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DATE News (chronologically)
04/27/10
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NASCAR or F1 racing coming to NJ UPDATE Tony George has been shipped out of Indianapolis by his family and is no longer involved. However, it seems that he has some control over the rights to the phrase “The United States Grand Prix at…”. This means that he could be involved in any other race wishing to use that name, be it in Alaska or New Mexico. The rights to such an event would normally belong to the national sporting authority – in this case, the Automobile Competition Committee of the United States (ACCUS) – but it seems that these were delegated to the IRL, an ACCUS member, when the race was being run at Indianapolis. It is not clear whether Ecclestone agreed not to have other race names, such as “The Washington Grand Prix” but it is logical that this would be part of such an agreement.

While Bernie Ecclestone is not keen to take F1 back to Indiana, he might be willing to do that to get F1 back into the US, particularly if such an arrangement led to a race being established elsewhere. The Hulman-George Family is not going to be wanting to spend more that Tony George was spending, so unless Ecclestone bring down his price the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is not really an option, unless someone else is willing to make up the difference between what Bernie wants and what the Speedway is willing to offer. And even if that happens the Speedway will always be in Indiana and the F1 corporate types will still not want to go there… Thus the recent visit to Shanghai of Tony George must be about more than simply another race at Indianapolis.

Ecclestone often says that he wants a race in New York. Recently he has talked specifically of a race in New Jersey, with the New York City skyline as a backdrop and easy access to the city by public transport. This can only mean that there are discussions going on with the Meadowlands Sports Complex in East Rutherford, New Jersey. This is owned and operated by the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority (NJSEA), an independent body established by the State of New Jersey in 1971 to oversee the complex, which today consists of three main venues: the brand new 82,500-seat Meadowlands Stadium, which is the home of the New York Jets and New York Giants National Football League teams. This opened a few days ago and replaces the neighboring Giants Stadium, which will now be demolished.

The complex also boasts the Meadowlands Racetrack (a popular horse racing facility) and the Izod Center, a multi-purpose indoor arena which has been home to the New Jersey Nets basketball team and the New Jersey Devils hockey team. It is also a popular venue for concerts. This has little future as the Devils and the Nets are moving elsewhere and it is located next to a new development called Meadowlands Xanadu, which aims to become the largest retail and entertainment complex in the United States when it is finally finished. This will offer not only a baseball stadium but also venues for concerts and indoor sporting events. There will also be entertainment, shopping and convention halls. It will feature America’s first indoor snow park, and a skydiving simulator. In addition there is to be a observation wheel (sponsored by Pepsi) which will provide views of Manhattan. The project will ultimately include four office blocks and a 520-room hotel.

This all sounds remarkably like the ingredients that have been put together in Singapore where hotel baron Ong Beng Seng worked with the local government to launch the super-successful Singapore GP, as it would benefit his hotels, restaurants and retail outlets. What is most interesting is that the Xanadu project is now funded by a private investment firm called Colony Capital, which owns a chain of 41 hotels and resorts around the world, operating under the Raffles, Swissotel and Fairmont names. Colony also operates gaming resorts in the US and is also the owner of the French soccer team Paris Saint-Germain, so it clearly understands the value of sport as a means of drawing customers to its businesses.

Meadowlands was used for IndyCar racing in the early 1980s but two different tracks laid out in the parking lots failed to attract crowds and the race lapsed after 1991. Much has changed since then, however, and the most significant advance has been the construction of a rail link which opened last year with trains running to Secaucus Junction where there is a connecting service to Pennsylvania Station in New York City.

NASCAR has long been trying to get into Meadowlands but has thus far failed to do so (which would no doubt amuse Ecclestone). The local authorities may be happy to go along with such an idea as they clearly want a higher profile for the facility. They are bidding for the 2014 Super Bowl and are part of the US bid for the FIFA World Cup in either 2018 or 2022.

There are few environmental issues with a race track as the area is crisscrossed with major freeways, has no housing and a record of environmental misuse. It is under the flight path of Teterboro Airport, New York’s executive jet facility, and of Newark Liberty International Airport, which is located 13 miles to the south-west. Joe Saward

02/04/10 If you drive by the Meadowlands, say good-bye to the much-hated Xanadu color scheme and maybe the name Xanadu itself. A new developer could be weeks away from signing on to finish the project, and giving the mall a new look and perhaps a new name.

"That real estate is the most valuable real estate in the state of New Jersey," Gov. Chris Christie said. "We cannot permit individual special interests to make the decision of how that land best be utilized."

Christie's tough talk in Trenton for Xanadu's developers came at almost the same time the beleaguered New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority in the Meadowlands was learning the details of a possible deal that would get work started on the stalled mega mall.

"If this transaction is successfully completed the Related Companies as the managing member would immediately announce a date for the restart of construction," said Carl Goldberg, the chairman of the Sports and Exposition Authority.

The Related Companies, the giant real estate firm that developed the Time Warner Center in Manhattan, has been meeting in the Meadowlands with Xanadu's primary investor, Colony Capital. Work stopped in March after other investors went bankrupt. Now the Related Companies may invest $500 million and take over management.

"I think they want to retain the same mix of entertainment and retail that was always contemplated for Meadowlands Xanadu," Goldberg said.

The developers of Xanadu already paid the state $160 million to lease the land. The state needs that money. And then there's the money Xanadu jobs will bring.

In Trenton, Christie appointed a committee to make recommendations to fix the financial problems he sees with the gaming, sports, and entertainment industry. Those problems include horse racing, which will cost the state $24 million this year. Right now, Xanadu looks like the bright spot.

A deal between the developers would be completed within the next three weeks, and then work is expected resume quickly.

Then there is the next big thing that may come to the Meadowlands: NASCAR racing. That is something the governor and the Sports and Exposition Authority both want.

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