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A Tale Of Two Arenas

NEWARK (CelebrityAccess MediaWire) — When the Prudential Center opened last year, most Newark residents expected it to supplant the state-run Izod Center, (Formerly Meadowlands Arena) a scant 8 miles distant. Instead, what has developed is an intense rivalry between the two arenas, one that the New Jersey Star-Ledger has characterized as a "steel cage death match" that sees the two venues "battling almost daily for the same lucrative rock concerts, ice skating shows, and family extravaganzas."

"I believe we need to start looking at this as a regional issue," Newark Mayor Cory Booker told the Star-Ledger. "Ultimately having a very old arena and a new arena cannibalizing each other is just not a productive thing for our state."

AEG, which owns the Prudential Center, expected the Izod to close as the two teams it plays home to were planning to move. The NHL New Jersey Devils moved over to new digs at the Pru when it opened in 2007 and the NBA team The New Jersey Nets, who have called the Izod home since 1981, recently fueled speculation that they may abandon their plans to move to Brooklyn when they signed on to play two pre-season games at the Prudential.

Furthermore, the proximity of the two competitors provide opportunity for promoters to leverage the two venues against each other in bidding wars.

It's not a secret that as long as there are two arenas eight miles from each other, the promoters and acts are going to win. It's just that simple," Jeffrey Vanderbeek, president and chairman of Devils Arena Entertainment told the Star-Ledger.

AEG Prudential Center had a solid first year, featuring 44 major events including a top-grossing series of Bon Jovi concerts, making the Prudential the seventh most successful arena during that period, according to Venues Today. Yet, the Izod is still humming along. The Star-Ledger reported that in addition to Nets games, the arena hosted 144 events in 2007 and according to Dennis R. Robinson, executive director of the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority, which operates the arena, the Izod is running in the black, generating more than $1 million in revenues after expenses this past year.

Part of the reason that the Izod has yet to close is that there is significant political pressure to keep the venue open. The Izod is part of the Meadowlands Sports Complex, which includes a racetrack and the former Giants football stadium which yielded significant revenue to the state. However, the football stadium is in the process of being replaced while the racetrack lost $8 million last year, making the revenue from the Izod increasingly important.

"The only people interested in closing Izod are those invested in Prudential Center," Sen. Paul Sarlo (D-Bergen) told the Star-Ledger. According to Sarlo, the Izod is a vital part of the local economy.

Another factor in the ongoing rivalry is Live Nation, who has strong ties to the Meadowland complex and would be disinclined to book show into the Prudential which is run by their chief competitors, AEG and has yet to book a show in Newark since the Prudential opened, the Star-Ledger reported.

Although the Izod has stayed very competitive in bringing in major touring artists, the true test for the venue will be when the Nets finally make their planned move to Brooklyn.

"What they need is cooperation, not a war," Wayne S. DeSarbo, executive director of the Center for Sports Business & Research at Pennsylvania State University told the Star-Ledger. "They should be thinking about making the pie larger, not getting a bigger piece of the pie." – CelebrityAccess Staff Writers