The shopping and entertainment complex billed as “American Dream,” continues to make headlines, and not in a good way. The multi-billion dollar Meadowlands complex, formerly known as “Xanadu,” is still not open and some mayors in the region are threatening to join a lawsuit launched by the Giants and the Jets concerning traffic issues. Managing Editor Mike Schneider sat down with President and CEO of the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority (NJSEA) Wayne Hasenbalg to get some answers to some pressing issues.
While the NJSEA is concerned about the Giants-Jets lawsuit and how it may slow down development, Hasenbalg said the agency is keeping the lines of communication open with both teams. He underscored the importance of those teams, recalling the decision made in the 1970s by the late Wellington Mara, the Giants’ co-owner until his death, to move the team to New Jersey.
“Were it not for that, we may not have New Jersey Sports Exposition Authority and we may not have shared all the great memories and experiences,” said Hasenbalg. ” So I’m hopeful that at the end of the day, we’ll get this resolved.”
Hasenbalg touted the progress made thus far in moving construction forward, specifically in getting the requisite permits from the DEP, DOT, Army Corp. of Engineers and the Hackensack Meadowlands Commission.
“So from a permitting side, we’re very well advanced in the process and the financing piece the Triple Five are responsible for are coming together. I know I’ve been saying that we’re getting there but we are really getting there.”
While they may be closer, financially speaking, in getting the project off the ground, Hasenbalg admitted there is still a ways to go. Given the magnitude and scale of the real estate deal, which he called one of the largest in the country, he quipped that it’s not as simple as going to the bank to get a mortgage.
“Its a very complicated financial transaction. There’s a lot of moving pieces, there’s a lot of potential investors and various parts of the financial community — they’re going to be involved.”
The amusement/water park element of the project, which is at the heart of the Giants-Jets litigation, is staying in the plan, he said.
Since the privatization of Monmouth Park Racetrack, Hasenbalg said the racetrack has been performing to expectations. However, competition from “racinos” in neighboring states like New York has raised questions about whether the Monmouth Park and Meadowlands racetracks will continue without slot machines to remain competitive. But Hasenbalg says that, for the foreseeable future, that issue is off the table.
“Gov. Christie had made it very clear that, right now, his focus was on efforts to revitalize Atlantic City. We didn’t want to do anything to undermine those efforts. That’s where our focus is Atlantic City.”