New York Sports Franchise Series: Newark May Not Be Nets Answer

Every news update on the Brooklyn Atlantic Yards development points more and more toward the project not happening, and the Nets dream arena in downtown Brooklyn never being built. Concurrently, the calls for the Nets to move to Newark get louder and louder. This week unsuccessful discussions between Devils owner Jeff Vanderbeek and Nets CEO Brett Yorkmark about playing games in Newark became public.

Make no mistake, the Nets can’t survive in the Izod Center, as currently constituted. Watching basketball in that arena is comprable to visiting a haunted house – dark, drab, no energy, no character. The pitfalls of the location and its accessibility are well documented. Plus, Ratner has damaged the brand within the current fan base enough where attendance may not reach a sustainable level in this building ever. If they were losing money and not filling the arena with a future hall of fame (Kidd), legit superstar (Carter), competitive team, and the king of marketing selling every sponsorship you can think of, they will be hard-pressed to ever be profitable and successful in the Meadowlands.

Newark sounds like the easy answer for the Nets (assuming Brooklyn dies) – but it may not be the right answer, at least not under certain conditions. By engaging in the Brooklyn hoopla for so many years, the Nets lost the opportunity to partner with the Devils. Without knowing the details of arena ownership (more research is required), the Nets would likely be a tenant in the Devils building. That could mean the equivalent of paying rent – revenue sharing on ticket sales and concessions, or a fee to use the building. NJ also loses out on the big naming rights deal it signed with Barclays and who know if they could get in on a piece of the Prudential deal. Discussions broke down last week in with Yormark publicly stating the Devils would not guarantee a gate receipts. Any public comments could be viewed as posturing, but its a sign there’s more to this than simply playing games elsewhere.

Moving down the turnpike is no guarantee for success. Its a beautiful state-of-the-art arena with easy access to public transportation and parking, but with every minute this dispute continues the Nets fan base deteriorates. Plus, they probably lose access to the half of NYC that would become Nets fans overnight with a move to Brooklyn. Newark is still not NYC. A new arena may boost the gate, increase sponsorship and media rights value, but enough to move the needle to profitability?

As much as it pains to say, the Nets, like the Islanders, may be better off moving to another city rather than to Newark, if Brooklyn falls apart. The Nets need to act swiftly and decisively to preserve some semblance of fan loyalty. Nets management must value the Newark deal – whatever is feasible to agree on with the Devils – against potentially owning the building and the market in another city.

Ownership may make the decision for the franchise. If the Brooklyn deal dies, its widely believed Ratner would sell the franchise, leaving its future in the hands of its next owner.


One Response

  1. The Yankees would never let the Nets leave the NYC market. It would instantly devalue the YES Network. YES is significantly more profitable than SNY not only because of the Yankees being a more valuable brand than the Mets, but because the network has a winter pro team, unlike SNY.

    The Nets are playing 2 exhibition games at the PruCenter this fall, including 1 vs the Knicks. Let’s see how that works out.

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