NJSEA Contracts Released

A years-long court battle between the New Jersey Sports and Exhibition Authority and Newark’s Star-Ledger over access to sealed documents has come to close with the recent release of more than 3,200 pages of contracts and settlement sheets between the agency, various promoters and artists.

The documents – first sought by the paper in March 2009 – were requested to determine how the NJSEA was spending money at the state-owned Izod Center, and whether other venues in the state were being undercut at taxpayers’ expense, the Star-Ledger said at the time.

But while the documents did bring to light more than $3.3 million in ticket rebate agreements with promoters, the deals are also fairly standard practice for the industry, where large clients are often rewarded with volume discounts.

The contracts note a sliding scale for rebates. Promoters including Live Nation, AEG, Metropolitan Talent Presents and Bowery Presents received rewards for booking numerous concerts at the Izod Center in recent years.

A 2009 Live Nation rebate agreement, for example, stated the company would receive $4 per ticket sold for booking up to seven concerts at the venue, $5 per ticket for concerts eight through 12 and $6 per ticket for concerts 13 and above.

The agreement also granted the Izod Center “priority scheduling,” meaning LN would provide “the Izod Center with the first priority to host any Live Nation promoted concert appearing in the state of New Jersey.”

LN received more than $2.9 million from contracts with the NJSEA between 2007 and 2011, the Star-Ledger reported.
A 2007 deal with AEG noted a rebate agreement of 50 cents per ticket for concerts one through nine and $1 per ticket for shows 10 through 15.

The company received $265,000 in rebates between 2007 and 2009, an NJSEA representative told the paper, and the contract with AEG, which runs the Prudential Center, has since lapsed.

Other items of note in the contracts show the Izod Center typically charges $80,000 to rent the building for large concerts, with artists taking box office revenues and the NJSEA retaining revenues from concessions, parking and a $3.50 facility charge.

The arena has not lost money since 2006, the paper reported, and officials estimated the venue had made $2.2 million in profits for 2011.

Throughout the case, the NJSEA consistently argued in court that releasing the contracts would place the Izod Center at a competitive disadvantage with other venues in the region, including the nearby Prudential Center, Madison Square Garden and the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in New York.

However, judges disagreed, ruling in November that because the contracts were for a state-owned facility, “the public’s right to know is paramount.”

Following the release of the documents, U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell called for a federal investigation by the Justice Department into the NJSEA’s ticket agreements with Live Nation.

“I think it deserves deeper scrutiny,” he told the Star-Ledger.