While the city of Newark is optimistic with regard to what the new Prudential Center Arena will do for the city, poll respondents returned mixed, but almost evenly divided results. The majority of respondents split evenly (37% each) between enthusiasm (the center will be a huge boost for Newark) and caution (I’m keeping my fingers crossed). The remaining 25% of respondents believe the Prudential Center will have no effect on the city whatsoever. This week’s commentator, Barbara Kauffman, EVP of the Newark Regional Business Partnership, is excited about the new arena and hopeful about the city’s future. Here are her thoughts:

“I’ve been reading through some comments that were observed by the team that helped put the arena together, and I found that, overwhelmingly, people who were arriving for the first time had a fantastic experience. This is such a good thing for the city, that 17,000 people a night, many of whom have never been here before, are coming in.

“The transit and the arena planning people really hit it right on the mark in terms of the projected attendees, although it sounded like a very high number to some of us. A lot of people came by mass transit, and encouraging the use of mass transit was an essential part of the arena plan. We heard comments like: ‘We’re really glad we took transit, that was the right way to do it,’ and ‘it was easy, it was quick, it was pleasant.’ A lot of details were handled very well. So, from a public relations perspective, it’s a huge boost for the city.

“Taking that PR boost and using it to bring new development into the city is something a large group of people have to help make happen. There’s currently a plan for the entire arena area, called the Downtown Core Redevelopment Plan. The area around the Prudential Center is a whole district and there’s a corporation that’s charged with overseeing the development. There are many elements that are part of the development that surrounds the arena, and they’ll be critical to the success of the area.

“For example, we want to bring in hotels and have Newark be more of a destination by having people come and stay here as well as come in for a day of recreation. We want to see more retail in the area and more restaurants. At the events last weekend, the city was handing out little pocket cards that had lists of restaurants to go to, and many of the restaurants in the area around the arena were packed. That’s great, but there’s a need for more varied venues.

“There’s a lot of development that can happen, the excitement is there. The question is, how do you capitalize on it? The city is putting a number of actions in place as a follow-up. There’s a new group called the City Development Corp. that will be working actively on attracting, retaining and expanding businesses. One of their focuses will be on the arena district.”

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