Proposed Meadowlands Convention Center Poised to Boost New Jersey’s Draw

Meadowlands with NYC skyline in distance

Skift Take

$30 billion over 30 years — that is what a convention center in New Jersey’s Meadowlands will generate, according to the Meadowlands 2040 Foundation economic impact study.

A new convention center in the Meadowlands of New Jersey is a “no-brainer,” according to Jim Kirkos, president and CEO of the Meadowlands Chamber of Commerce and its Convention & Visitors Bureau. Kirkos also serves as the executive director of the Meadowlands 2040 Foundation, that recently released its second economic impact study

Over 30 years, the study estimates that a Meadowlands Convention Center will generate more than $3.5 billion in tax revenue and more than $30 billion in net new spending.

“We are on the precipice of providing the Meadowlands Sports Complex with an asset that will be a new energized economic engine that will power all of North Jersey,” Kirkos said. “This plan is bold but will be worth it.”

The latest U.S. city to unveil a new convention center was Seattle. It opened Summit, a $2 billion expansion of the Seattle Convention Center, in January. Las Vegas, New York, Denver, Ft. Lauderdale, Dallas, Austin, and Boston have all invested significantly in their convention facilities.

Ambitious Plans

The estimated building price tag will be between approximately $1 billion and $1.6 billion. The convention center will encompass 460,000 square feet, including 300,000 square feet of flexible exhibit space, 100,000 square feet of meeting rooms, and a 60,000-square-foot ballroom. The plan also calls for a 1,000-room headquarters hotel and two other privately developed hotels that could bring the total project price cost to more than $2 billion. The new convention center will replace the Izod Center, which closed in 2015 and is now used for film and TV production. 

Proponents believe a Meadowlands convention center would offer numerous advantages, including hosting trade shows, conventions, youth sports events, consumer shows, and business meetings. By virtue of its size and location, the new convention center will be able to accommodate 83 percent of the top 250 U.S. trade shows, according to the economic impact study. 

Plus, the elements of a convention district are in place with the nearby MetLife Stadium, the American Dream shopping and entertainment complex, and the Meadowlands Racetrack.

Hunden Strategic Partners, a real estate advisory firm, created a Phase One Market Analysis and the recent Phase Two Economic Impact Analysis. Rob Hunden, president and CEO of Hunden Strategic Partners, said the area is underserved. “You have the success factors that multi-use convention centers want and meeting planners and event planners look for,” he said. Add to that three international airports, highway access, and Manhattan across the river, and you have an attractive meeting site.

Market Positioning

A Meadowlands Convention Center would not compete with the Javits Center, less than eight miles away. Instead, it will attract groups on tighter budgets as the analysis estimates a cost savings of meeting in New Jersey versus New York City from 50 to 75 percent. “It will not compete with the Javits or any other existing center in New Jersey,” said Kirkos. “It will be a unique, multi-use facility that doesn’t exist in the tri-state area.”

He also adds that his organization falls under the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority (NJSEA), an independent authority established by the State of New Jersey in 1971 to oversee the Meadowlands Sports Complex. “They named it that for a reason but never got around to the exposition part of it,” Kirkos said. 

Economic Impact Lost

A convention center will also help MetLife Stadium book big events, including fan experiences. Take the 2014 Super Bowl played in New Jersey, although most of the surrounding hoopla was held in Manhattan. Super Bowl Boulevard was created in midtown Manhattan complete with a toboggan run. “This was the world’s biggest event, and the fan experience was held in New York. We don’t maximize the potential economic impact when we outsource these things because we don’t have the space to host it,” said Kirkos. 

The Meadowlands Chamber now has what it needs to take the proposal to the next level — to Governor Phil Murphy and his team.