It’s Finally Game Time for NJ’s American Dream

By Chris Colabella

The Meadowlands region is gearing up to show off its Big Game Sunday Best in February 2014, when Super bowl XLVIII comes to the MetLife Stadium. Plenty of businesses are counting on seeing green in the form of untold revenue dollars, thanks to football fans. However, many people look at the nearby sports and entertainment complex, once called Xanadu, and all they can see are the now-infamous walls of blue and white, red and orange.

In late October, Triple Five, developer of the project since 2011, received the go-ahead to restart construction on the long-stalled American Dream Meadowlands project. The Borough of East Rutherford authorized a half a billion dollars in bonds to get the project going and the State of New Jersey offered Triple Five a huge tax break, as well.

american dream

About 35,000 permanent jobs will be created once the complex is open to the public. Skanska USA of Parsippany will lead construction of the indoor amusement park while the Whiting-Turner Contracting Co. of Bridgewater will complete the rest of the project.

New Jersey’s American Dream has been a long time coming.

Here are the highlights of the project’s long and often-frustrating 11-year history:

February 2003: Mills Corp. is selected by the Sports and Exposition Authority as the developer of Xanadu – a sports and entertainment complex.

November 2006: Much of the original first phase of the project is framed out, including what will be the first indoor snow hill for skiing in North America.

April 2007: Mills Corp. goes bankrupt; Colony Capital takes over the project as developer.

March 2009: With much of the first phase still to be constructed, lenders bail out and work is shut down. To date, about $2 billion had been spent on the project.

February 2010: Giants Stadium was torn down.

May 2010: A month after learning that the 2014 Super Bowl was coming to the Meadowlands, the MetLife Stadium, constructed adjacent to the old Giants Stadium property, opened its doors. The stadium, part of Phase 1, was built by two NFL teams, the Giants and Jets, with private funds – which is why its construction, at a cost of about $1.6 billion, was not affected by the financial issues that plagued the first two developers.

August 2010: Colony Capital is removed from the project by lenders.

May 2011: Triple Five takes over as the new developer and announces it will rename the project American Dream Meadowlands. An indoor water and amusement park complex are added to existing first phase plans.

On Oct. 15, 2013, the Borough of East Rutherford authorized $524 million in bonds so that Triple Five could finally get the job done. Two weeks later, final approvals – and a huge tax break for Triple Five to the tune of $390 million — came down from the state.

An Idyllic, Beautiful Place… in the Heart of the Meadowlands

It is rather fitting that the project is called the “American Dream.” When the job was originally named, few regarded the swampy land around the Meadowlands’ Continental Arena as a “Xanadu.” However, the visions of grandeur outlined by architects and developers caught everyone’s eye.

The original plans for the project included two phases of development. By the time the construction stalled at the end of 2006, most of the original first phase of the project — 2.9 million square feet of the complex — had been framed out, but the interiors were never close to completion. Original Phase 1 attractions included:

  • A new sports stadium (MetLife Stadium)
  • Retail space for more than 300 shops and 50 restaurants
  • An aquarium
  • An indoor ice skating rink
  • A movie theater with 26 screens
  • A performance arena with up to 3,000 seats, the ski hill – which will tower at 16 stories tall and 800 feet long
  • A 200-foot diameter outdoor observation wheel with glass-enclosed passenger capsules overlooking New York City
  • A Bourbon Street-inspired nightlife scene.

When Triple Five took over as developer in 2011, it added a glass-and-steel-domed, climate-controlled amusement park with a water park and the world’s largest wave-generating pool to Phase 1.

Phase 2, calls for the development of an additional 4.5 million additional square feet which will include hotels, a convention center and a sports center.

With Super Bowl Sunday only months away on Feb. 2, 2104, Triple Five, the developer that also owns the Mall of America in Minnesota, says it’s game time for the long-awaited project. While the sports complex won’t get the new pre-Super Bowl paint job Gov. Chris Christie asked for early on in the Triple Five takeover, after close to 11 years, it looks like East Rutherford – and all of New Jersey – may finally be back on track to realize the American Dream.

Chris Colabella is the president of CIS, Inc., New Jersey’s only local construction lead service. For more information, visit http://www.cisleads.com or call 800-247-1727 to arrange for a free demo of CIS Leads.

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