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Meadowlands Arena Lands TV Show as Tenant

Following New Film-TV Tax Credits, NBC Creates Studio in Long-Empty New Jersey Venue
October 8, 2018
The former Izod Center in East Rutherford, New Jersey. The indoor entertainment venue was shut down in 2015 and was used as a rehearsal venue for large-scale concert and video productions as Meadowlands Arena.
Credit: John Georgiadis for CoStar Group Inc.

As a result of New Jersey’s new tax incentive program for film and TV producers, the long-vacant Meadowlands Arena now has a tenant: NBC television show "The Enemy Within."

The new series, the first beneficiary of the state's new tax incentives, will be shooting its first season at the studio-production space that was created at the arena in East Rutherford, New Jersey, as well as on location in the Garden State. Its lease for about 80,000 square feet started in the past several weeks and goes through March 2019, with a month-to-month option after that.

Overall for "The Enemy Within," NBCUniversal will spend more than $50 million for the purchase of goods, services and payments to workers in New Jersey, according to the state’s governor, Phil Murphy.

That figure incorporates the rent that the TV show, a spy thriller that debuts next year, will pay to lease the Meadowlands Arena space, said Steve Gorelick, executive director of the New Jersey Motion Picture & Television Commission. NBC’s investment will also bring more than 300 jobs to the state, and will amount to roughly 1,500 New Jersey hotel nights over the course of filming, according to officials.

In July, the governor signed the Garden State Film and Digital Media Jobs Act into law, legislation that reinstated and revamped a tax incentive program for movie and TV producers that former Gov. Chris Christie had let lapse.

New Jersey real estate officials predicted that the tax breaks would see the entertainment industry return to the state, to not only shoot on location but to lease studio-production space in warehouses and other buildings.

NBC and "The Enemy Within" mark the first example of that happening as a result of the new law.

The arena, which was called the Izod Center when it was closed in 2015, has not had a full-time occupant since then. Some musical artists, such as Justin Timberlake and Rihanna, have used the arena – once home to teams such as the NBA's New Jersey Nets – to rehearse for their concerts, but the space was essentially unoccupied.

The facility, now known as the Meadowlands Arena after it was renamed, is owned by the state, and falls under the purview of the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority, which is led by Vincent Prieto, its president and chief executive.

"It’s sensational," Gorelick said. "Basically you’ve taken an arena that was sitting vacant and not producing income and not being utilized, except for an occasion, perhaps, and now it’s being turned into a studio and production center rent out by the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority, so it’s bringing some money in. That’s big."

The producers of "The Enemy Within" initially were looking for a warehouse to use as a studio, but after several places didn’t pan out, Gorelick suggested they look at the Meadowlands Arena. Prieto was very cooperative and interested in having the show as a tenant, according to Gorelick.

"It’s amazing what they’re doing there," he said. "Basically on the very floor where Jason Kidd was dribbling for baskets you now have these sets."

The producers have leased the arena’s floor and concourse area, said Brian Aberback, a spokesman for the sports authority. And other film and TV producers have expressed interest in the venue, he said.

At a Cresskill, New Jersey, mansion where "The Enemy Within" is shooting, one of the tax-credit legislation’s co-sponsors talked about bringing more producers to the arena in the Meadowlands.

"You need to come there, not just NBC, but we’re going to shout out to everybody across this country if you want to film, if you want to make an investment in film production," said N.J. State Senator Paul Sarlo, who represents the 36th Legislative District. "We have a lot of great space there to make a lot of great films and digital media."

The second production to take advantage of the new tax incentives is Warner Bros., according to Gorelick. The movie studio is now shooting "The Joker," starring Joaquin Phoenix, in Jersey City and Newark in New Jersey, and hiring hundreds of people to work as extras, Gorelick said.

Murphy discussed the state and Fort Lee, New Jersey, being the birthplace of the nation's film industry, home to its first studio. He said Thomas Edison invented motion pictures in the Garden State.

"We were Hollywood before there was a Hollywood," Murphy said.

Linda Moss, Northern New Jersey Market Reporter  CoStar Group   
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