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Sports authority will take lead on tourism, marketing for N.J.

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The New Jersey Sports & Exposition Authority will become the state’s lead tourism and marketing agency, as it absorbs the Division of Travel and Tourism and the Motion Picture & Television Commission, under a plan unveiled today.


The move will be part of a plan to turn the sports authority into the main entity for attracting and managing events and attractions of all sizes, Wayne Hasenbalg, its president and CEO, said today. The plan includes continued efforts to attract high-profile entertainment events like the 2014 Super Bowl and the Formula One Grand Prix, which have committed to the state during the Chris Christie administration.

“There are cities that have various forms of sports and entertainment marketing entities,” Hasenbalg said at the authority’s monthly board meeting. “It became apparent that New Jersey was really at competitive disadvantage, because it did not have a single agency singularly focused on this kind of thing.”

The plan will start with a sweeping audit of the state’s convention, tourism and entertainment assets, Hasenbalg said. The audit will include everything from stadiums and performing arts centers to beaches and shopping malls, allowing the state to “inventory what New Jersey has to offer.”

“The second phase would be to begin to target events, big and small, conferences and the like, and see whether or not we can match those kinds of events with the venues that we now have available,” he said.

The proposal marks the latest step toward creating a new identity for the 41-year-old sports authority, which has been relinquishing its longtime role as a venue operator in the state. In December, the agency turned over management of the Meadowlands Racetrack to real estate executive Jeff Gural, while Monmouth Park will be handed off in May to a group led by the New Jersey Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association.

Hasenbalg said this week that the agency will work toward outsourcing the Izod Center, in East Rutherford, later this year. The move is among his top priorities in the near future, he said, along with helping Triple Five obtain financing to complete the former Xanadu project.

The proposal is outlined in a 20-page report by the New Jersey Gaming, Sports and Entertainment Commission, informally known as the Hanson commission. The panel’s reports have been used to guide sports and entertainment policy changes in the state since Christie took office two years ago.

The timeline for when the sports authority would absorb the tourism and motion picture agencies was not immediately clear. The plan would likely need legislative approval, Hasenbalg said, and administration officials already are working to gain the support of lawmakers.

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