Super Bowl, Wrestlemania, American Dream, Grand Prix Auto Racing… World-class Entertainment comes to the Meadowlands!

By Jeff Gellis – Senior Editor EnjoyNJ:

Jim Kirkos, President & CEO – MRC

This month on Enjoy New Jersey, we have a special interview with Jim Kirkos, President and CEO of the Meadowlands regional Chamber of Commerce. Few people are more in touch with what’s happening in northern New Jersey than Jim Kirkos.

I sat down with Jim, to discuss what’s happening in the Meadowlands. Here is the interview and we think our readership will find it interesting for many reasons. Be sure to mark these dates and events and make plans to attend as many as possible. Also, get a look into the huge economic engine that this region is becoming, driving jobs and tax revenue into NJ.

eNJoy: There is World Class Entertainment headed to the Meadowlands. Tell us about what that influx of people, events, economic opportunity that is headed this way.

JK: It is a very exciting time for the State of New Jersey and The Meadowlands in particular.


On April 7, 2013, we will be hosting Wrestlemania29, which is a premier WWE event takes over MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J.

Wrestlemania has a 29 year history of having a tremendously positive economic impact on any market in which it has played. Wrestlemania28 was just completed in Miami, Florida, this past April and revenue brought into the area topped $100 million.

Revenue of that size, brought into the Meadowlands, represents a significant positive economic impact to hospitality businesses of all sorts; restaurants, hotels, retail outlets, and other businesses. We could not be more excited about this first of many, mega events coming to the Meadowlands.

Super Bowl XLVIII

JK: The premier sporting event in the nation, Super Bowl XLVIII, comes to Metlife Stadium February 2014. This colossal NFL event will bring revenues into New York and New Jersey expected to exceed $550 million.

As someone who represents businesses in the region, it is my job to help those companies here in New Jersey put themselves in the position to capitalize on the opportunities that a world-class event like the Super Bowl brings to this region. We have a clear understanding that we are located next to the greatest city in the world, New York City. I believe that there is significant opportunities to keep a large portion of the revenue visitors will bring right here in New Jersey.

Both Super Bowl teams will be staying in New Jersey, one team will stay right here in the Meadowlands, the other near the NY Jets Training Facility. There will also be a series of Host Committee and NFL sponsored events for visitors to the region.

eNJoy:  For people coming to the game or people that don’t have tickets but would like to experience the Super Bowl excitement, what types of events and attractions will there be in the Meadowlands, aside from the Super Bowl Game?

JK: There are a number of types of events that will take place around Super Bowl. The NFL hosts what it calls “sanctioned events”. An example of that type event would be the “NFL Experience”, which is a fan interactive experience with activities such as showing how a football is made or demonstrating the proper way to tackle using dummies. Fans can kick field goals and play quarterback by passing to receivers, etc… There’s also a variety of interactive stores, games and videos.  Then there are corporate sponsored events; The Playboy party and Maxim party are two huge private events that will bring visitors. Many people that attend some of these events don’t actually go to the game. It’s going to be a bustling week with all kinds of events and attractions. We want corporate America to know that NJ has plenty of locations and facilities to accommodate private events of all size and budgets with easy access to transportation and a great view the Manhattan skyline.

Grand Prix Auto Racing

JK: Grand Prix racing returns to the Meadowlands region. June 2014. Grand Prix racing will take place along the Hudson River in the communities of West New York and Weehawken. Grand Prix racing will bring 150,000 visitors into this area from over 60 countries and it is estimated that this event alone will generate $200 million in revenue for the region. The Meadowland was host to the Meadowlands 200 held from 1984-91.  We are enthusiastically supporting the return of Grand Prix racing to the region.

eNJoy: Jim, do you want to address The American Dream Mall (formerly Xanadu)? It is going to be a world class attraction to region and I thought it might be appropriate to discuss this and the other permanent attractions in the Meadowlands such as The IZOD Center and Meadowlands Racetrack.

American Dream

American Dream

JK: American Dream is s bit of an enigma to people because it has taken a long time to develop this project. There has been a lot progress made recently as they have the EPA permit and are waiting on the Army Corp of Engineers permit, which should be forth coming very soon. That is the last hurdle for construction on the original footprint of the project.

What is up in the air are the additions to the original complex that Triple 5 Worldwide, the developers of the American Dream project, would like to make, namely, and indoor water and amusement park. Currently, those additional proposed features are being reviewed by the NJSEA (New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority). There is also some pushback from the NJ Giants and NY Jets over concerns over traffic congestion on game days.

