Devils share current building with Nets

Updated: January 22, 2004, 8:11 PM ET
Associated Press

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The chief executive of the New Jersey Devils wants the state to help build an arena in Newark to keep the Stanley Cup champions in the Garden State after their Meadowlands lease expires in 2007.

The request Thursday by Lou Lamoriello came less than 24 hours after the owners of the New Jersey Nets announced they had reached an agreement to sell the NBA franchise and move it to Brooklyn.

"I think it is a very positive thing that will result into something extremely positive," Lamoriello said of the Nets' proposed move, which still must be approved by the NBA.

The Nets and Devils, co-tenants at the Continental Airlines Arena for more than two decades, had planned to move to Newark, but the funding for a planned new arena fell through.

Lamoriello, who maintained his comments were his personal opinion and not those of the organization, would not say who would provide the money for a new arena in the state's largest city.

"Knowing that the Devils need a new building and knowing the Devils' lease expires in 2007, this is proactive to the Devils staying here, which is what they want to do for long-term," Lamoriello said.

The Devils have not considered leaving New Jersey, Lamoriello said.

Renovating the current arena was not a solution, Lamoriello said, noting those changes did not address the team's need for luxury suites and other amenities that generate big profits.

Lamoriello said that Gov. James E. McGreevey has satisfied North Bergen interests by signing off on the Xanadu sports, retail and entertainment project at the Meadowlands and that now he has an opportunity to help revitalize Newark.

"It's not the governor's fault the Nets made the decision to leave," said Lamoriello. "There was nothing he could have done to prevent today."

Lamoriello blamed foot-dragging by previous administrations for causing the Newark Arena project to fail.

"I think if we had a new facility with the shovel in the hole two years ago, the potential sale would never have come about," said Lamoriello, who ran both the Devils and Nets for YankeeNets, the sports conglomerate that owned both teams until recently.

Lamoriello felt certain the Nets, the two-time defending Eastern Conference champions, would move to Brooklyn.

"They have it done as far as I understand," Lamoriello said.

Lamoriello said it would take about 2 years to complete an arena. He said the current architectural plans would not have to be changed.

He also said a one-team arena would help the Devils. It would allow them to take all the choice dates, and they would also benefit by drawing some old Nets' fans into their fold.

Lamoriello would not say what would happen if the Devils didn't get a new arena.

"I don't speak as if there is threat," Lamoriello said. "That is not the point here. The point is, we all know the new facility is needed."

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press