Devils Arena Breaks Ground

The National Hockey League’s New Jersey Devils have a new home in Newark. A groundbreaking ceremony October 3rd made it official, with five-term Mayor Sharpe James touting the arena as a watershed event.

James has been recruiting the Devils since 1998. The team recently left East Rutherford, N.J.’s Continental Airlines Arena. Its fellow tenant, basketball’s Nets, are moving to Brooklyn, N.Y.

The new 18,000-capacity arena will cost about $310 million and is expected to open in fall 2007. The city is paying for two-thirds of the cost, which irks some community groups who believe the taxpayers’ money should go to public education and housing.

James reportedly said the hockey arena was “one of the largest economic projects in the history of Newark.” Team owner Jeffrey Vanderbeek, also at the ceremony, said the pro team would bring 3 million people a year to the games, filling up a part of the town that usually empties at night.

Newark is redeveloping downtown, with a Marriott hotel, retail stores and a community center already in place. The arena is expected to take up one square block and be a large glass oval partially encased in red brick, according to The New York Times. The interior – designed by HOK – will include a 4,800-square-foot LED screen and 78 luxury suites.

The arena is a feat, considering the divorce of the Devils and the Nets and last season’s pro-hockey strike.