Bruce Ratner and his executives have met with New Jersey investors and officials about a plan that would keep the developer’s Brooklyn-bound Nets in the Garden State, the Newark Star-Ledger reported this week.
According to the newspaper, the owner of the Devils hockey team has met with Ratner, while Newark Mayor Cory Booker has met with executives at Forest City Ratner in hopes of assembling a group of investors to buy the team from Ratner and move it to Newark’s brand new Prudential Center.
Ratner’s talks with Devils owner Jeffrey Vanderbeek and Booker are “open-ended,” the newspaper reported.
Forest City Ratner’s Manhattan-based spokesman Howard Rubenstein issued a blanket denial of the Star-Ledger bombshell.
“The team is absolutely not for sale,” Rubenstein said. “We’re inches away from completing the deal in Brooklyn.”
That said, Ratner did announce last month that he had downsized Atlantic Yards from a 16-skyscraper, office and basketball arena complex to just a few smaller towers and the arena. And the Star-Ledger story suggests that even the publicly financed stadium at the corner of Atlantic and Flatbush avenues may now be in jeopardy.
“This is like a death watch [in Brooklyn],” New Jersey’s state Senate President, and former governor, Richard Codey told the Star-Ledger, referring to the delays that have pushed back the supposed opening day at a Brooklyn arena from the 2007 season to the 2010 season.
“Not a single piling has gone in the ground,” Codey pointed out.
And Carl Goldberg, chairman of the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority, said he knows why.
“The cost of steel and concrete and the challenges of building a facility of that nature over the railyards are becoming more difficult,” he said in February. “The likelihood of the Nets actually building a new facility in Brooklyn and leaving our facility … is diminishing by the moment.”
Ratner has blamed the nation’s ongoing financial crisis for the downsizing and for the soaring cost of the publicly financed basketball arena, which once had a $430-million pricetag, but will now cost $950 million. But the developer has said that while much of the larger project is in jeopardy, he would build the arena.
His lawyers are not so sure. As reported in The Brooklyn Paper, Forest City Ratner executive Andrew Silberfein said in a court affidavit earlier this year that “there is a serious question as to whether, given the current state of the debt market, the underwriters will be able to proceed with the financing for the arena.”
On Wednesday, Rubenstein told the Star-Ledger that Silberfein’s assessment was no longer accurate.
“We are very confident we will get the funds necessary for the arena,” Ratner said through his mouthpiece.
A spokesman for Goldman Sachs said that the financing deal would close by the end of September.
But that could also change, given the spiraling costs of the arena. The higher the pricetag for the stadium, the harder it will be to make a profit, said George Zoffinger, former chief executive of the New Jersey Sports Authority.
“When you start to spend north of $500 million for an arena, you can’t generate the cash flow necessary to generate a decent return on the investment,” Zoffinger told the Star-Ledger.
“If the number is $900 million, it’s absolutely, positively not viable from an economic standpoint.”