New York Jets owner Robert Wood Johnson III never meant to cause his office staff, his players and his team’s fans any distress over the two and half year public battle to build the NYSCC. There is no bigger fan than Johnson whose passion for the Jets propelled him to buy the team from the estate of Leon Hess in January of 2000. Mr. Johnson walked the field at Giants stadium last Saturday morning to support the Alliance for Lupus Research, a foundation committed to finding a cure for this deadly disease in which he chairs. He talked candidly about the interception by Albany to vote no on state funding for the proposed NYSCC and where he plans on going from here.
“This stadium is pretty old, but it’s not that bad...is it?” asked the Jets’ owner as he looked around at the red and blue seats and worn cement steps of Giants Stadium. “Why, have you been in any worse that this, I replied?” Insert the only good laugh of the day here.
When asked if there is now any hope of obtaining a home their own or is the team destined to be co-tenants for eternity, the owner was obviously frustrated but still optimistic.
“I can’t rule anything out right now”, said Johnson. “My development team needs a break… we all do. Just like the team when we lose a game, we need to regroup, reflect upon our mistakes and then come back better and stronger. We lost the state funding, they turned down the figures and proposals we put forth, but we didn’t lose the season.”
Johnson still thinks the West Side project is still a viable option.
“I’d say yes, anything is possible,” said the owner regarding the West Side. “The benefits would bring about economic development for a large area of New York City. This is why I brought Jay Cross on board. His work on the American Airlines Arena in Miami and the Air Canada Center in Toronto is proof positive that a venture like this can work effectively for New York with a positive cash flow for the city and state on all levels. Some people fear change and it takes a while for the long term effects to become evident. Jay faced opposition when building the Toronto Center in Canada and that too was a desolate unused portion of the city, you should see it today. As a matter of fact they just built two beautiful condominium developments around the center that provided additional jobs and reasonably priced housing, that’s how I know the NYSCC project would work and long term.”
As everyone knows by now, the final proposal was nixed by Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver. Johnson spoke about the Speaker’s decision.
“In the reports I recieved, Silver was doing some negotiating for his district and his concerns were for the development of lower Manhattan. Unfortunately for the amount of money I was willing to invest, I didn’t feel it was fair to the city or the region to halt all development outside of lower Manhattan.”
The city has now shifted gears to Queens as part of their Olympic bid which will bring the NY Mets a new home. When asked if Queens for the Jets is now an option, the owner said anything is possible.
“The Olympics was part of a package that was offered to us,” said Johnson. “Now that holding the ceremonies and some events on the West Side has been shot down, it’s not necessary that we tie the team into that part of the building process any longer, but we are not ruling anything out.”
Despite talk that the Jets may end up settling for a new shared stadium with at the Meadowlands with the Giants, this owner is still hell bent on bringing the Jets back to New York.
“Our Fans should by no means lose heart,” said Johnson. “This team was built by the loyal Jet fans and that loyalty carries with the team every time they walk out onto a playing field, no matter where that playing field is. Today I can’t tell you where the team will play in the future or what tunnel they will run out of in 2009, but whatever we do, we’ll do it together and we will always be the New York Jets. I’ve heard the jokes about us becoming the New Jersey Jets and I assure you that will never happen.”