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Parking Wars in the Middle of Giants-Jets Lawsuit Against American Dream Complex

Two Teams Argue They Are Fighting for the Fans, but the Almighty Dollar is the Real Driver of Their Lawsuit

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COMMENTARY | Last month, the New Jersey Sports & Exposition Authority breathed life back into the American Dream Meadowlands retail and entertainment complex, approving new plans for the $3.7 billion mega-mall that sits in the Meadowlands adjacent to MetLife Stadium.

But hold your horses, because the Meadowlands' other tenants -- the New York Giants and New York Jets -- are trying to have the final say in this decision.

The teams filed a lawsuit last week seeking to shut down the project, citing concerns about traffic congestion for fans as their primary reason to halt what has become the laughingstock of development in the United States, thanks in large part to being "the ugliest damn building in New Jersey and perhaps America," according to New Jersey governor Chris Christie.

The new scope of work on the project, which includes more than three million square feet of retail space, a theme park and indoor ski slope, was supposed to catapult it to completion following nearly a decade of mismanagement, economic issues and political maneuvering that helped stall its completion.

The teams believe the project, as recently-approved with the new entertainment and theme park additions, "will clog the complex's already congested transportation networks and create a transportation nightmare when events are held at MetLife Stadium," according to the lawsuit.

Additionally, Giants co-owner John Mara told the Newark (N.J.) Star-Ledger: "Our endgame is to require the developers to agree to a reasonable traffic and parking plan, and restrict their operations on game day."

Fans of the New York Giants and the New York Jets pay mightily for the privilege of parking near MetLife Stadium 10 times a season (two preseason home games and eight regular season games). For Giants PSL owners, that price is $250 a season. For Jets PSL holders, that price can be upwards of $350 a season, who tier their parking rates based on your "level of commitment," i.e. your seats in the stadium. And by the way: the Jets can't even get this right. They charge a higher parking rate to fans who purchase cheaper seats than they do those who purchase premium tickets, essentially screwing the little guy. But I digress.

With approximately 24,000 parking spaces in and around MetLife Stadium controlled by the teams, that can generate (based on full lots each and every game) upwards of $12 million a season in parking revenues. And that's a low estimate, since there are additional fees, upgraded parking spots, and shuttle lots that generate even more revenue for the teams.

Even for multi-billion dollar organizations, that's good, easy money. Now enter American Dream Meadowlands, with its 30,000-plus parking spaces adjacent to MetLife Stadium and proposed three-tiered bridge connecting the two properties. Thirty thousand parking spaces that would be free of charge for potential game day patrons.

Diehard fans, premium and suite level PSL owners, and longtime tailgaters will still flood the lots at MetLife Stadium. But a majority of fans might just forego the extra $250-plus and give a parking deck at American Dreams a try. For the teams -- especially the Jets, who do allow fans to purchase single-game parking permits from Ticketmaster for a whopping $50 a game -- this could significantly reduce an easy cash cow.

While the Giants and Jets continue to argue that bringing their lawsuit is for the good of the fans, make no mistake: there's a big financial element to their objections.

"It's all about the control you have of the game-day experience and the space around the facility," Kenneth Shropshire, a professor of sports law at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, recently told NJBIZ.com. "[It's] very difficult when a franchises or a couple of franchises don't have exclusive rights to the space, including external development."

James Moffat has 10-plus years of journalism expertise, writing for daily print and online publications. Check out his other work on the New York Jets here, or check out his recent work regarding the Jets:

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