The Home of White Elephants
by John Delach
A white elephant: a possession entailing great expense out of proportion to its usefulness or value to the owner.
Officially, New Jersey is known as the Garden State but realistically, Jimmy Hoffa’s resting place can rightfully claim the title as the White Elephant State. Most of these monuments to misplaced ambition and stupidity are bunched together in the swamps of East Rutherford fondly referred to as The Meadowlands.
Witness the Izod Center; aka, Brendan Byrne Arena; aka, Continental Arena. Opened in 1981, this 20,000 plus facility es kaput. Deserted by the Devils, Nets and profits, Izod Center in North Jersey is to close. So reported The New York Times noting that the arena is expected to lose $8.5 million in 2015. The hockey team left in 2007 for the Prudential Center in Newark and the Nets departed to the Barkley Center in Downtown Brooklyn for their 2011-2012 season.
Rather than demolish this facility, it will be mothballed until 2017 when the American Dream Meadowlands complex is currently expected to open, but I wouldn’t bet the ranch on that happening.
The American Dream Meadowlands complex is the newest name for a facility that here-to-fore owns the title of the most elaborate White Elephant in the state.
Originally named Xanadu Meadowlands, construction on this monstrosity began in 2004 with an expected building time of two years and a price tag in the billions. Various issues, problems and law suits slowed completion although; by 2009 it was 80% complete. Of course, by then the economy had gone to hell and so had its tenants, funding and debt load.
Its exterior has been deemed one of the ugliest facades of any structure ever envisioned. I cannot possibly do justice to just how revolting the exterior is. “A combination of aluminum composite and siding, of various colors including turquoise, red, yellow and green…” are mixed in with blue and white checks almost at random. The indoor ski slope at one end only enhances its cartoon effect prompting Governor Chris Christie to declare the complex, “…the ugliest building in New Jersey and possibly America…”
With the death of Lehman Brothers in 2009, funding and committed retailers vamoosed. By August of 2010, control had been surrendered to five lenders. As if the financial crash wasn’t enough, Mother Nature struck during the winter of 2011. “On February 1, after a record-breaking month of snow for the area, a 50 to 60-foot long section of the eastern wall buckled and a horizontal crease was apparent on the complex’s ski slope. Two days later, on February 3, after workers were attempting to melt snow from the ski slope’s roof, ice build-up caused the eastern wall to fail and suffer a partial collapse.”
Still, a new management group, Triple Five took control in the spring of 2011. Triple Five, who own Mall of America and West Edmonton Mall, re-christened the complex, American Dream Meadowlands (ADM) and expanded the complex to include a water park and a theme park. Lawsuits with the Giants and Jets delayed things further but once settled, the project resumed with a new completion date in late 2016.
I predict that this will come to pass as planned including the indoor ski slope, the amusement park and a water park plus an indoor ice rink, a 26 screen movie theater, and a 3,000 seat concert hall. The piece de resistance will be, the New Jersey Eye, an outdoor observation wheel providing panoramic views of New York City from 26 climate controlled gondolas. Yes, I predict this will come to pass so long as God stops paying attention to every other activity on the planet and dedicates His infinite will to the ADM for the next two years.
Good grief, I’m running out of space without getting to costly Met Life Stadium, home to the football Giants and Jets. Note; Met Life, constructed without a dome to the tune of $1.8 Billion cost more money to build than the NFL’s ultimate cathedral, AT&T Stadium, home of the Dallas Cowboys. More popularly called, Jerry’s Palace dedicated to the power and greed of the Cowboys’ owner, this magnificent edifice has a retractable roof and every possible bell and whistle imaginable making non-domed Met Life look like a band box! In truth, Met Life is fatally flawed and, except for some modern electronic updates, it doesn’t hold a candle to its predecessor, Giants Stadium that was destroyed when less than 40 years old.
The Red Bulls have a new soccer stadium in Harrison and Newark’s Prudential Center, home to the NHL Devils. Both arenas were constructed on the theory that, “If you build it they will come.”
But will they come to Harrison or Newark; fuhgeddsboudit!