September 5, 2007 Alfred Branch Jr.
By Chris Licata
Last May, the New Jersey Devils fell to the Ottawa Senators by a score of 3-2 in one of the most historic games in the Devils’ history. The loss not only marked the end of the team’s 2006-07 season by way of a second round elimination from the playoffs, but also stood as the final game the team would ever play at Continental Airlines Arena in East Rutherford, NJ.
Since 1982 when the former Colorado Rockies became the New Jersey Devils, the team had called Continental home. The arena witnessed the prowess of three different Stanley Cup Champion teams in 1995, 2000 and 2003 – though the Arena was not without its problems. Unimpressive at best, the Arena has been rated by USA Today as the worst basketball facility in the country in 2005. Though the arena has tried to reinvent itself, including an attempt to create a “Theatre” venue within for concerts, the buildings two main tenets, the Devils and Nets are both leaving it behind (the Nets are planning on moving to a new arena in Brooklyn by fall of 2009). . .
Within the next two months the Devils will drop the puck on a brand new arena known as the Prudential Center in Newark, NJ, just in time for the upcoming season. Though the capacity of the arena will be slightly less than that of Continental (the Prudential Center will hold approximately 18,000 fans in comparison to Continental’s capacity of 19,000-plus), it will offer amenities and conveniences that the former arena never could.
Located in East Rutherford, Continental Airlines Arena was only directly accessible by bus or car. However, the Prudential Center is being created with mass transportation in mind. The arena itself will be located nearby Newark Penn Station and a new park known as “Triangle Park” will connect the trains to the arena. Additionally, the Prudential Center will contain what is being touted as 76 of “the largest luxury suites in North America” (from the team’s web site) and party boxes. The new arena will also feature a 350-person restaurant/bar that will be located on a terrace overlooking the action.
Construction crews broke ground for the arena in October of 2005, and a few short months later in January of 2006 the Devils agreed to put up $100 million to become the principle tenets (the arena was originally built for the Nets, however, the team eventually chose Brooklyn as its future site). Though they are the lone professional team slated to occupy the building, the Seton Hall University men’s and women’s basketball programs will also call the arena home at times during their seasons.
As one of the most successful NHL Franchises of the past 15 years, it appears as though the New Jersey Devils finally have a home worthy of their success.