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Sports authority makes pitch for team

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- While luring the Mets across the river is a long shot, the head of the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority said Thursday that any major league baseball team moving to the state would thrive.

"We are going to create an environment where they can make
money," George Zoffinger said.

Zoffinger insisted that bringing a major league team to New
Jersey would not come at the expense of state taxpayers.

"The people in Washington are going to pay $30 million a year to have a baseball team," Zoffinger said, referring to the cost of
a new stadium, the renovation of RFK Stadium and a sweetheart lease
given to the owners of the former Montreal Expos. "That doesn't
make any sense to me."

Much of the money needed to build a baseball stadium in New
Jersey could be raised by leasing the rights to manage both the
Meadowlands Racetrack and Monmouth Park, two tracks currently owned by the sports authority, Zoffinger said.

The NJSEA, which is hoping to get at least $300 million with a long-term lease of those rights, on Thursday extended the deadline
for bids on the racetrack lease by 21 days.

Zoffinger said any team coming to New Jersey would see its value rise.

He noted that a big plus would be being on the same site with a renovated Giants Stadium and the proposed Xanadu entertainment
project, which has a groundbreaking scheduled Tuesday. He added
team would also make money through suites, club seats, advertising
deals and being located in one of the largest media markets in the
world.

Zoffinger confirmed a report in The Star-Ledger of Newark
Thursday that state officials were interested in getting the Mets
to move from Shea Stadium in New York City.

"We're going to give them the first opportunity to take
advantage," Zoffinger said. "If they don't, there has to be
someone out there who would be interested in seeing the value of
their team increase."

Mets owner Fred Wilpon said Thursday that no one from New Jersey or the sports authority has ever contacted him or, to his
knowledge, anyone in his organization.

New York City and New Jersey have been vying for each other's franchises for decades. The Giants moved out of New York City in 1976 to play in the Meadowlands, and the Jets followed them in 1984.

The New Jersey Nets of the NBA were recently sold to developer Bruce Ratner, who plans to move them to Brooklyn.

There also is currently a push to build a stadium on the West
Side of New York City for the Jets.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Thursday he would welcome any team that wants to move into the city. He also would work to keep the ones currently there.

Zoffinger said all the attention the city was giving the Nets
and Jets was at the expense of the Mets and Yankees, who also want
new stadiums.

"The Yankees and the Mets are being treated like the red-haired stepchildren," Zoffinger said. "They are putting all this money
into the Nets and Jets, and they are ignoring the people who have
been with them for years. That's why they want to move to New
Jersey."