Newark businesses shared goal: luring hockey fans inside
SUNDAY, JUNE 3, 2012 LAST UPDATED: SUNDAY JUNE 3, 2012, 9:09 AM
BY JIM BECKERMAN AND JOHN BRENNAN
PRINT | E-MAIL
More than a few Devils fans who cheered themselves hoarse at Fan Fest — a raucous faux tailgating party at Newark’s Prudential Center on Saturday — also popped in to the newly opened Dinosaur Bar-B-Que next door.
And perhaps one or two of them noticed a mural on the back wall. It’s a stylized representation of Newark’s Market Street as it might ideally be: People dancing, talking, strolling. One man is playing with a dog. Another is strumming an instrument. Everyone is out enjoying the street. No one looks scared.
“This is my vision,” said Scott Kleckner, vice president of operations for the Syracuse-based restaurant company. “This looks like a great place to walk around.”
That’s also the vision of many city planners and corporate people who have invested heavily in a promise of a dazzling Newark-to-be.
Some of that promise has been realized: Prudential Center has brought in sports fans, NJPAC has attracted the arts crowd, and Ironbound remains a destination for foodies. Several new hotels are going up. But the eyes are on the prize, and the prize — as the Dinosaur mural reminds visitors — is the street.
Will out-of-towners lured to Newark for a concert or a sports event remain for a stroll, a beer, a peek into a store or two? Or will they — remembering the riots of the 1960s, the urban decay of the ’70s and ’80s, and the car-theft epidemic of the ’90s — retreat to their cars and high-tail it out of the city once the event lets out?
The Fan Fest at Prudential’s Championship Plaza took place in the hours before Saturday’s Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Finals. It was more than just a loving attempt to recreate — even outdo — a Meadowlands-style tailgate party, complete with red, white and black balloons, a sandy “beach” for lounging, food vendors and a live band.
It was also a calculated attempt to get visitors accustomed to the Newark streets. NJPAC has been doing something similar for years, with a series of outdoor concerts.
“It’s an enticing, cool kind of thing to do outside,” said Bob Sommer, a Prudential Center spokesman. “Once they’re there, they see things like the Dinosaur Bar-B-Que, and the restaurants on Edison Place.”
Still, it may take more than a couple of street fairs to turn Newark’s reputation around, at least among suburbanites.
Fears haven’t been eased by much-reported incidents like the muggings of patrons leaving last month’s Red Hot Chili Peppers concert at the arena. One man was left unconscious and another wound up with a fractured eye socket, police said. Three teens were arrested a few days later. In 2009, a gay couple was attacked after a Britney Spears concert — the only other major crime against arena patrons on record since the arena opened.
Such crimes, Newark’s defenders say, are rare and could have easily happened in another arena, another city. But in a world where perception is everything, Newark has its work cut out.
“When you come to Newark, you really know your boundaries,” said Max Hyland, 22, of Ridgefield Park, who had come to cheer the Devils. “You don’t want to be seen as an easy target. ... There’s this fear of urban areas that’s ingrained in suburban kids.”
Those fears are not limited to kids. Just 10 days after the Devils played their first game in Newark in 2007, hockey television analyst Barry Melrose told the ESPN audience: “Don’t go outside if you have a wallet or anything else, because the area around the arena is just horrible.”
Melrose soon apologized, admitting that at that point he hadn’t even been to Newark to see the arena.
Others, who have, give the area a mixed report.
“At the train station, you see homeless people, beggars, people peeing,” said Laszlo Attila, 34, aRidgefield native. “That’s not friendly. You feel the poverty. Right there” — he pointed to a seemingly abandoned four-story structure on Edison Place — “is a boarded-up building.”
Precisely, says Brian Jarwoski of Franklin Lakes, the owner of Brick City Bar and Grill on Edison Place. A perfect example of Newark in transition. In a few months, that boarded-up building is going to be his next venture: Eisenflucht Biergarten, a drinking establishment with 48 residential apartments above. And starting this summer, Edison Place itself will be closed weekdays to create a pedestrian mall.
“This is a destination kind of place now,” Jarwoski said. “You’re going to see a Hoboken kind of feel, where there’s something happening every night of the week.”
The several downtown blocks bounded by the Prudential Center to the south, NJPAC to the north, Ironbound to the east and Broad Street to the west — with Penn Station right in the middle — are the lynchpin of Newark’s revitalization efforts, Jarwoski and other say.
If visitors who are drawn to Newark by the big events can be persuaded to leave the arena to enjoy the city’s food and shopping and if their comfort zone can be slowly expanded, then perhaps Newark can be reclaimed, street by street, in the name of tourist dollars.
Outside the comfort zone, some are more skeptical. A block over from Prudential Center, where Shorty Long & the Jersey Horns were rocking Devils fans with “Walking on Sunshine,” another kind of music was blaring out of a homemade sound system powered by a car battery.
It was the sound of the Newark that Newark residents know: a house mix by DJ Chill X coming from the pushcart of Sharif Amenhotep. His selection of handbags, shoes, and mix CDs has been a fixture on Broad Street for seven years. In all his time there, he’s never seen a Prudential customer come west to shop on Broad Street.
“No one in a Devils jersey has ever stopped here to buy anything,” said Amenhotep, a city resident. “They spend all their money in the arena.”
thanks to guys on njdevs for finding (who themselves got it from hfboards lol)
Article from northjersey.com