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New Sports Arena Taking Shape in Downtown Newark

Wed June 13, 2007 - Northeast Edition
Janet Frankston Lorin - ASSOCIATED PRESS

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) A massive oval to hold the ice, 165 ft. (50 m) below the ceiling, has been formed.

Three mi. (4.8 km) of refrigeration piping are being installed underneath the oval, and in July, 9 in. (22.8 cm) of cement will be poured to support a rink that stretches 200 ft. long by 85 ft. wide (61 by 26 m).

The $377 million Prudential Center is nearing completion in downtown Newark. It will be the new home of the New Jersey Devils starting this fall, and also will host concerts and other sporting events.

“The exterior is basically done,” said Devils owner Jeff Vanderbeek, donning a black hard hat with the hockey team’s logo, as he toured the construction site earlier this week. “Now it’s about the interior.”

After the cement is poured, the oval will be filled with 10,000 gal. (37.8 L) of water, and a .75-in. (1.9 cm) ice slab will be formed.

The Devils will begin skating on that ice this fall, and New Jersey rockers Bon Jovi will inaugurate the arena on Oct. 25. It will seat 17,615 people for hockey, 19,000 for concerts and 18,500 for basketball.

The Devils are leaving the Meadowlands sports complex in East Rutherford, where attendance ranked in the bottom third of the league the past four seasons even though the team has won three Stanley Cups in 13 seasons.

The new arena seats approximately the same number of people but has more luxury suites and unlike the Meadowlands, fans can take the train to the game. The arena is within walking distance of Newark’s Penn Station.

Season ticket holder Etta Kelly of Rumson, who plans to take the train to games, can’t wait for the season to begin.

“We’re really excited about it,” she said. “The facility looks amazing.”

The arena also will be home to college basketball. Recently, Seton Hall University announced that its basketball team will play in Newark.

The team has received commitments for approximately 50 of 76 luxury suites, which run between $225,000 and $285,000 per suite per year. That includes hockey, concerts and other events. The Meadowlands had only 24 suites.

Season ticket prices will increase by an average of 30 percent, with some season ticket holders absorbing a 67 percent hike. The arena will sell hockey tickets at 12 different prices, depending on seat location, ranging from $10 to $150.

William Daley, who renewed for his 12th season, said he was surprised by the steep increase – from $90 to $150 apiece – for the two front row seats that he shares with his brother. He’s waiting to see if the tickets are worth the price.

“It’s the first year, so you don’t know. After 11 years, you’re not just going to dump the seats,” said Daley. “We have young kids who love the Devils, and we’re hoping to have the seats for a lifetime. We’re hoping the arena is a great place.”

John A. Conte, a retired Superior Court judge in Bergen County and season ticket holder since 1982, said he isn’t as happy about the team’s move.

“I can tell you the feeling among many of the fans is we were perfectly happy at the Meadowlands,” he said. “It was easy to get to and there was always plenty of parking. I can’t understand why they might want to be in Newark.”

The city is paying $212 million of building’s $377 million cost.

Newark has long battled high crime rates and poverty, and the city hopes the arena will be the centerpiece of its efforts to revive the downtown.

The arena is the “anchor tenant” in a redevelopment project with office and retail space and a downtown hotel, said Bo Kemp, the city’s business administrator.

The city will own the arena, and after land swaps are completed, also will own the land under the building, he said. Newark is guaranteed at least $2 million annually in profit sharing, and the scale increases with the financial success of the arena, Kemp said.

Vanderbeek estimates approximately 3 million people will come to the arena each year, by train and by car, and is confident people will feel safe in the city, despite its reputation for crime and violence.

“People will see this for themselves” he said.

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