TRENTON – A bill sponsored by Senator Bob Gordon which would remove regulatory stumbling blocks to allow for the construction of an aquarium in the Xanadu complex at the Meadowlands was approved by the Senate today by a vote of 28-7, receiving final legislative approval.
“The Xanadu project stands to be a major economic and entertainment engine in northern New Jersey,” said Senator Gordon, D-Bergen. “In addition to being a major entertainment destination at the Meadowlands, I believe that the proposal to include an aquarium at the site brings a valuable educational element. We need to remove all regulatory obstacles for this project, to create a top-tier facility to draw in visitors from around the New York metropolitan region.”
The bill, S-1972, would remove a provision under current law prohibiting the construction of an aquarium at the Meadowlands. Under the bill, the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority (NJSEA) would be granted authority to enter into any private contracts or legal agreements to facilitate the construction of an aquarium on the Meadowlands site. The bill would only allow for privately-financed projects, and would ensure that the construction of an aquarium at the Meadowlands would not incur any public funding or debt obligation.
“I think it’s important to note that no public dollars would be spent on the construction of this project,” said Senator Gordon. “We’ve already received bids from companies seeking to be involved in the construction of an aquarium, backed entirely by new private investment in the Meadowlands. We need to lift the statutory block which would prohibit private investors to contribute to the economy of Bergen County.”
Senator Gordon noted that the original exception for an aquarium at the Meadowlands was intended to give the Adventure Aquarium in Camden a level of regional exclusivity, to ensure that the facility would attract visitors to the Camden waterfront. However, Senator Gordon argued that the distance between Camden and the Meadowlands is sufficient to support two facilities, and that the carve-out is contrary to the tenets of healthy competition.
“The Adventure Aquarium in Camden has been an essential part of the economic recovery of that city,” said Senator Gordon. “However, the non-compete clause written into the current law is a bit of overkill, since an aquarium at the Meadowlands – nearly 100 miles away from Camden – would serve an entirely different population. New Jersey is big enough to accommodate two world-class aquariums in the northern and southern parts of the State, and through this bill, we’re bringing the same opportunity to the Meadowlands that we’ve already afforded to Camden.”
The bill now heads to the Governor to be signed into law. It was approved by the Assembly last week.