Sticking With NJ Arena Plan

Despite attempts to back out of the city’s arena deal with the NHL’s New Jersey Devils, Newark Mayor Cory Booker said the city will stick with it for better or worse.

“The reality is that there’s going to be a first-class arena built in the city of Newark, whether we like it or not,” The Record quoted Booker saying. “For it not to go forward now would expose us to a tremendous amount of litigation. We’ve almost crossed the Rubicon on this issue.”

Booker hired an attorney in July to analyze whether the city could find its way out of the $210 million commitment it would owe for arena construction, which is almost two-thirds of the expected cost, the Record reported. The arena broke ground in October of 2005 and is scheduled to be completed in fall of 2007.

Booker said the deal was a “giveaway” to the Devils, according to the paper, and said the city seemed locked into the “bad decision” by former mayor Sharpe James.

City Business Administrator Bo Kemp said Newark has spent nearly half of the money it’s committed to the arena, with another $50 million owed for infrastructure costs, according to the Record. Kemp also said the city had previously missed several construction deadlines, which could leave the city liable for millions of dollars in additional costs.

The future is uncertain for the 25-year-old Continental Airlines Arena, which sits about 10 miles from the new venue site and is home to the New Jersey Nets. Booker has said he thinks Continental Airlines Arena should be closed after the new facility opens, according to the Record.

The Nets are expected to play in a new Brooklyn arena by 2009. Booker said he hopes the Nets consider moving to Newark if the Brooklyn move stalls, but said his biggest challenge might be lowering the city’s crime rate so fans feel safe coming to Newark, the Record reported.