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Ever since the New York Jets temporarily relocated across the Hudson River in 1984, we have been trying to come back. It's been a long and difficult road. We will soon finish our journey home to where we belong, right here in New York City.
The New York Sports and Convention Center will be unlike any other facility in the world. And more importantly, it is not only good for the Jets. It is great for New York.
Some people argue - with almost religious fervor - that stadiums are uniformly bad investments for municipalities. But just like any other public/private partnership, every stadium is different, with several factors influencing whether it represents a sound investment:â€ the uses the facility will serve beyond sports, the amount of economic activity those uses will generate and the ratio of public to private investment.
A BETTER CONVENTION CENTER
Unlike facilities that are used solely for sports, the New York Sports and Convention Center is designed to be truly multi-purpose. It will only be used 15 to 20 days a year for stadium events. But it will be used another 100 plus days a year for conventions, trade shows and expositions, and at least one week for super events, like the Final Four, the Super Bowl and political conventions.
With its new, expanded convention corridor, New York City will finally have a first-class mid-size convention center of 200,000 square feet. It will work in tandem with Javits Convention Center, offering existing shows ancillary space to expand south, a major plenary hall and corporate hospitality facilities.
Let us also be clear: This stadium is not the long-awaited expansion of the Javits center; it is part of the long overlooked expansion of the convention business.
Javits is fully booked. But because the nationwide average size of a show is about 200,000 square feet, the sports and convention center is ideally suited to go after this mid-size market. There are approximately 1,600 of these mid-size events throughout the nation that could be accommodated in this facility, let alone thousands more in Europe. Right now, those shows are simply lost to other cities.
Being ultra-conservative, can't we assume that New York City can attract just 35 of those 1,600 events annually?
A MODEL PROVEN TO WORK
Although the New York Sports and Convention Center will be a revolutionary facility, it is not a revolutionary concept. There is precedent for the stadium/convention model, most notably the Americas center in St. Louis. Along with the Rams, it serves as host to 45 expo events a year, with the key to its success being the fact that it was conceived as both a stadium and a convention center.
Some people remain skeptical about whether the stadium can double as a viable convention center, but all of the leading show producers in New York have lined up in support of the sports and convention center. When taken together, these endorsements represent more than 30 events on the calendar - and we haven't even printed a single brochure.
The convention center component is critical because it generates so much economic activity around the city through booked hotel rooms, restaurant reservations - and even Broadway shows. Altogether, the New York Sports and Convention Center will generate $75 million a year in new tax revenue to the city and state. One Super Bowl alone would generate an additional $27 million.
A GOOD INVESTMENT
As with any public/private partnership, the question remains the same: Does the increase in tax revenue, coupled with the private investment, justify the public investment?
City Council finance committee chair David Weprin answered that question in an analysis of the economic impact the sports and convention center would have. His conclusion was unmistakable: The sports and convention center is a great investment in New York's future. It will more than pay for itself, just like the Javits center does today.
The reason why this project is so different from others is twofold: the broad mix of uses the facility can accommodate, and the unprecedented $800 million private investment that the Jets are making. In order to take advantage of that private investment, a platform must be built. And in order for the facility to double as a convention center, a retractable roof must be incorporated, both of which are appropriate public investments in infrastructure.
So as Councilmember Weprin's analysis confirmed, for a $600 million city and state investment, the sports and convention center will generate a $1.3 billion return in tax revenue.â€ It will also create 18,000 construction jobs, and 6,800 permanent jobs.
MORE THAN MONEY
Many of the benefits to the city cannot be measured in dollars alone. The New York Sports and Convention Center will stand as a new architectural icon for Manhattan's west side, its steel frame evocative of the George Washington Bridge. With its 34 wind turbines and solar collectors, it will set a new benchmark in sustainable design.
It will be an active, neighborhood-friendly facility, incorporating a museum, a community theater, several of the city's signature restaurants and more than 10,000 square feet of retail space along the avenues. It will breathe new life into the High Line as a pedestrian walkway and double the size of Hudson River Park between 30th and 33rd streets. And, it will serve as a bridge between the west side and the waterfront - over the highway that now divides them.
And should we realize the Olympic dream of playing host to the games in 2012, it will serve as an Olympic stadium, the envy of the world. The Olympics is not the sole reason to build the stadium, and none of the economic activity I have cited depends on what may happen in 2012. But our nation's bid to secure the Olympics does depend on whether we build the stadium - and if we don't build it, they will not come.
Jay Cross is the president of the New York Jets. This article was adapted from a speech given at the Crain's Breakfast Forum on March 16.
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