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NEWARK-Last summer, negotiations for an 18,000-seat arena Downtown got a chill when Governor Christie Whitman put a cap of $75 million on government aid for the project. Now, according to published reports, state and city officials have cut a deal with YankeeNets that will up the public subsidy ante. YankeeNets is the holding company for the NBA Nets and NHL Devils, who would be the primary tenants. The two teams currently use the Continental Airlines Arena in the Meadowlands.

Price tag for the new arena is $325 million, and YankeeNets says it has $200 million lined up (Newark-based Prudential is said to be part of the mix). Public subsidies would come in the form of low-interest loans, payment for land acquisition, parking and road improvements.

Once the agreement on subsidies is finalized, both houses of the legislature must approve the deal, and ongoing legal action by residents and businesses challenging the project has to be settled. Both teams hope to be in the new building by the 2004-2005 season.

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