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Buono Schedules Hearings To Examine Fate Of NJ Sports Authority

Senate Legislative Oversight Committee Will Hear From Major Stakeholders While Exploring Overhaul of Agency’s Future Mission

TRENTON – Senate Majority Leader Barbara Buono, the new chair of the Senate Legislative Oversight Committee, today announced that the committee will convene a series of hearings to examine the future of the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority (NJSEA) and its economic viability in the face of a changing landscape. The first hearing will take place on February 25 at 10 am in the Statehouse Annex.

“Part of the role of the committee will be to take a step back and examine the changing face of the Meadowlands and some of the other NJSEA-managed venues over the last 30 or 40 years. In 1976, Giants Stadium opened as the first major sports venue in New Jersey and went on to become a cash cow with the surge in the team’s popularity in the ‘80’s,” said Sen. Buono (D-Middlesex). “This year, the new stadium scheduled to open in the fall will be paying the NJSEA less than half of what it once did annually. The Meadowlands Racetrack is a shell of its former self and operates in the red, along with Monmouth Park, losing a combined $21 million annually. The viability of the Izod Center is threatened by other local competition and the fate of Xanadu is still anyone’s guess. It would be irresponsible for us to ignore these changing dynamics. With that in mind, I am eager to delve into these hearings.”

Sen. Buono noted that since the NJSEA’s inception in 1971, both its role and its revenue stream have diminished sizably, calling into question the logic of maintaining its current form of operation. An agency that once funded the construction of major sports and entertainment venues around the state and operated with a healthy surplus, now carries hundreds of millions of dollars in outstanding debt.

The hearings will examine the overall fiscal operations of the NJSEA, including budgeting, contracts, staffing, transparency, long and short term debt, and the shrinking responsibilities of the authority as tenants at the Meadowlands shift and vacate. Within this context, the committee will also examine each component of the Meadowlands, as well as the other venues that the authority manages, including Monmouth Racetrack and the Atlantic City Convention Center and what role, if any, the NJSEA will continue to play in managing these entities.

“While the Meadowlands complex and Monmouth Racetrack were once major economic engines for the state, they are now faced with a number of challenges in terms of remaining viable destinations for sports and entertainment,” added Sen. Buono. “This calls into question the role of the Sports Authority moving forward. We can’t afford to operate blindly without a sound economic blueprint for the future. I’m looking forward to a series of comprehensive hearings to bring together many different stakeholders from the public and private sectors to lend their insight.”