The Izod Center when it was the Continental Airlines Arena.]]
| 50 Route 120|
East Rutherford, New Jersey
|Former names||Brendan Byrne Arena (1981–1996)|
Continental Airlines Arena (1996-2007)
|Opened||July 2, 1981|
|Owner||New Jersey Sports Expo Authority|
|Operator||New Jersey Sports Expo Authority|
|New Jersey Nets (NBA) (1981-2010)|
|Seton Hall Pirates (NCAA) (10982-2007)|
|Fordham Rams (NCAA (2011-present)|
The Izod Center (formerly Brendan Byrne Arena, and later, Continental Airlines Arena) is a multi-purpose indoor arena in the Meadowlands Sports Complex in East Rutherford, New Jersey. It is currently home to the NCAA's Fordham Rams and was former home to the New Jersey Nets of NBA until 2010. The Nets announced they would relocated to the Prudential Center until the completion of the new arena. Official seating capacity as of 2004 is 19,040 for hockey; 20,029 for college basketball; 20,049 for NBA games; and a maximum 20,000 for concerts. The arena attracts spectators and fans from New Jersey and the entire New York Metropolitan Area.
Construction on a new arena across New Jersey State Highway 20 (now 120) from Giants Stadium and the Meadowlands Racetrack began in 1977. Originally named Brendan Byrne Arena (after the sitting governor of the state, who was also a member of the ownership group seeking to bring an NHL team to the State), the arena opened July 2, 1981, with the first of six concerts by New Jersey rock musician Bruce Springsteen. This was followed by an ice show later that month. Although named after Byrne, many people and some tickets and press releases simply referred (and still refer) to it as Meadowlands Arena.
On October 30, 1981, the Nets, who had played their previous four seasons at the Louis Brown Athletic Center at Rutgers University, made their debut at the arena, losing to the New York Knicks, 103-99. Later that season, on January 31, 1982, the NBA All-Star Game was played at the arena.
College basketball arrived at the arena with the opening rounds of the 1984 NCAA basketball tournament. Seton Hall moved its Big East Conference men's basketball games to the arena for the 1985-1986 season, enhancing a tradition that would soon become rich. The arena hosted the NCAA Men's Final Four in 1996, the last traditional arena to do so as of 2007. On eleven occasions (1986-91, 1993, 1995, 1999, 2004, 2007) the arena hosted the semifinals and finals of the tournament's East Regional. Only Kansas City's Municipal Auditorium, which hosted 13 regional finals from 1940-52, has hosted more. It also hosted the 1982-1989 Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference and 1986 Atlantic Ten Conference men's basketball tournaments.
On January 4, 1996, the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority announced a naming rights deal with Continental Airlines under which the airline, with a hub at nearby Newark Liberty International Airport, would pay the NJSEA $29 million over 12 years. Many thought this was a political move, since Brendan Byrne is a Democrat and the governor at the time of the deal was Christine Todd Whitman, a Republican. The former governor's son, Tom Byrne, was the state Democratic Party chairman at the time, and publicly voiced his displeasure. The senior Byrne was not upset about it: "I was immortal for 15 years," he said at the time.
The name change to Continental Airlines Arena also caused controversy in April of that year, when the arena hosted the NCAA Final Four. During the CBS coverage of the event, Continental signage was not shown on camera, and the arena was simply referred to as "The Meadowlands". CBS and the NCAA already had airline sponsors for the event before Continental's naming rights deal.
Following the Devils' final season at the arena in 2007, Continental Airlines opted out of the naming rights agreement. The arena's new name is now the Izod Center, which took effect as of October 31, 2007, at the Nets' season opener against Chicago. The company will pay $1.4 million per annum for the first two years of the agreement, while the Nets are still tenants, which will drop to $750,000 per year for the balance of the five-year deal.
As early as October 18, 2007 - two weeks before the new name was scheduled to be official - two signs began appearing on the basketball court bearing the Izod Center name. The occasion was made up of three exhibition games against the New York Knicks, Boston Celtics, and Philadelphia 76ers.
Izod Center frequently is cited near the bottom of arena polls. It is commonly referred to as "cold and dull" in appearance, as well as being "cavernous". Recently, USA Today rated it the worst NBA arena. This has played a role in the Nets' plans and the Devils' vacating the arena.
In an attempt to remain on par with the features of most modern arenas, circular LED rings were installed on the facing of the upper level in 2005.
The arena has also been criticized for funneling both levels of the arena into one, crowded concourse.
Hockey players and fans alike acknowledged the poor ice quality of Izod Center, which was common of many hockey arenas used for other sports. The difficulty arose when converting the playing surface from wood to ice, sometimes for two professional sporting events on the same day. On the other hand, the arena is generally well-regarded for concerts, with its good sightlines and relatively good acoustics; the cavernous nature here can add to the drama of a top show.