This is a provisional profile and rating for the New Jersey Nets, based on our visit to their temporary
home in April of 2011. The Nets begin play at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn in the Fall of 2012.
Plans for a new arena for the New Jersey Devils have been tossed around for years now – there was
once a concept to build a new arena in Hoboken. Then came the idea to just do a massive renovation
of Continental Airlines Arena, which would be the centerpiece of the mixed-use Xanadu project at the
Meadowlands. Eventually they settled on Newark, right in the middle of downtown, amidst gleaming
skyscrapers, bedraggled city streets and oceans of government buildings. The Devils contributed
$100-million to the construction of their new arena, with the rest coming from the city, via lease fees
from the Newark Airport and the Port Authority. By October of 2007, the New Jersey Devils had
themselves a new place to call home.
Getting to the venue
Transportation by car is pretty easy – I-280 cuts through Newark to the north of downtown, while I-78
bisects a couple miles south. Take Route 21 into the city from either direction and follow the signs
which will take you right to the arena. The Garden State parkway runs north and south, exit at MLB Blvd.
Public transportation is also a good option, with Newark Penn Station just two blocks away, PATH
trains go to several points in New Jersey as well as to Manhattan. NJ Transit offers light rail service
with a stop close to the arena.
Parking around the arena runs $25 or $20 depending on the lot and there aren’t many cheaper options
available at a farther distance. Some on street parking is available for free but pay careful attention to
the prohibition signs as different streets post different days for no parking restrictions. Also be mindful
of the neighborhoods as things are a bit rough in spots. One can also buy prepaid parking passes,
linked through the Devils website and park in color coded lots. Again $25 plus service charges is the
norm - pricey stuff.
Outside the venue
A lot has been made of the gritty and rough and tumble streets of downtown Newark, and to a point that
is a correct assessment. From a distance one sees shimmering skyscrapers, lit up at night, but travel
the streets and it’s all a bit dreary and grimy. By contrast, the new Prudential Center shines like a bright
new penny. The main streets just west of the arena are full of the hustle and bustle of office and retail
and government. Look closely and the stores are not Apple and Urban Outfitters, but rather creaky
bodegas and Furniture Liquidators and such. Bars on windows and vacant storefronts abound. If you
look hard enough though, you’ll find some nice corner taverns for postgame hangouts. We stumbled
on the Arena Bar, one block down Mulberry Street, a Cheers type place with plenty of plasma screens.
Go east beyond the massive Penn Station and you will find a cool ethnic neighborhood called
“Ironbound” with a Portuguese flair. Lots of restaurants, shops, little bistros in a much cleaner and
safer looking environment. Looked like a cool place to explore, but it’s more of a drive than a walk from
the arena itself.
There is a substantial police presence outside the arena, and they are going the extra mile to make
patrons feel safe.
Architecture and seating bowl
The exterior of the building is a mix of red brick and glass, paying heritage to this region’s bricklaying
and railroad heritage, with the most stunning side facing eastward on Mulberry Street. Two tall glassed
cupola entrance cylinders mark each corner, and they glow brightly at night. The centerpiece of the
façade along this side is a massive dot matrix LED video board which displays cool graphics and can
be seen from miles away.
While this side of the arena forms the venue’s signature, the two back sides of the building are very
basic and ordinary. That lack of detail is somewhat unfortunate since the back end of the building
faces the main part of the downtown core.
Your seating bowl here comprises four decks, with the upper deck further divided into an upper and
lower area. Two levels of suites ring the sidelines, with premium restaurants overlooking the playing
surface at this level at each end zone. Seats are colored dark red. Two rings of LED ribbon boards
wrap around the seating bowl, and the stacked 8 sided video board is equipped with high definition
With bright lighting, grey and white terrazzo tile flooring, and endless displays and things to view, the
concourses here at The Rock are a pleasant touring experience. Fans enter at street level through the
entrance cylinders and escalators to take you to the main level. Most concession stands are set back
from the traffic areas in food court style, lessening congestion. The lower concourse is replete with
displays of all the high school hockey team jerseys in New Jersey, extensive artwork and murals
showcasing attractions from the region and celebrating icons from the Devils and Seton Hall
University. One corner displays the franchise’s history going back to Kansas City and Colorado, with
murals of past arenas and old jerseys of the team.
