Newark, and sports lies

The Prudential Center in downtown Newark, N.J. is a spectacular arena. It’s large, it’s lavish, it’s loud. As I sit here, watching the Raptors play the Nets, I can find no real flaws. There’s an enormous scoreboard hanging overhead. The seats seem comfortable. All the nooks and goodies you expect at top-flight arenas are readily available.

When one walks a block away, however, he is thrust into the middle of one of America’s most depressed, crime-and-drug-infested hell-holes. In 2010, Newark was ranked the nation’s 23rd most dangerous city, which was actually an upgrade. That March, 2010 marked a month without a homicide was, literally, celebrated by officials. It was the first time someone had not been killed in a 31-day span in Newark since 1966.

What I’m trying to say is, Newark needs help. Its public schools are awful, its tourism is nonexistent. Whereas New York City is related to Los Angeles and Chicago, Newark is closest to Gary, Indiana and Compton. It’s a bad, bad place.

When the idea of the Prudential Center was initially proposed, promises were made. The city, later led by mayor Cory Booker, threw in $210 million—then argued that, since the dough came out of the Newark Airport and Port Authority leases, no taxpayer funds were touched. They also said that the arena would lead to jobs. And development. People would work at the arena selling this and that. Folks would come from all over to buy pretzels and sodas and beers. The neighboring blocks would fill up with bars and restaurants; hotels and hotspots. It would be the beginning of a new era; of a new city.

Pfft.

Newark remains terrible. People who come to the arena come to the arena, then immediately leave the arena. There are no hotels, and few restaurants. A block away, all the stores remain the same—discount shoe outlets; $1 shops; fast food restaurants and barber shops. Nothing has been revitzalized or, for that matter, improved. Newark is Newark.

Meanwhile, what else could that money have been spent on? How many new text books can be purchased for $210 million? How many small business loans could have been offered? College scholarships?

The arena is beautiful.

The reality is not.

5 thoughts on “Newark, and sports lies”

  1. Going there is more fun than going to Izod Center/ Brendan Byrne arena though. At least in Newark you can easily take a train there, have a beer at a bar and then go in for the game. Better than driving to a barren parking lot and having to go right into the arena. But the atmosphere for Nets games is awful. Sitting through Nets-Raptors has to be brutal.

  2. Didn’t Zuckerberg promise the city $100 million?
    You also fail to mention in the article that the global recession probably contributed to the lack of building hotels, bars, job creating ventures, etc..Nobody builds things like this without taking out loans. The arena opened in 2007 right as the recession was starting. Banks stopped making loans because everything seemed too risky with all of the uncertainty.
    Would you invest millions of dollars, in an uncertain market in a place like Newark? I think not. Had the arena been built a decade before, when times were much better, I think the hotels and jobs would have come. I really think Newark was a victim of bad timing.

  3. Publicly financed arenas and stadia never, ever, ever, ever, ever work. If they were good investments, our financial overlords would finance them out of their own pockets. This is a case where the magical/tragical free hand gets it right. At best this is corporate welfare.

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