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North Jersey Towns Court NY Jets for Practice Facility

Wed January 25, 2006 - Northeast Edition
CEG



NEW YORK (AP) Unlike the response the New York Jets got from New Yorkers when Mayor Michael Bloomberg pushed to build a new stadium on the West Side of Manhattan, approximately a dozen New Jersey cities want to host the team’s new training facility and corporate headquarters.

As part of the deal to jointly build a new stadium at the Meadowlands with the New York Giants, the Jets agreed to move their headquarters to the Garden State.

The move from Hempstead, Long Island, will mean approximately $15 million annually in payroll taxes and indirect revenue to the state of New Jersey, according to the Jets.

But for northern New Jersey towns like Wood Ridge, Jersey City or Berkeley Heights, wooing the NFL franchise means prestige and the potential for more corporate tenants to follow.

“We would be very welcoming hosts for the Jets,” said Jersey City Mayor Jerramiah Healy, whose city fronts the Hudson River across from lower Manhattan. “It’s further investment for our city.”

The new training facility took a step closer to reality Jan. 5 when Senate and Assembly committees approved a bill to allow the New Jersey Sports & Exposition Authority (NJSEA) to locate and help construct it.

The measure would expand the power of the NJSEA to establish the training facility outside the East Rutherford sports complex and purchase or enter into a long-term lease for a site of approximately 20 acres.

But it’s not yet clear how the construction would be financed. Carl Goldberg, NJSEA’s chairman, said the authority and other state agencies have the capacity to issue bonds.

“Obviously the revenue from the project more than justifies its acquisition,” he said. “I’m optimistic that although there will be some technical and mechanical issues that need to be resolved, it won’t be an overly arduous process.”

“The Jets would be a tremendous asset to our community,” said a sponsor, Sen. Paul A. Sarlo, D-Bergen, who also is courting the team as the mayor of Wood Ridge. “We’re in this to win it.”

The Jets and Giants signed a memorandum of understanding in September on the new stadium, projected to cost approximately $1 billion, seat 81,000 and be ready for the 2010 season. The Giants’ training site would be located within the Meadowlands complex.

Brokers for the Jets sent specifications to economic development authorities in nine northern New Jersey counties, said Jim Glennon, a senior vice president of Cohn Real Estate. He said they’ve looked at 30 to 40 sites.

Marissa Shorenstein, a spokeswoman of the Jets, said the choices are more extensive than the team originally anticipated. She said the team is expected to come up with a short list by late January or early February and make a final decision by March.

“Since this is a long-term commitment, we want to make sure we take the time to look at each potential site and perform our due diligence,” she said.

The team would leave its practice facility at Hofstra University, where its been since the 1970s, said Stuart Vincent, a university spokesman. The Jets occupy Weeb Ewbank Hall, a 35,000-sq.-ft. building on approximately 9.3 acres, and a covered practice field, both owned by the university.

Hofstra is approximately 40 mi. from the Meadowlands, and Shorenstein said the team is looking to reduce its long commute. She said the team would like to move into the new practice facility ahead of the stadium, possibly by the 2007 season.

“It often takes us longer to get back to Hofstra from home games than it does to fly home from away games,” she said.

The team wanted the new site to be within a 20-mi. radius from the Meadowlands, near Newark Liberty International Airport and major highways. It also should provide a good housing stock for 150 to 200 players and staff and provide enough room for one indoor and three outdoor fields. Shorenstein said the team also would like to be near a hospital.

Brokers have been looking a sites since October. Some municipalities have contacted the team, and at least one has offered land.

Old Bridge is approximately 30 mi. away, perhaps too far for the distance requirement, but Mayor Jim Phillips said the town is willing to donate a site within 500 acres of land it wants to develop.

“If we could transfer title of the land for $1, we would put up the dollar,” he said. “The Jets would be a very prestigious tenant for the town.”

The mayor of Berkeley Heights said he may not be able to offer the team economic incentives, but he can offer proximity.

“The Jets are a professional, high-class, well-respected organization that would give a great name to Berkeley Heights,” said Mayor David Cohen. “If I couldn’t offer something, we’ll paint the police cars green and white. I’ll hold the yard mark on the practice field.”

Sarlo, the Wood Ridge mayor, said New Yorkers treated the Jets almost like second-class citizens and the team won’t get that reception in New Jersey.

“We want them here,” he said. “One way or another we’re going to get them in North Jersey.”