lease.

“If they are not going to let us build it, they are going to have to renovate it themselves,” Mara said. “That’s the choice they have. We’ll either build it and they don’t have to spend a dime, or they build it and we’ll let a judge determine how much it costs the taxpayers.”

The Giants believe that a state of the art clause would force the authority to build a retractable roof and make other significant alterations that could cost $200 million to $300 million.

The authority believes a retractable roof would be excessive and that other upgrades would cost far less. The authority has said it has made $117 million in improvements to the stadium over the past eight years, adding a new press box, scoreboard, lighting, playing field, luxury suites and a sprinkler system.

The Giants contend that the sports authority sabotaged a stadium deal last month by insisting that the team sign off the Xanadu project. The state also threw in a late= provision for taxing of luxury suites, which the Giants said made the deal impossible.

During stadium negotiations, the Giants sought to have Xanadu closed on game days to avoid parking and traffic problems. The sports authority opposed that.

The sports authority last year selected the Xanadu plan developed by Mills Corp. of Virginia and Cranford-based Mack-Cali Realty.

A losing bidder, Hartz Mountain Industries Inc. of Secaucus, also has been seeking to block construction, but has been rebuffed by a state judge and the authority.