Saturday, October 27, 2007

Devils New Arena

Today is the first NHL game ever in the New Jersey Devils new arena. They play the Ottawa Senators in the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey. The Devils contribute $100 million to its funding, with the majority coming from public sources. This moves the New Jersey Devils from their original home in the Continental Airlines Meadowlands Arena in East Rutherford, New Jersey into downtown Newark. This is a better location for the Devils to play. East Rutherford is basically a site for arenas. It houses the Meadowlands Sports Complex, Giants Stadium, parking lots and only a little over 8,000 people. That location made it so that few fans considered the Devils to be the hometown team. Now that they are in downtown Newark (the largest city in New Jersey) they will become the hometown team to Newark residents and they are more accessible via public transit. These are good things. In the past, when the Devils won the Stanley Cup, their victory parade was just around the East Rutherford parking lots. Now they have a city to call home. The move is slightly further than ten miles, which means that fans who commuted to games will still be able to commute with little change in driving times in most cases. They are still just across the Hudson River from New York City and thus still accessible to the New York market.

A new stadium typically leads to an unsustainable bump in attendance as people go to see the new arena. The Devils hope it grabs some of the population of Newark that had before not gone to games. In the past, the Devils have had a relatively low attendance with relatively high ticket prices (possibly this maximized revenue). An increase in attendance would be welcome. It was embarrassing when the Devils won the Stanley Cup but still had an attendance near the bottom of the NHL.

The Meadowlands Arena was a state of the art stadium when it opened in 1981. More than 25 years later it is being replaced. Ironically, it is not the stadium most in need of replacement in the Metro New York area. That is the New York Islanders home of Nassau Coliseum. This is another example of corporate welfare. The local taxpayers give large sums of money to build a new stadium (although the Devils did pay some) in order to allow the rich NHL owners who share part of a greater than $2 billion revenue stream to get richer at the expense of local taxpayers. Apparently, that is a reality built into the business of the NHL.

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