Seton Hall agrees to five-year deal to move to new arena

NEWARK, N.J. -- Rutgers has the RAC. Seton Hall will have the "The Rock."

Officials from Seton Hall and the New Jersey Devils announced an agreement to move Seton Hall's basketball games to the new Prudential Center in downtown Newark beginning this year.

The five-year deal, which contains an option to renew for another five years, came nearly a year after talks began between the school and the Devils. The Devils are sharing the cost of constructing the $370 million arena with the city and are responsible for leasing and operating the building.

Dubbed "The Rock" after Prudential bought naming rights earlier this year, the arena will serve as a recruiting tool for Pirates coach Bobby Gonzalez, who was 13-16 last season, his first at the school.

"The chance to come into a new stadium that is closer to the campus puts us on a more even keel with some of the other Big East programs that have that type of situation," he said.

For the past 26 years, Seton Hall played at Continental Airlines Arena in East Rutherford, about 15 miles from the school's campus in South Orange. The new arena is about four miles away and is the centerpiece of a redevelopment plan that includes office and retail space and a downtown hotel.

"What's critical to Seton Hall playing in its backyard instead of moving someplace else is the message it sends to anyone else who's thinking about what the opportunities are here in the city of Newark," said city business administrator Bo Kemp.

Devils president Jeffrey Vanderbeek said months of negotiations between the team and school culminated in an agreement about a month ago at the home of Pat Hobbs, the dean of Seton Hall Law School who had been peripherally involved in the discussions to that point.

"That day was when we all got together and said, 'Listen, we're not going to leave this room until we've got a deal,'" Vanderbeek said. "And we did. I think we both were surprised at how quickly it came to fruition."

The arena will seat 17,625 people for hockey games, 18,500 for basketball and 19,500 for concerts.