HACKENSACK, N.J. (CN) – Foreseeing “a transportation nightmare,” the New York Jets and Giants filed an injunction against a developer that wants to complete and expand a megamall project next to the Meadowlands Stadium, to create “the largest mall in the world.”
The NFL teams and lead plaintiff New Meadowlands Stadium Co. sued three businesses and the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority in Bergen County Court. They claim the developers and state never showed the plans to the football teams, and that expanding the mall will “create a transportation nightmare.”
Named as defendants are Triple Five Group, Ameream LLC, Metro Central LLC and the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority, which manages the entire Meadowlands Sports Complex.
The Giants and Jets, who moved to the Meadowlands in 1976 and 1984 respectively, and played at Giants Stadium until 2009, claim that when they combined to build what is now MetLife Stadium, they both “undertook these substantial risks to their business based on carefully negotiated contract safeguards that ensured that the NJSEA would not expand or otherwise operate the Meadowlands … in a manner that adversely affects the teams and their tens of thousands of patrons.”
The teams claim that a cooperation agreement they signed with the NJSEA in 2006 “expressly provides that the Stadium Entities consented to the specific agreements and plans for the development, construction and operation of the ‘Xanadu Project’ in place at that time, but that any amendments, modifications and/or waivers with respect to the Xanadu Project that would have an adverse effect on the development, use or operation of [rights related to development construction and operation of MetLife Stadium, as well as certain other related development rights] shall require the prior written consent of the Stadium Entities.” (Brackets in complaint.)
Construction on the Xanadu project began in 2005. It was “planned to be a 4.8 million square foot entertainment destination with two components: an entertainment/retail complex that would occupy approximately 2.2 million square feet; and a hotel/office complex with four office towers and a full-service hotel,” according to the complaint.
Much of the project is completed but still unopened; it ran into financial troubles in 2009 and construction was stopped.
Then in 2011, Triple Five, which also own the Mall of America in Minnesota and the West Edmonton Mall in Alberta, stepped in to buy the property. It announced plans for an “American Dream at the Meadowlands,” to be finished in 2013, in time for the Super Bowl at MetLife Stadium. The developer announced on June 6 this year that it had had obtained $700 million in financing from Deutsche Bank.
Triple Five’s expansion plans include a glass-domed amusement park with year-round roller coasters, a water park and aquarium, in addition to several aspects of the Xanadu project, including an indoor ski jump.
All told, the complex is planned to be 7.5 million square feet, which the complaint says would “make it the largest mall in the world.”
The teams claim in their injunction that American Dream could, according to its own developers, draw 55 million annual visits and “will go far beyond the proposed and previously approved Xanadu plans.”
They claim the increased visitors “will clog the complex’s already congested transportation networks” and note that many of the major events at the stadium during weekdays “start in the early evening – just as rush hour traffic is at its height.”
They say they “will be adversely affected by any further significant development at the Meadowlands that interferes with fans’ and patrons’ ease of access to and egress from the overall complex.”
The teams say they have made “numerous attempts” to meet with the developers to “attempt to diagnose, and if possible amicably resolve, any issues arising out the proposed American Dream expansion,” but that Triple Five has not honored their requests.
Reaction to the injunction has been plentiful.
“We are disappointed that this issue could not be resolved prior to filing suit,” Giants co-owner John Mara said in a statement. “Yet, we cannot allow any actions to negatively impact our fans’ commute, tailgating and game day experience.”
James Cassella, the mayor of East Rutherford, where the complex is, had a different take. He told The Associated Press that “it’s a telling sign that these two New York-based teams are throwing up legal roadblocks to an economic enterprise that will benefit thousands of people in the region. They don’t want to be good neighbors. They just want to exploit New Jersey.”
Gov. Chris Christie has yet to comment publicly on the lawsuit.
Triple Five officials called the lawsuit “frivolous” in a statement. They claimed that “in suing the State of New Jersey and our company, the teams have revealed they want to exert monopolistic control over the entire complex. They want to tell us when and how we can operate our business. I am sure they would not want us to tell them when they can play their football games.”
The company claimed that its year-round entertainment complex “is perfectly compatible with [the teams’] occasional use of their stadium,” and that though the teams wear the words “New York” on their uniforms, “they need to consider what is best for New Jersey, its citizens and taxpayers.”