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N.J. State Sen. Weinberg: Izod Center Closing Will Benefit Christie's Friends

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (CBSNewYork) -- The Izod Center in Bergen County will be shutting down at the end of the month, and New Jersey State Sen. Loretta Weinberg said it is all political.

The New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority board voted 10-2 on Thursday to close the facility. Most of its events that were booked for the next few months to come, if not all, would be shifted to the Prudential Center in Newark -- although promoters could try to opt out of their contracts and cancel.

The Izod Center -- originally known as the Brendan Byrne Arena and later as the Continental Airlines Arena – has been the site of many memories over the past 34 years. It was the longtime home of the Devils and Nets, as well as concerts by everyone from Bruce Springsteen to Frank Sinatra, and the Rolling Stones.

New Jersey kicks in money to the Izod Center, but the authority decided it cannot shoulder projected losses of $8.5 million in 2015. Board members stressed that the plan is a temporary closure for two years while construction of the American Dream megamall and entertainment center next door is completed.

As CBS2's Christine Sloan reported, Weinberg said the deal that will shut down the stadium has a questionable side.

"This is a murky deal, and the people who profit the most are very good friends of Governor (Chris) Christie," said Weinberg (D-Teaneck).

One of those friends is Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, who was famously seen this month celebrating a Cowboys victory with Christie.

The Cowboys co-own Legends Hospitality LLC, which signed up last year to provide concessions at the Prudential Center in Newark. Weinberg said Legends Hospitality will benefit when the Izod Center shuts down.

Weinberg -- well known for her probe of the Bridgegate scandal into politically-motivated lane closures on the George Washington Bridge – on Friday was demanding documents surrounding the Izod Center's closure.

She said she was also talking to an attorney.

"I am very suspect about the fact that this arena is losing $8 million," Weinberg said. "It doesn't make any sense to me."

CBS2 reached out to the Cowboys and Legends Hospitality, as well as Christie. No one had responded as of late Friday afternoon.

But Essex County Executive Joe DiVincenzo, whose county houses the Prudential Center, disputes the claim that politics had anything to do with the Izod Center's demise.

"For years, the Izod Center has operated at a deficit that has reached into the millions and has been a drain on taxpayers and the state budget," DiVincenzo said in a statement. "It's an antiquated facility whose time has passed."

Christie, who was flown personally to a Cowboys game by Jones earlier this month, is also under fire for another contract that the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey awarded to Legends. He recently addressed the issue on his radio show.

"First off, let me say, let's clear this up," Christie said. "When we got the contract with the Port Authority, I didn't know him."

Weinberg and other lawmakers have also complained that the Sports and Exposition Authority voted to shut down Izod with very little public notice. Many of the commission members are Christie appointees.

Weinberg and other Democrats in Bergen County said they are working together to prevent the Izod center from shutting down. Whether they will succeed remains to be seen.

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