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The Meadowlands Sports Complex is a sports and entertainment complex located in East Rutherford, Bergen County, New Jersey, United States, owned and operated by the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority (NJSEA). The complex currently consists of MetLife Stadium, the Izod Center, the Meadowlands Racetrack, the American Dream Meadowlands, and the Quest Diagnostics Training Center.
In the mid-1960s, civic leaders in New Jersey began calling for a sports complex in the New Jersey Meadowlands that would be able to lure a National Football League team from New York City. The New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority Law was passed by the New Jersey Legislature in 1971 and signed by then–Governor of New Jersey William T. Cahill. The first chairman of the NJSEA was David A. "Sonny" Werblin, former president of the NFL's New York Jets. By year's end, Werblin had secured a deal for the New York Giants, who were then playing in Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, to move to the Meadowlands. Ground was broken on Giants Stadium and the Meadowlands Racetrack on November 19, 1972.
To accommodate the new facility, access roads were improved. The New Jersey Turnpike, which had been suffering the burden of increased traffic volumes near its northern terminus in Ridgefield Park, built a new alignment, the "western spur", with an exit, interchange 16W, leading directly to the sports complex as well as to Route 3. Routes 3 and 20 (now 120) also received improvements.
On September 1, 1976, the Meadowlands Racetrack became the first complex venue to open, featuring harness racing. The track drew a capacity crowd of 42,133 for its initial date. Giants Stadium opened on October 10, 1976, as 76,042 fans watched the New York Giants lose to the Dallas Cowboys, 24–14.
By 1977, plans were in the works to expand the complex. A new arena was to be built on the opposite side of Route 20 from the stadium and racetrack, connected by vehicle ramps and a pedestrian bridge. Brendan Byrne Arena, named for the sitting governor, opened July 2, 1981, with the first of six sold-out shows by the rock musician Bruce Springsteen. The arena was renamed for its corporate sponsor, Continental Airlines (now United Airlines), in early 1996, and again in 2007 for Izod
The New Jersey Devils left the complex when the Prudential Center was finished in 2008, followed by the New Jersey Nets move there in 2010, leaving the Izod Center devoid of a main tenant, but free to host more concerts and events. Giants Stadium closed in at the end of the 2009 NFL season and demolition started immediately. In September 2010, MetLife Stadium, then known as New Meadowlands Stadium, opened for its first game, and was privately built and funded by the Jets and Giants. A commuter train line and a training center for the Giants also opened at the same time.
MetLife bought the naming rights for the stadium and the entire complex in August 2011.
In addition to the three venues, the complex also hosts events in the MetLife Stadium parking lot. State Fair Meadowlands (formerly called the Meadowlands Fair, and not affiliated with the New Jersey State Fair held annually in Sussex County) began in 1986 and has been operated by State Fair of Belleville since 2003. The parking lot is also the home of a twice-weekly flea market, which is canceled when the parking spaces are needed for stadium events.
The NJSEA hires in-house security and emergency medical services staff to serve the venues at the Sports Complex, including MetLife Stadium. Law enforcement is primarily provided by the New Jersey State Police Sports Complex Unit.
MetLife Stadium is the home stadium for the New York Giants and New York Jets of the NFL, and is the only facility home to two NFL franchises. The stadium opened in 2010, following the closing and demolition of the Giants' and Jets' previous home, Giants Stadium. MetLife Stadium hosted Super Bowl XLVIII in 2014.
The Izod Center is a multi-purpose indoor arena. Opened in 1981, it was home to the New Jersey Nets NBA team until 2010, the Seton Hall University men's basketball team until 2007, and to the New Jersey Devils NHL team until 2007. The Devils and the Seton Hall men's basketball team moved to the Prudential Center in Newark. The renamed Brooklyn Nets currently play in the Barclays Center. It is consistently ranked in the top four arenas nationally by Billboard magazine in their ranking of venues for concert and family shows. However, the arena was consistently ranked one of the worst for basketball and hockey.
Opened in the mid 1970s, the Meadowlands Racetrack held its first-ever harness race on September 1, 1976 while thoroughbred racing commenced on September 6, 1977. The Racetrack is the site of the Hambletonian, the most prestigious event in standardbred racing. The track is equipped to race at night, and most of its races are at night.
In the middle of the track is a lake, intended to resemble the state of New Jersey. The Meadowlands Racetrack is also one of the leading simulcast facilities in the world in terms of total handle.
The Quest Diagnostics Training Center is the main headquarters and practice facility of the New York Giants. It was formerly known as the Timex Performance Center, renamed in July 2013 when the Giants and Quest Diagnostics announced a new partnership after the 4-Year partnership between the Giants and Timex ended. The facility, which is located on the westernmost portion of the Meadowlands Sports Complex grounds, opened in 2010 and replaced the old Giants practice fields and headquarters adjacent to Giants Stadium.
New Jersey Transit operates the Meadowlands Station at the complex, the terminus of the Meadowlands Rail Line. in preparation of the opening of the Xanadu Project. The station opened for service on July 26, 2009. Studies are underway regarding the extension of the Hudson–Bergen Light Rail line to the MetLife Sports Complex as well.
The American Dream Meadowlands is a large mall and entertainment complex that is currently under construction. Formerly known as Xanadu, the project resides within the Meadowlands Sports Complex adjacent to the Izod Center. It is supposed to open in 2016.
In 1983, a Formula One auto race was planned for the New York City area. A temporary street circuit at the Meadowlands Sports Complex was one of the finalists for the location. A course at Flushing Meadows Park, in the New York City borough of Queens, was chosen, but the event was canceled before the first running. In July 1984, the CART IndyCar series held the first Meadowlands Grand Prix on a temporary circuit built in the Giants Stadium parking lot. The race was only moderately successful, and crowds were mediocre at best. In 1988, the course layout was moved to the streets surrounding Brendan Byrne Arena and redesigned to a 1.2-mile (1.9 km), six-turn layout in an effort to improve competition. The race continued until 1991, and crowds continued to stay away. In addition, from 1988–1991 the race was part of the Marlboro Million, a cash prize awarded to any driver who won the Marlboro Grand Prix, the Marlboro 500, and the Marlboro Challenge All-Star event in the same year. The prize was never won. In 1992, race officials announced plans to move the race to Manhattan, using a street course at the World Trade Center. Within a few months, however, the race was cancelled due to cost concerns.
In the early 2000s, conceptual plans were drafted to build a NASCAR-style speedway at the Meadowlands Sports Complex, as part of a revitalizing project. However, the plan was rejected, and abandoned.