NJ Transit said Feb. 18 it is looking at how to bolster rail service at the Meadowlands Sports Complex and American Dream Mall as the state tries to market itself as a potential pick for the 2026 FIFA World Cup.
The statewide transit agency came under fire for the fiascos with stranding 12,000 Wrestlemania fans at MetLife Stadium in 2019 and tens of thousands at the stadium following Super Bowl XLVII in 2014.
NJ Transit’s so-called “Innovation Challenge” is aimed at garnering ideas on how to increase transit capacity between the Secaucus Junction train station which sits on the Northeast Corridor line, and the Meadowlands Complex station just outside MetLife Stadium.
The stadium is one of 16 across the United States being considered for the 2026 World Cup.
Jim Kirkos, president and chief executive officer of the Meadowlands Chamber of Commerce, said the event will be an incredible way to showcase what he says is a growing list of destinations in the region.
“We have some incredible opportunities in front of us to… use those amenities to really drive the economy in this region the way the sports complex did back in the [1970’s] when the racetrack and the stadium and the arena was first built,” he said during a virtually-held Feb. 18 panel with NJ Transit and the state Department of Transportation.
And should the region finally put together a long-desired massive convention center, clocking in at up to half a million square feet, visitors would have all the more reason to stay in the Meadowlands rather than go into New York City, Kirkos suggested.
Kevin Corbett, NJ Transit’s CEO, said the trains would need to be able to move 20,000 people per hour during large events, currently double the current capacity.
“When you consider with wetlands, water crossing, high-density traffic, critical utilities and service infrastructure that can’t be disrupted… that’s no small feat,” he said at the Feb. 18 panel.
Whatever ideas are submitted to NJ Transit need to factor in how to accommodate the 82,500 NFL game attendees, 52,000 concert attendees and 20,000 event attendees at the stadium, the up to 6,000 visitors to the American Dream Mall, and keep the trip to 30 minutes at most.
“We need to think about how these past scenarios, both good and bad, of moving people from major events, how do we avoid any of the issues that we’ve run into in the past so that we can provide great experiences for the great events that we know how to run,” Kirkos said. “Outside of that element, the Super Bowl was flawless.”