By David Cruz
It was about a year ago that an arbitrator ruled against Newark in its ongoing financial dispute with the Devils, a ruling which ended up costing the city millions of dollars a year and prompting Mayor Cory Booker to call Devils owner Jeff Vanderbeek a “huckster and hustler.”
But the two sides issued a statement today calling the deal “a significant achievement and a win-win for all parties.” It replaces the original agreement dating back to the initial lease for the arena and calls for the city to build a parking deck here on Green Street, and for the devils to guarantee they’ll rent $400,000 worth of spaces a year.
The city will still have to pay $2.7 million in parking revenue to the team as mandated by the arbitrator last year, but it will also impose a 1.3 percent tax on all tickets for Devils, New York Liberty and Seton Hall games and another $1.25 fee for any other events. The result is a net positive for the city of about $50 million over the next 25 years, according to Business Administrator Julien Neals.
“The current lease terms, prior to this agreement, were harsh, and they were definitely in the Devils’ favor and it was hard on the city,” said Neals. “This now at least gives the opportunity for the taxpayers to get some relief and also start to realize a net gain.”
But the deal needed council approval and at today’s special session, members were showing no sympathy for the Devils.
“I called Mr. Vanderbeek to ask for him to support a community event and his words to me were: it’s not in the contract and I don’t have to do it,” recounted Councilwoman Mildred Crump. “I have never called or asked him for anything for this community again.”
Councilman Augusto Amador, who voted against the original arena idea, represents the East Ward, which is where the arena is located. “I don’t know if I should laugh or cry,” he said. “You mean that for the next 25 years we’re going to get $2.7 million a year which will give us about $50 million at the end of 25 years for an investment of public money in the order of $250 million.”
Only Crump voted against the deal, which allows the city to actually anticipate annual income for its cash-strapped budget, which Neal said could result in more cops and other city services this year. The council gave grudging approval to the deal, acknowledging that it’s better than the one it replaces but also making it clear that while they’ll root for the Devils on the ice they are definitely not fans of the Devils’ ownership.