Overall, the American Dream Project is moving full speed ahead, and they are actively leasing space and making preparation to open the facility. It is unclear whether they will be ready to open before Super Bowl.

eNJoy: Tell me a little about what American Dream will be.

JK: Triple 5 Worldwide, currently runs two other facilities in North America, Mall of America in Minnesota, and the West Edmonton in Alberta, Canada, which are retail malls but with diversified entertainment components such as amusement parks, water parks and casinos.

American Dream will have an indoor ski slope, a large observation wheel facing Manhattan and many other family entertainment components this company is known for creating. This will not be your garden variety mall.

eNJoy: What does American Dream mean to region in terms of jobs?

JK: American Dream, quite frankly, is a game changer for the region on multiple levels. Potentially, 25 thousand jobs will be created by the opening of the American Dream and the water park and amusement park and more importantly, American Dream makes the Meadowlands region a destination 365 days a year. We know there will a tremendous ripple effect, American Dream will throw off jobs for local business that support the activities and business contained in the facility, from laundry services to taxis drivers and hundreds of other businesses.

 IZOD Center

eNJoy: I want to talk about the Race Track and the IZOD Center. Let’s start with the IZOD center, there has been a in press about the competition between IZOD and the Prudential Center in Newark and pressure has been brought to close the IZOD Center. Is there enough business to support both facilities and is it a good idea to keep the IZOD Center open?

JK: The Meadowlands Chamber will fight to keep the IZOD Center because it is a vital driver of business to region. Our fight to preserve the IZOD Center was not that we did not want the Prudential Center to be successful, quite the contrary. The pressure to close IZOD was largely being applied by Prudential Center, believing they needed that to ensure their success. We don’t believe it is good public policy to relocate positive economic engine from one area to another without replacing it.

If you pair the IZOD center as a component of the entertainment complex to service the business that American Dream will generate, there will be more than enough revenue to support both IZOD and Prudential Center.

Gaming – Casino in the Meadowlands?

eNJoy: Let move to gaming. The changing face of Gaming in the Region has put a lot of pressure on Meadowlands Racetrack. Our neighbors, New York, Connecticut and Pennsylvania have legalized gaming at their racetracks and casinos and we see the Meadowlands facility decaying with declining attendance and deficit revenue. What is the future of the track and gaming here in the Meadowlands?

JK:A gentleman by the name of Jeff Gural, who is operator of harness racking tracks in

Racetrack Chairman Jeff Gural, Revitalizing Meadowlands Racetrack

New York, has signed a deal to take over the Meadowlands Racetrack. He is building a brand new, $100 million grandstand on the opposite side of the existing grandstand. The new one will be considerably smaller and more efficient to run.

The Meadowlands Regional Chamber is supportive of a Casino at the Meadowlands Racetrack. We believe that expansion of gaming outside of Atlantic City makes a lot sense. We are losing business in the region because people do not have to travel to Atlantic City any more to gamble. We have competition across the Hudson River in  New York, up north in Connecticut, and in Pennsylvania and it is too convenient for many in North Jersey which makes Atlantic City a less attractive option.

Here is the bigger picture, we believe the Sports and Entertainment Complex is missing two important components; a convention center and a casino. If you add those two components with a viable racetrack, American Dream Mall, MetLife Stadium, the IZOD Center, you have a multi-venue sports and entertainment complex, second to none anywhere in the world.

eNJoy: Wow, that is quite and attractive prospect, I would think that political leaders would be helping that move forward as fast as possible, what are the impediments to getting this done?

JK: Understandably, the political leaders in the southern part of NJ are protective of Atlantic City. Nobody wants to see Atlantic City lose more of it’s market share. The Christie administration has helped to establish some new entities to re-brand AC and make it more appealing as a resort destination to help revive the casino business and we support that completely. However, our belief is that NJ should be looking at expanding gaming like every state around us. If we wait too long, CT, NY and PA will continue to advance gaming and open more casinos and we run the risk of losing so much market share that we cannot regain it and compete with them. That is a lot of tax revenue to gift to NY, CT and PA.

The Meadowlands Regional Chamber of Commerce is an organization with more than 1100 member companies ranging in size from mom and pop retail businesses to Fortune 500 companies. The MRC also operates the Meadowlands Liberty Convention and Visitors Bureau.

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