Nets seek to extend NJ lease

The Brooklyn Paper
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Plans to relocate the New Jersey Nets to Brooklyn in 2008 will be delayed.

Team owner Bruce Ratner was reported this week to be seeking a two-year extension on his lease at the Meadowlands.

When Ratner purchased the team in 2004, he said the Nets would move from the Jersey swamps to a Frank Gehry-designed arena at Atlantic Yards after the 2007-2008 season.

But that timeline now appears in question, according to the Newark Star-Ledger and other published reports.

Should Ratner get his lease extension, it could cost him dearly. According to the Star-Ledger, the state of New Jersey is seeking to eliminate a requirement that the state buy $750,000 of Nets tickets each year.

The New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority, which runs the Meadowlands, may also ask the team to bear more game-day expenses, the paper reported.

The Nets say that the longer lay up in Jersey won’t affect the team’s long-term goal of moving to Brooklyn.

“We have made a major investment in this team and in the real estate at Atlantic Yards,” said team CEO Brett Yormark.

“Even if there is an unexpected delay, we are as determined as ever to see this through.”

A spokesman for the developer, Joe DePlasco, couldn’t pinpoint when the Nets would actually move to the Atlantic Yards arena.

“We are looking [to move] after the 2007-2008 season, 2008-2009 or 2009-2010,” he said Tuesday.

A spokesman for the Sports and Exposition Authority declined to comment on the negotiations, but did express delight that the team may extend its stay at the Continental Airlines Arena.

“The team’s attendance is up,” said the spokesman, Bernard Spigner. “They can stay as long as they would like.”

Even if the lease is unchanged, the delay in moving to Brooklyn will cost Ratner.

Gehry’s glass-walled Xanadu — the costliest arena ever — was originally pegged to cost $600 million. But in the two years since it was unveiled, construction costs have increased Ratner’s bottom line by at least 20 percent, according to the Real Estate Board of New York.

“There is no question that costs have risen dramatical­ly,” said board spokeswoman Marolyn Davenport.

Ratner vice president Jim Stuckey has said delays cost the company $4 million a month.

In addition to routine project costs, the developer has paid to relocate hundreds of people and businesses from his 24-acre footprint and, at the same time, waged an expensive public relations campaign to win over residents of these same neighborhoods.

Ratner’s spokespeople declined to say how much the company has spent relocating residents and businesses or lobbying the public.

The arena will take at least three years to build and would be done in the first phase of the decade-long construction project — which still lacks final state approval.

That vote of confidence is expected this spring, after the release of a final Environmental Impact Statement, according to the Empire State Development Corporation.

“We want to advance the project as efficiently as possible making sure we comply with all the legal requiremen­ts,” said ESDC spokeswoman Jessica Copin.

Opponents say they will try to delay the Nets’ move even further by suing if the state tries to use its power of eminent domain to condemn the remaining property in the footprint.

Updated 4:00 pm, November 10, 2010
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