Devils opener goes on despite arena code dispute

October 10, 2008 6:09:29 PM PDT
The New Jersey Devils home opener went on as scheduled Friday night despite a construction code dispute that closed the Prudential Center down this summer. The team obtained a temporary certificate of occupancy to enable it to play the opener against the New York Islanders, and was closing in on a permanent solution. Devils owner Jeff Vanderbeek said the paperwork required for a permanent certificate was submitted to the City of Newark last week.

"The city is reviewing those documents and we're both close to getting it done," Vanderbeek said in a telephone interview. "We could hear back from them as early as next week."

A permanent certificate of occupancy would bring an end to a paperwork battle between the Devils and Newark construction officials that has bedeviled the $380 million arena since it opened in October 2007. Several temporary certificates of occupancy have been issued to permit events to be held there.

The hockey team ran into trouble July 11 when the arena was closed for several hours in the absence of proper documentation for smoke alarm and ventilation improvements. Newark spokeswoman Esmeralda Cameron said firefighters will continue staffing stairwells at Prudential Center under the terms of the current temporary certificate of occupancy.

There has been at least one other run-in with city code enforcement officers. In March, the city ordered the center to halt work because it was installing a pedestrian bridge without proper permits.

The Devils are required to provide complete documentation on additional work at the arena, according to Newark officials.

Stefan Pryor, who heads city economic development efforts, said the arena is a priority for the community and plays a key role in efforts to revitalize its downtown.

"We've been very pleased with the arena," Pryor said. "The surrounding area is percolating with activity."

It is not unusual for a facility as big as Prudential Center to have to wait a year or more to obtain a permanent certificate of occupancy as additional features are installed, Vanderbeek said.

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