The New Jersey Nets have reached a long-anticipated deal to move to Newark’s Prudential Center for the next two years, as the team plans for the Barclays Arena to open two years from now at the Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn.
Newark Mayor Cory Booker confirmed the deal following a special session of the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority this morning and furious negotiations to finalize talks with the Prudential Center officials.
“It’s extraordinarily exciting,” Booker told The Real Deal in a telephone interview. “Not only will it bring economic opportunity, energy excitement to our downtown, for the Nets they are going to receive one of the most exciting fan bases they’ve had in years and years.”
Sources said the lease with the Prudential Center includes an option to automatically renew for another two years.
The deal ends months of speculation about the Nets, who have struggled to draw fans to the East Rutherford arena after the New Jersey Devils ditched the former Continental Airlines arena for Newark.
Developer Bruce Ratner has traded away most of his marquee players in recent years, including superstars Jason Kidd and Vince Carter, before agreeing in September 2009 to sell a majority stake in the Nets to Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov.
Wayne McDonald, an assistant professor of sports management at New York University, said the move would help generate revenue for the Nets and the Prudential Center, at a time when the league is forecasting an overall revenue slump.
“The Nets going to the Prudential Center is a very smart move,” said McDonald, who noted that it will help fill out the arena’s yearly schedule and provide the team additional revenue to rebuild for 2012.
Jeff Vanderbeek, chairman of Devils Arena Entertainment, said in a statement: “We are excited to learn that the Nets and NJSEA have reached an agreement paving the way for the team to play their home games at Prudential Center in Newark starting in the 2010-11 season. The excitement of bringing an NBA team to join the New Jersey Devils at the Rock further enhances Newark’s reputation as a major league city and significantly benefits New Jersey taxpayers.”
Booker told The Real Deal that he and Vanderbeek have been in contact with the National Basketball Association about bringing a franchise to Newark.
“I think Newark, N.J., is an NBA ready city,” he said, while conceding that a Nets move to Brooklyn is more than likely a done deal. “The NBA would thrive here.”
NBA spokesperson Mark Broussard said he was not immediately able to comment on the franchise talks with Booker, as certain league officials were tied up with today’s mid-season trading deadline.