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Wednesday, December 19
Nets might be looking for another home

Associated Press

NEWARK, N.J. -- The New Jersey Nets are threatening to move to New York if state funding for an arena in Newark is not approved before the end of the year, according to a report published Wednesday.

The team's parent company, YankeeNets, made an ultimatum last Friday to Mayor Sharpe James, the Star-Ledger of Newark said. The mayor's office said he was not immediately available for comment.

He informed legislators and Gov.-elect Jim McGreevey, the newspaper said. YankeeNets wants $190 million from the state for a $355 million arena.

An ultimatum won't change anything, says a ranking lawmaker who favors the arena plan stalled in the Legislature.

"It's not going to be under the Christmas tree for them," Senate Democratic Leader Richard J. Codey said Wednesday. "Maybe in the Easter basket."

A spokesman for Madison Square Garden declined to comment on the report. The New York landmark already is home to the New York Knicks basketball team and the New York Rangers hockey club.

The Nets would seek an arrangement similar to the Staples Center in Los Angeles, now home for two NBA teams and one NHL team.

McGreevey, who takes office Jan. 7, has cautioned that a looming budget shortfall should put all discretionary spending on hold.

Codey, whose Essex County district includes Newark, said he understands the frustration of the Nets, who seek to leave Continental Airlines Arena in East Rutherford, which they say is outmoded.

YankeeNets also owns the New York Yankees as well as the New Jersey Devils hockey club, also a Continental tenant. YankeeNets has been seeking to bring the Devils and Nets to Newark.

McGreevey met with YankeeNets officials for 90 minutes Wednesday at his transition office in Trenton, said Jo Astrid Glading, a spokeswoman for the governor-elect.

"He looks forward to negotiating with them," she said.

Len Coleman, chairman of the YankeeNets unit working to build the Newark arena, did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday.

The Nets' lease with the state authority that operates Continental Airlines Arena runs through the 2006-2007 season, but the team can relocate for next season if it gives notice by Jan. 1 and pays a $7.5 million escape fee.

The most recent effort to get money for the Newark arena failed on Monday, when an Assembly committee rejected amendments bringing millions of dollars to projects for southern New Jersey.

The Assembly Appropriations Committee did not vote on the arena bill, which passed the state Senate in June.

Assembly Speaker Jack Collins of Salem County has refused to post the arena bill while seeking millions of dollars for projects in the southern part of the state. A message seeking comment Wednesday from his office was not immediately returned.

Collins is retiring in January. The speaker-elect is Albio Sires of Hudson County, who said Wednesday he favors the Newark arena plan.

Under the downtown Newark proposal, YankeeNets would invest $115 million to own the arena, and Essex County would provide a $50 million subsidy. Revenues from sales taxes collected in the arena and in the business district around it would be diverted to repay the $190 million the state would spend for land improvements, parking, ramps and roads.

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