NEWARK, N.J. Bon Jovi won't be alone in the spotlight tonight when the rock band christens the $380 million Prudential Center, an arena officials hope will give a much-needed lift to this violence-scarred city.
City officials hope the home of the New Jersey Devils will attract commercial and retail development in the area and build on an upward trend that began in 1997 with the opening of the New Jersey Performing Arts Center, three blocks away.
"When people started coming in, they saw that this was the best performing arts facility in the region and they began to see a new face of Newark," said Mayor Cory A. Booker. "This is going to further encourage that as they see a top-of-the-class arena."
The 19,500-seat arena is the New York area's first new pro sports and concert venue in more than a quarter-century. The last one was the arena at the Meadowlands sports complex that opened in 1981.
The Devils, who played at a Meadowlands arena for 25 years, are the arena's chief tenants and will have their first home game Saturday night. The arena will also be home to the Seton Hall University men's basketball team and the first-year New Jersey Ironmen of the Major Indoor Soccer League.
Bon Jovi, which hails from New Jersey, will get things started with 10 concerts over the next two weeks, all of which are near-sellouts, according to arena officials.
In preparation for its opening, millions of dollars have been spent on street resurfacing, new sidewalks, traffic signals and streetlights and the demolition of several decaying buildings nearby.