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Exec wants Giants to have a roof over their heads.

While the Jets' proposal for a new Meadowlands stadium that would expand on the Giants' existing $800 million plan has drawn much attention for its giant 90,000 seat size and connectivity to neighboring sports and entertainment venue, Xanadu, it's missing one key thing according to New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority president George Zoffinger.

"It needs a retractable roof," Zoffinger said. "That way we can attract events like the Super Bowl, the Final Four and concerts year round."

Hosting such large-scale events has become a high priority for Zoffinger, who is seeking ways to continue reaping revenue when the Giants, and potentially also the Jets, take over ownership and operating responsibilities for the new stadium.

In a deal with New Jersey in April, the Giants gained the right to build and operate their own stadium. The NJSEA currently owns and operates Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey and reaps income from things like parking and using the stadium to host concerts and other events.

That income will be lost when the new stadium is built.

The Giants claim that any loss in revenue would be more than supplanted by taxes reaped from the increased sale of merchandise, which will be facilitated by better retail spaces in the new stadium. But Zoffinger asserted that the stadium would have to draw events big enough to economically stimulate the surrounding area for the state to reap income commensurate with what it yields now as owner and operator of the stadium. He cited 1994, the year that Giants Stadium was host to soccer's World Cup, as just such a period when the state experienced a significant increase in economic activity.

Zoffinger was not a supporter of the Giants' plans to build its own stadium and abstained from voting on approving the team's deal with the state in April. One of the only prominent public officials to openly express his doubts that New York City would be successful in its bid to host the 2012 Olympics, Zoffinger originally wanted to hold off negotiations with the Giants until July when he predicted the Olympics would be lost and the Jets' stadium plan consequently defeated. With the Jets' plan scrapped, Zoffinger--who amassed a personal fortune developing real estate--felt he could persuade the team to stay in the Meadowlands and said he would have been in a much better position to negotiate a deal for the state, including perhaps securing revenue from naming rights for the stadium.

As it turned out, events played just the way Zoffinger predicted they would, but by the time they had, the Giants already had negotiated a deal with the state.

Now Zoffinger wants to make up for lost ground, a goal that centers on maximizing the financial viability of the new stadium and also its longevity as a state-of-the-art facility.

The Giants sued the state in April before it struck its deal for a new stadium, claiming that the existing Giants Stadium was woefully obsolete and ordering the state to make up to $300 million worth of renovations.

Despite not agreeing with the state's deal with the Giants, Zoffinger still seems hopeful that he can work out just as good a deal for taxpayers.

"We're going to be tearing down a perfectly good stadium," Zoffinger said. "But I want to make sure that the new facility doesn't have to get torn down in another 30 years. We have the opportunity to really do something here for the future and we have to do it right, which means getting a retractable roof."
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Title Annotation:Sports and Exposition Authority's George Zoffinger on New York Giants plan for a stadium
Author:Geiger, Daniel
Publication:Real Estate Weekly
Geographic Code:1U2NJ
Date:Aug 24, 2005
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