How fitting that the last show at the Izod Center will be a circus. It’s a perfect metaphor for the nearly decade-long standoff between Izod and the Prudential Center that will end in March with the Meadowlands arena going dark permanently, as opposed to something like 330 days a year.
The writing’s been on the wall since 2007, when the Rock opened in Newark. Again, in the case of the Meadowlands, this is literal — the only company willing to put its name on the building was Izod, which hasn’t sold a shirt since the late ’80s. The arena had no way to compete with the state-of-the-art Prudential Center or Madison Square Garden, and when the Barclays Center finally opened in Brooklyn, it was the last straw. But, of course, in New Jersey, where there’s plenty of taxpayer money to go around, the sports authority continued to operate it at a loss until the overdue announcement to close the building.
It’s something the real estate community could have predicted a long time ago: the golden rule is location, location, location. When it was the only option, people were willing to travel to the middle of the swamp to see a show. But the Prudential Center is proof that you can attract suburban sports fans and concert-goers to a supposedly scary place such as Newark, because you can surround it with the kind of development that begins to make your city a destination. It’s what residential real estate builders have been doing right for years.
The move means New Jersey venues no longer have to fight amongst themselves in competing with the Garden and Barclays, without offering the kinds of giveaways to promoters that ended up making Izod such a money loser. It also will help businesses in Newark, which will get additional event dates that otherwise would be lost in the swamp. It also opens up Izod for future uses that won’t be tied to the sports authority, such as a possible casino — by far the most rumored future use of the building, and one that actually makes sense alongside the American Dream project.
The move has been criticized by those who say the process wasn’t transparent enough. While the final decision to close was very hasty and poorly publicized, it’s a stretch to say this came out of left field, especially when the first calls for the building’s closure started building volume seven or eight years ago. This is a business the state doesn’t belong in. We’re pleased to see the state recognize that, and are excited to see what possibilities it creates in Newark.