Opened in 1981, The Continental Airlines Arena is the home to the NHL New Jersey Devils and the
NBA New Jersey Nets, as well as to the Seton Hall Pirates college basketball team and numerous
minor sport franchises. The facility was also home to the NCAA mens basketball Final Four in 1996.
This arena i part of the Meadowlands Sports Complex which includes Giants Stadium and the
Meadowlands Racetrack. The building is surrounded by expressways and surface parking. There is no
adjoining neighborhood and no ambience around the facility whatsoever - just pavement. The building
itself still looks somewhat futuristic and modern, with the corporate name emblazoned across the roof
and a tall dot matrix marquee along the highway.
If you enter at the ground level where the ticket offices are, there you will find a handsome display of the
New Jersey Sports Hall of Fame. The wide single concourse which surrounds the building is all skylit
to the outside, providing ample natural light during the day. Concession stands and merchandise
venues are very bright and attractive. We could not find a main team merchandise store, but there is a
ground floor restaurant/lounge called Winners for premium ticket holders.
Being an 80's arena, there are no club seats, but there are some suites at the top of the 100 level.
The arena bowl is broken into two levels, both accessed from the single concourse. A four sided
scoreboard with video boards is in the center, and there are four additional video boards hanging from
the rafters in each corner. In each end zone are two huge dot matrix boards, and along the balcony are
small information boards for out of town scores, shots on goal, etc. From a distance this information
was hard to see. The bowl itself is vertical and cavernous, and does not lend itself to an intimate feel at
all, especially with oceans of empty seats at the Nets game (the Devils game was a sellout).
The best item we could find was the hand carved sirloin and turkey sandwiches. A tall draft beer is still
The Devils proudly display their two Stanley Cup banners along with smaller divisional titles. The Nets
have 5 retired numbers and two ABA titles..(have we not seen all 10 ABA title banners between here
and Indiana???) sadly for them, their best days were played when they were on the Island and their
icon was a man named Dr. J. Also, Seton Hall has banners honoring their '89 run to the Final Four
along with Big East title winners. Finally a banner honoring Ashbury Park, NJ's contribution to the
popular music world, The Boss- Bruce Springsteen.
We will try to keep this short... we were given major hassles by the Nets people, and this was
regarding the same problem we have had in some other venues..namely, the quest to take a simple
picture of the playing surface and logo from the center 100 level seats.
The ushers would not let us pass.. we went to "customer service" for assistance, explained who we
were and our project, only to encounter four scowling faces who were unsympathetic and told us to
"write a letter". We did manage to take our photos after the game, only after some skullduggery on our
part to get downstairs for our shots, and as we were finishing up, we caught the sight of a security
guard and two ushers from the corner of our eyes, converging on us as they were talking into their
walkie talkies. We hightailed it out of there fast!
Our suggestion to the New Jersey Nets is this... why don't you guys furnish each of your ushers and
your customer service people at Gate A with a mean german shepherd on a leash. That would
complete the scene nicely.
Things that caught our eye -
in each section there is an alcove leading to the bowl. Outfitted in every alcove is a television monitor
mounted from the ceiling. Fans returning to their seats and waiting for a whistle miss nothing. Nice,
nice touch! We are amazed that we have not seen this done anywhere else.
"Sly's Candid Camera". Sly is the mascot for the Nets, and they produce a hilarious clip modeled after
the old Candid Camera show. In the skit we saw during a media timeout, Sly was in a shopping mall
pretending to be a mannequin. Every time a child or a teenager ventured closeby he lunged after the
kid. The fans were in stitches! Allen Funt would have been proud.
Sly's House. Sly has a set out in the concourse. Children can line up and have their picture taken
during halftime. Nice photo op for the fans.
This arena is a classic example of what was expected of a sports facility during the time that it was
built. Number one, to get fans into the building and into their seats to watch an event and give them the
ability to purchase basic necessities such as concessions, souvenirs etc.. (Unlike today's more
modern facilities that offer a more complete interactive entertainment and shopping experience).
Number two, the in-house revenue is to come from those who buy tickets to watch from the main
seating areas. While today we see more and more of an emphasis on club seating (almost
non-existent at the time) and many more suites all with its amenities (in seat customer service,
opportunities for fine dining and the like) Finally, the idea that an arena is simply a structure and the
main event being held within its confines is the attraction. Unlike today in which the newer facilities are
as much a part of the experience as the events themselves. There is talk about a new building here,
but it will be a while yet before a shovel goes into the ground. If you are looking for the ultimate NHL or
NBA experience, we would definitely steer you away from the Continental Airlines Arena.
Food and team store 4.5
Fan support 2
Banners and history 7
In game entertainment 5
Concourses/fan comfort 4
Bonus: Sly the Mascot 2
Total points 35.5
Bulls at New
Photos courtesy Bari Diarbekirian