Skinny on Giants new digs

Just before lunchtime, John Mara made a prediction at the conclusion of a press conference he'd long awaited.

"I expect,'' Mara, the Giants executive vice president, said last Thursday, "by the time I get back to my office I will have phone calls from numerous bankers and people looking to loan money.''

No kidding. Rarely has an ownership group looked so gleeful after committing $750 million dollars of its own money, but the Giants, owned by the Mara and Tisch families, view the agreement of their new 80,000-seat stadium at the Meadowlands as a banner day in the history of the franchise.

After some contentious words and ugly legal maneuverings in the past weeks, harmony reigned as Richard Codey, New Jersey's acting governor, signed off on a stadium deal that brought together the Giants, the state and the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority. The stadium will be wholly financed by the Giants and although the governor's official release states the project is slated to open for the start of the 2008 season, Mara said "I think 2009 is a more reasonable assumption at this point.''

Groundbreaking won't take place for at least a year. The site will be adjacent to Giants Stadium, which was completed in 1976 and, although perfectly functional, does not offer the amenities or rake in the revenue that newer stadiums provide. The land allocated for the new stadium is 75 acres, more than twice the size of the 28-acre plot on which Giants Stadium sits.

"When other states are building stadiums on the backs of taxpayers, New Jersey has said no,'' Codey said. "The Giants, not the taxpayers, are putting up more than $750 million for the construction. This is the best deal for the taxpayers of any stadium deal in the NFL.''

The Giants will pay the state $6.3 million a year in rent and taxes in an agreement that keeps the Giants at the Meadowlands for the next 40 years. There are no exact plans for the new stadium, but it will include a Giants Hall of Fame, theme restaurants, wider concourses, upgraded concessions, more comfortable rest rooms, a Giants team store and other retail options. Luxury suites will increase from 118 to 200 and club seats will rise to between 8-10,000, a huge upgrade from the 120 at the current stadium.

The Giants will also build state of the art practice and training facilities; theirs are currently among the worst in the league. There are no immediate plans to move the team's training camp from Albany.

The current stadium will eventually be imploded and turned into a parking lot.

One potential obstacle: The Giants must reach an agreement with Mills Mack-Cali, the development company in charge of the Xanadu mega mall project at the Meadowlands. The Giants do not believe they can function on game days if Xanadu is also open for business and some sort of coexistence must be negotiated.

The Giants would love to include the Jets as partners in the project but the Jets are adamant about venturing into their own stadium built on the West Side of Manhattan.

Mara said the team will pursue naming rights for the stadium or at the very least sell naming rights for the gates around the stadium. As far as Personal Seat Licenses - forcing season ticket holders to pay huge up-front money merely for the right to retain their seats - Mara said the present financing does not call for the sale of PSLs.

"Whether they will in the future I can't say for sure,'' Mara said. "We would like to be able to finance this thing without having to sell PSLs, but we're now up to about $750 million in the cost, that's a figure every time I hear it makes me shudder a little bit.''

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