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Redoing the STADIUM deal to cost a bundle!!!

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Redoing stadium deal could cost a bundle

Friday, February 10, 2006



The Giants and the Jets have a preliminary deal in place with the state for a new $1 billion Meadowlands stadium -- but that deal was struck in September, with former Gov. Richard Codey.

Will Governor Corzine, who took office last month, agree to abide by the same terms?

That question was the subject of a meeting Wednesday between Corzine and Giants executives John Mara and Steve Tisch.

"He said he was very much in support of our project, but that he needed some time to familiarize himself with the details of the deal," Mara said.

The stakes are high for both sides.

The National Football League teams recently circulated a document to investment bankers, revealing that the teams could take in $92 million apiece in annual stadium revenues -- roughly triple their current return -- once the new stadium opens. But the teams can't afford significant delays if the stadium is to open by their target of August 2010.

If the deal is taken off the table, the franchises will be in position to invoke a "state of the art" clause in their leases. That clause, added in 1995, requires the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority to maintain 30-year-old Giants Stadium as a venue competitive with other NFL stadiums in terms of amenities.

Given the league's stadium-building boom that began in the 1990s, estimates of the cost of that obligation to the state range from $75 million to as much as $500 million. The new deal contains no such clause.

"I'm sure he is aware of the state's responsibility," Mara said.

The Giants and Jets would split the $900 million to $1.1 billion in construction costs for the new stadium, which would be built just north and east of the current facility.

Codey has called the preliminary agreement -- one that he helped to finalize -- "the best deal for taxpayers in NFL history," because many NFL teams bear only a fraction of construction costs.

But sports authority President George Zoffinger was critical of the deal even before the teams' financial estimates became public. He recently contrasted the $5 million in annual rent that the teams will pay with the $184 million in revenues that may be achieved by the teams.

If Corzine attempts to revisit the deal, he could find himself crossing swords with Codey -- a potentially powerful foe in his role as state Senate president.

Carl Goldberg, the chairman of the sports authority's board, said he would accept changes in a deal that was first reached with the Giants in April. The Jets came aboard five months later, after their efforts to build a new stadium on Manhattan's West Side fell through.

"Obviously, the governor is evaluating the positives and negatives, and should they come to the conclusion that changes need to be made, it would be my responsibility to see to it that those changes were made," Goldberg said.

A spokesman for Corzine would confirm only that the governor is "reviewing the deal."

Codey and Zoffinger did not return calls seeking comment.

Fast facts

These are the key terms of the preliminary agreement for a new Meadowlands football stadium:

The Giants and Jets pay a total of $5 million in rent to New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority for 75 acres of land.

The teams pay a total of $1.3 million in payments in lieu of taxes.

The state pays for $30 million in infrastructure improvements around stadium.

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