One more note is the ample supply of high tech video advertising/message boards scattered
throughout the corridors here.
Food items here are about as unique and diverse as you want to get in any sports venue. Yes the
standard fare can be found at 7 City Grill and Famous Famiglia Pizza.
But keep walking and you’ll find a group of stands called “A Taste of Newark” in the upper deck. That’s
where you’ll find the good local stuff – Jimmy Buff’s hot dogs, which are topped with fried onions, hot
and sweet peppers, and yes, home fries. Right next door is the Newark Deli offering hot pastrami or
roast turkey with Russian dressing. Move on and you’ll find the gyros, kabobs and falafels and they cut
the meat right in front of you. Finally, the stand from Portugal, something you will only find here in
Newark. On the menu?
Bifana (a pork steak sandwich), Bolos de Bocalhou (codfish cakes) and Picadinho (pork cubes and
We also came across a stand selling fine cigars and accessories, and even a guy there hand rolling
the cigars right in front of us. Another stand with hot panini sandwiches, a labeled sushi stand but look
closely and the fare was Chinese not Japanese, Habana Grill offering Cuban sandwiches, and On the
Boardwalk with cheesesteak sandwiches and freshly squeezed lemonade. Team merchandise shops
are in abundance at all levels, with the main team store at street level on the Mulberry side of the arena.
One deduction though – the concession menu panels are tiny and dark; one has to practically be at the
counter to see the offerings and prices.
The Devils have retired numbers for two of their players, #3 Ken Daneyko and #44 Scott Stevens. The
team’s divisional and conference achievements are grouped in one end zone, while their three Stanley
Cup banners (1995, 2000, and 2003) hang at the other end. Additionally, Seton Hall displays a couple
banners of their NCAA appearances.
Club seating here is located on the lowest level of the seating bowl on the sidelines. Fans sitting there
have access to two exclusive lounges and bar areas titled the “Fire Lounge” and “Ice Lounge”. Two
levels of suites ring the seating bowl. The first suite level has some very nice amenities located at
each end zone. At one end is the “Bud Light Goal Bar” and loft style bar area with rail seating views of
the action, while at the other end is the arena restaurant, offering a la carte and buffet dining, also with
many table seats offering a rail type view. The back end of the nicely appointed restaurant has massive
windows overlooking the arena’s practice rink.
Hat tricks, assists, penalties…
Hat trick… to the ushers, security and game day staff. After the horrible experience we endured at
Continental Airlines Arena, and the many stories of abuse and bad behavior we’ve gleaned in
conversations with others, wasn’t it nice to see arena employees greeting fans with big smiles,
offering to help and providing sincere welcomes.
Hat trick… Jerseys of every high school hockey team in New Jersey on display throughout the main
concourse. A special touch which gives this venue its true character.
Penalty… To the fans of New Jersey who have not embraced this team despite its perennial success
on the ice and three Stanley Cups. Sellouts here are few and far between, and on the night we were
here there were huge yawning gaps of empty seats throughout the lower bowl.
Assist… Not only plenty of merchandise stores, but even an auction area displaying cool memorabilia.
Assist… In one lobby is a giant puck commissioned for Opening Night. Fans in attendance that night
were able to sign it, and it is now on display for posterity.
Hat trick… A separate practice rink in the arena, with its own locker facilities, only the second NHL
venue with such a set up (the other one being Columbus).
It is hard to find any Devils fan complaining about their new digs here in downtown Newark. Their
former home, Continental Airlines Arena, was a shabby and substandard venue in a horrible location
with few fan friendly amenities, surly and rude game day staff, and little intimacy as a place to watch
hockey. While downtown Newark is not the sexiest location for their new venue, it is an area that is
trying to find its footing for an urban comeback, and The Rock is central to that goal.
This arena is a superb place to watch hockey. It is bright, comfortable, plenty of things to see and do,
good stuff to eat, friendly staff, adequate game day entertainment. Oh yeah, and their hockey team
seems to be pretty good year in and year out.
While not breaking the NHL top five, we nonetheless give good marks in most categories and would
be glad to pay a return visit.
Concessions/Team Store 7
Fan Support 2.5
In Game Entertainment 7
Concourses/Fan Comfort 9
Bonus: Opening Night giant signed puck 1; Practice arena 1, Arena art 1; High school jerseys 1; “A
Taste of Newark” 1