The Jets formally told the NFL this week that they are pursuing plans to build a US$1.35 billion stadium in Queens, even as a deadline looms for an agreement to build a stadium in New Jersey with the Giants.
The Jets appear to be formally opening up a two-state auction in which they are trying to get New Jersey and New York to outdo each other in offering a more lucrative deal for the team.
The New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority had given the Jets and the Giants until next Thursday to work out a partnership for a new stadium in the Meadowlands. But it is anyone's guess whether New Jersey officials, who were infuriated by what they say is the team's new stance, will play along anymore with the Jets or the team's president, L. Jay Cross.
"Jay Cross flat-out told us after the West Side stadium fell through that he was intent on bringing the Jets to a stadium in New Jersey, with the Giants as full partners," said Paul Fader, general counsel to Acting Governor Richard J. Codey of New Jersey. "He was not at all interested in Queens. It would appear that he was less than completely truthful with us. It would appear he now wants to go to Queens."
The announcement at NFL headquarters on Park Avenue on Thursday came as something of a surprise, since Commissioner Paul Tagliabue has been urging the Jets and the Giants to settle their differences over stadium design and build a football showplace they can share at the Meadowlands sports complex in New Jersey.
But Cross told Tagliabue and the Giants that the team was also considering plans to build a stadium in Queens, northeast of Shea Stadium on about 15 acres in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, according to four executives who had been briefed on the meeting. Cross said the Giants should consider the same option.
According to team officials, the Jets have met in New York with aides to Gov. George E. Pataki, members of the Bloomberg administration and elected officials in Queens, as well as the editorial boards of many Queens newspapers. The Jets are also seeking US$300 million from the state and the Bloomberg administration for road work, parkland and other infrastructure projects called for in their plans.
"We're very encouraged by what we heard," said John McArdle, a spokesman for Joseph L. Bruno, the New York State Senate majority leader. "We want to be helpful." Bruno met with the Jets on Wednesday.
Officials in New Jersey who control the Meadowlands site had forcefully prodded the Giants, their premier tenant, into accommodating the Jets as a full partner in a new stadium, and they were clearly angry Friday. Only a week ago, Carl J. Goldberg, president of the sports authority, confidently told reporters that Cross had told him that he was "focused on having a home in New Jersey," not in Queens.
But the Jets denied that they had changed their position.
"We've said all along, until we reach an agreement for a permanent home for the Jets, we will continue to explore all of our options," said Matt Higgins, a Jets' vice president. "That hasn't changed."
After withstanding weeks of criticism for not embracing the Jets, the Giants turned circumspect.
"We're still very interested in reaching a deal with the Jets," said John K. Mara, executive vice president and chief operating officer of the Giants. "That is our goal, and hopefully we'll have something worked out."