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Jets-Giants fight puts new home on hold


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The honeymoon is over.


Nearly a year after entering into a historic partnership to build a football stadium in the Meadowlands, the Jets and Giants are at odds over nearly every detail of the project, including its design and cost, according to six industry executives with direct knowledge of the process.


Relations have gotten so bad, lawyers ended up in arbitration last month over which team would get to use their current home, Giants Stadium, on the Thursday night before Labor Day weekend for their final preseason game this summer.


The two teams hope to begin playing in a new stadium in 2010.


"You're getting to the point where they could be in danger of losing another season," said one industry executive who has a close relationship with top officials in both organizations. "There is too much at stake for this not to happen, but every month that slips by, they are losing more and more money."


The executives interviewed asked to remain anonymous because they did not want to jeopardize their relationships with the teams.


John Mara, co-owner of the Giants, acknowledged the teams are at odds over some important matters but said he remains confident a new shared stadium will be ready for the 2010-11 season.


"We've agreed on so much so far, and we agree on many more things than we disagree on," Mara said last night from Chicago, where he and Jets owner Woody Johnson were attending the National Football League owners meetings. "We'd all like it if the process would move along faster, but this is such a complicated process -- and there are so many decisions to be made, it's inevitable you're going to have some disagreements."


Johnson did not return phone calls seeking comment.


While the teams have come to an agreement on an overall plan for the stadium complex and surrounding development, for months executives have reported little progress on the centerpiece of the project, the stadium itself.


Tensions boiled over last month in the dispute over the teams' final exhibition games this season, in which the Giants will host the New England Patriots and the Jets will host the Philadelphia Eagles. Both the Jets and the Giants wanted to play their games Aug. 31, because it would allow for 10 days of rest before the regular-season opener on Sept. 10.


The Jets argued they should be allowed the Thursday night date because the Giants played on the comparable date last year. The Giants claimed they had the right to the date because they had a contract to play New England before the Jets had a deal to play Philadelphia.


With the two sides unable to reach a compromise -- both teams listed an Aug. 31 home game on their Web sites -- the matter went to the NFL commissioner's office, which settles all disputes between franchises. The league sided with the Giants because they were the first to file their contract. The Jets are now scheduled to host the Eagles the night after the Giants game.


Mara said the argument over the preseason schedule was not indicative of what remains a solid working relationship and that he expects the two sides to agree on a final design by the end of the year.





The executives interviewed for this story said the disagreements boil down to a fundamental difference over stadium design.


The Jets favor a high-tech glass and steel structure similar to the one they wanted to build on the West Side of Manhattan. It would be filled with electronic scoreboards and signs that could alter the look of the stadium depending on which team was playing there, and sponsors would have an array of options for splashing their names in different areas.


The Giants favor a more traditional -- and less expensive -- stadium where the focus is on football rather than advertising opportunities.


In the spring, the teams produced as many as six sets of preliminary drawings and sent them to builders for estimates. The estimates all came back in the neighborhood of $1 billion; one design favored by the Jets was placed at nearly $1.2 billion.


That was far more than the Giants had hoped to pay when the team entered the partnership last year. In an effort to save money, the team asked its architects, 360 Architecture and Hammes, last month for a new design about 200,000 square feet smaller.


However, construction experts say that with the cost of steel and concrete rising at historic rates, the delay may wipe out any potential savings from a smaller structure, especially if the new stadium isn't ready for the 2010 season.


Marc Ganis, a leading stadium consultant, said conflict was inevitable between two teams that originally planned to build their own stadiums.


"They both need the new facility and they are unlikely to get them in other locations," Ganis said. "So they need each other, they need to work together, and they will."


Officials with the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority, the agency that operates the Meadowlands Sports Complex, said they have stayed out of the disagreements so far. Instead, they have concentrated on finishing negotiations on the state's development agreement with the teams.


Carl Goldberg, chairman of the sports authority, said those discussions are finished and a draft of the deal has been sent to Gov. Jon Corzine for his approval.


"Our focus has been the traffic and the parking management and the building's relationship with the plans for Xanadu," Goldberg said, referring to the massive retail and entertainment center now under construction at the Meadowlands. "From where I stand, I'm thinking everything is where I wish it to be."

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