MEADOWLANDS – When Xanadu first “opened,” Gov. Jim McGreevey brought Christie Brinkley in for a press op. Today it was a different Christie, Gov. Chris Christie, who vowed that the ski slope, water slide, and mega-mall Xanadu – now sporting the moniker American Dream – would indeed be opened before the 2014 Super Bowl.
“This is going to become what it was envisioned to be right from the beginning,” Christie said, 3 million square feet of an “extraordinary” family destination.
Christie said he suspected when it was over that “this will not be the only Super Bowl being played in New Jersey.”
Christie praised the new operators, Triple Five Group, for their enthusiasm, “but (also) the business know-how to get this done.”
Nader Ghermezian, one of the principals of the Triple Five Group, said, “We are proud to announce that we will be developing the world’s largest and most comprehensive retail, entertainment, amusement, recreation, and tourism project ever built.”
It’s a $3.7 billion project, Ghermezian said, merging portions of their two other major projects, Mall of America in Minnesota and West Edmonton Mall in Ontario, Canada.
Both were in the Guinness Book of World Records, he said, but neither are going to trump the American Dream. “It is going to be one of the largest in the universe ever built of its kind,” he said.
Each of the other two projects contribute $2 billion per year to the local economy, he said, for 25 years in Minnesota and 15 years in Ontario.
“We are not asking (for) the money from the taxpayers,” he said, only for “some of the sales tax created by the project itself – that otherwise would not have existed – to come back to the project to finish the project.”
He expects 55 million visitors per year, 30,000 permanent jobs, and an anuual economic impact of $3.8 billion.
Christie said the state will commit roughly $200 million to complete the project, although he would say whether the state’s return on investment would come through a profit share, or whether it would be done some other way.
Ghermezian said the group was able to draw airport layover flyers in Minnesota, and is working with Newark Airport to do the same.
“Take the transit line right to the American Dream,” Ghermezian said. “We have done it before. It was very successful,” increasing international flights in Minnesota from 96 to 216.
Paul Ghermezian, another operating principal, poked fun at Christie, who has been honest about his absolute dislike for the exterior multihued color scheme, and promised a new paint job.
Jon Hanson, chairman of the governor’s commission on gaming and entertainment, also lauded the new operating team, including the Lender Group, owners of the land.
“We have the finest location in New Jersey for this project,” he said.