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New Jersey Board Votes To Temporarily Shutter Izod Center At End Of The Month

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) -- The Izod Center, the former home of the Devils and Nets, will shut down Jan. 31 after a board voted to cease operations at the financially strapped arena.

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, will be shifted to the Prudential Center in Newark -- although promoters could try to opt out of their contracts and cancel.

New Jersey kicks in money to the Izod center, but the authority decided it cannot shoulder projected losses of $8.5 million in 2015, CBS2's Dave Carlin reported.

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, WCBS 880's Jim Smith reported. Then officials envision another operator taking control of the Izod Center in some new capacity.

New Jersey Board Votes To Temporarily Shutter Izod Center At End Of The Month

The news did not sit well with unionized workers who attended the meeting. They said they'll be out of jobs after pouring their blood, sweat and tears into the arena.

Brian Raftery said he feared he might eventually lose his union job, but not this soon.

"My head is spinning, just like everyone else here," he told Carlin.

"We made this the best not in the nation -- in the world. The highest grossing in the world," said Jim Valaney with the stagehands union. "And then they come back with that?"

Some businesses close to the sports complex rely on the Izod Center for revenue. That's why the owner of Redd's Restaurant and Bar called the decision a bad one.

"It is what it is," he said. "There's nothing we can do about it now. We'll do the best we can at this point."

Many memories have been made at the Izod Center -- originally known as the Brendan Byrne Arena and later as the Continental Airlines Arena -- over the past 34 years.

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band kicked it all off; the Rolling Stones spent the night; Frank Sinatra crooned for his 75th birthday;

The arena has also hosted the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, wrestling matches, and even local graduations.

And of course, the Devils brought home three Stanley Cups, and the team then called the New Jersey Nets made a couple of runs for the NBA championship.

But the Nets and Devils are gone, and the venue can no longer compete with the newer Prudential Center and Barclays Center in Brooklyn, WCBS 880's Sean Adams reported.

Only a handful of concerts have been held at the Izod Center over the past two years, although three dozen schools held graduation ceremonies there last spring, and the arena still attracts family-oriented holiday shows.

State Board To Consider Plan That Could Shutter Izod Center

As CBS2's Jessica Schneider reported, many local officials also complained that the decision came with little notice and no public comment.

State Sens. Paul Sarlo and Loretta Weinberg lashed out at the board Thursday, and also called for the authority to start searching for a third-party operator immediately.

"Why are you closing this arena when you've never even tried to see who might operate it?" Weinberg (D-Teaneck) told CBS2's Schneider. "Why did you do it with less than 24 hours' notice, and why didn't you at least inform the people who are elected to represent the residents who are affected?"

"It would be a much better decision to bring in an interim operator, private operator, allow an RSD process to be undertaken and allow a valuable asset to potentially be sold," Sarlo (D-Wood-Ridge) told Adams. "This rash decision to close the facility down only devalues that building. It takes it out of the entertainment industry market and devalues it."

Sarlo said he sees a future for the Izod Center as a smaller entertainment center or casino.

Sports Authority President Wayne Hasenbalg told The Record newspaper the decision, though difficult, is a matter of economics and the ongoing transformation of the Meadowlands Sports Complex.  The American Dream project is scheduled to open within the next few years, and local business leaders have put forth a plan for a convention center and casino on the site.

Residents of Bergen County have fond memories of the old arena, and said it won't be the same traveling to Newark for something that was once right in their very own backyards.

"It's much farther, and it's a shame for people in Bergen County," said Loyda Moreno of Fort Lee.

"I would hate to see everything go to Newark, and not near us in Rutherford," said Igor Mickoski of Elmwood Park.

Newark Mayor Ras Baraka said in a statement that he is sad to see Izod Center close, but the closure will give his city the opportunity to "shine in a brighter light" as the facility's events come to the Prudential Center.

"Since its opening more than 30 years ago, the Izod Center has provided residents of Bergen County and all of our state and region with quality sports and entertainment events," Baraka said. "We are saddened to see this closure and assure patrons of the Center that they can expect to see the same quality events in a quality venue, in a city that is transforming itself into one that we can all believe in."

Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo Jr. said he supported closing the Izod Center.

"An antiquated facility that has been losing millions and millions of dollars annually, Izod is poorly situated in the Meadowlands, and offers no hope of having any positive impact on our local economy," DiVincenzo said in a statement. "The Prudential Center is one of the finest and most modern facilities of its kind, offering its visitors a first-class experience whether they are cheering for their home team, watching an ice show or enjoying a concert."

Jack, of Wallington, was among the thousands in the crowd when Springsteen opened the building in the summer of 1981.

"Right off the bat, you couldn't get tickets for that if you waited on line for a year," he told 1010 WINS' Glenn Schuck. "He just filled it. Every artist they brought in there, it was always filled."

Toward the end, the big names stopped coming to the Izod Center.

Dave said the writing was on the wall.

"The Devils and the Nets, once they moved out, the show was over," said Dave.

The organizers of the Monster Jam monster truck show scheduled at Izod for Jan. 30 and Jan. 31 released a statement assuring that their event will not be affected.

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(TM and © Copyright 2015 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2015 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)


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