In 2011, when Newark's Prudential Center hosted the East Regionals, there was an estimated $6.3 million in direct spending to Newark regional businesses, including more than 11,000 hotel room nights. That figure did not include transportation to Newark, ticket sales for the games, parking costs or payroll, plus parking and sales tax revenues, and Mayor Cory Booker estimated total revenue in excess of $10 million for the tournament. More important, Newark was lauded for its hospitality, which has added to improved perceptions of the city and a more dynamic business environment.
Now, for the NCAA to overlook the rave reviews the organization's spokesman gave Prudential Center makes area businesses the innocent victims in a bitter fight the organization is having with New Jersey. The Rock was built to host these kinds of events, and business owners have followed the lead of the arena's operators and invested their resources in Newark. Since Prudential Center opened, we have seen new restaurants open; the first downtown hotel in Newark in 40 years welcome guests, with a second new hotel on the way; creative developments such as Teachers Village begin construction; and, of course, new office towers under way for Panasonic and Prudential.
The pettiness of the NCAA won't stop Newark's growth, but it does obviously hurt. The national stage is lost, and for that tournament, the hotel rooms won't be filled. The restaurants won't be busy. And fewer Newarkers will be working as a result.
NCAA sports generate billions of dollars in revenue each year, with the highest-profile sports — football and basketball — owing a great deal of popularity to fans' interest in sports wagering, most of which is illegal. CNBC reported that more than $100 billion a year was wagered on college basketball and football games. Due to the potential for long-term economic activity and additional state revenue, leading New Jersey government officials have challenged the federal law on sports betting.
At least in the short term, the pursuit of sports betting and the hypocritical reaction by the NCAA have cost Newark businesses what had promised to be a big win.
Chip Hallock, president and CEO
Newark Regional Business Partnership