Nets To Stay At Meadowlands

The New Jersey Nets agreed Tuesday to keep playing basketball at the Meadowlands sports complex through the 2007-08 NBA season, putting on hold - for now - thoughts by some of bringing the team to Newark.

The agreement replaces a long-term lease that committed the Nets to the Continental Airlines Arena until 2020-21, but had escape windows after the 1999-2000 and 2003-04 seasons.

The new deal followed about nine months of negotiations with the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority, which operates the arena.

Details of the agreement are to be disclosed Nov. 20 when the authority's commissioners hold a public meeting, said authority spokesman John Samerjan.

The Nets were sold this summer to a group that wants a new arena for the team, possibly in Newark, a concept endorsed by Mayor Sharpe James and some state legislators.

The Sports Authority this summer formally invited designers to submit proposals on how to upgrade or build a new arena at the Meadowlands complex.

"The new license agreement provides both the Nets and the authority the opportunity to continue to pursue the best plans for a new arena," said Dennis Robinson, president of the sports authority.

Nets officials would not comment on the agreement, a team spokesman said. Team president Michael Rowe was in New York for talks on the player lockout and not immediately available, his wife said.

James' office also had no response when reached Tuesday evening with word of the deal.

Under the current lease, the Nets pay a maximum of $18,000 a game, and less if attendance is below 13,000. The Nets get 50 percent of the fees from the first 4,000 vehicles and 200 buses, and 25 percent of the rest, with the remainder going to the authority.

Samerjan declined to say if the new deal sweetens those items.

The 16-year-old arena is also home to the New Jersey Devils of the NHL. Both teams have long complained it does not have enough luxury suites and amenities, which means less revenue for the clubs.

The Devils' lease runs through the 2006-07 season, and its owner this year has said he wants to move the team to Hoboken. Its lease terms were improved after the Devils won the Stanley Cup in 1995.

The departure of either the Nets or Devils could put the sports authority in a financial pinch.

Authority shortfalls are covered by the state, which kicked in $15 million this year toward the authority's approximately $200 million budget. The money was earmarked for new projects.

The authority also operates Giants Stadium and the Meadowlands Racetrack at the complex in East Rutherford, the Monmouth Park horse track in Oceanport, and convention centers in Atlantic City and Wildwood.

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