American Dream Meadowlands Project: Will It Ever Be Completed?
American Dream is a large mall and entertainment complex that is part of the Meadowlands Sports Complex located in East Rutherford, NJ. The American Dream Meadowlands project is a multi-billion-dollar plan still in the works to add other attractions, including a water park. casino, and a convention center to the facility.
Besides American Dream, the Meadowlands Sports Complex currently includes all of the following:
- Meadowlands Racetrack
- Met Life Stadium: the home field of two NFL teams, the NY Giants and the NY Jets.
- Quest Diagnostics Training Center: the Giants’ practice facility
Current Status of the American Dream Meadowlands project
Turning this dream into reality has already proven to be an extremely expensive undertaking. But the additional attractions would presumably bring thousands of more people to the facility. So, in due time, it could pay off.
As for when, if ever, that will happen, is impossible to predict based on how much has gone wrong already. Unfortunately, for the people who have been behind the project since the beginning, the dream has become a nightmare.
A Dream 17 Years in the Making
The late patriarch of the family, an Iranian rug merchant named Jacob Ghermezian, emigrated to Canada with his four sons in the 1950s. The family’s first big project there was the 5.2 million-square-foot West Edmonton Mall, which became internationally famous and led to even bigger projects.
Accordingly, in the 1990s, the family relocated to the US with dreams of opening a similar business here. They called their proposed project The American Dream project and initially envisioned completing it in Silver Spring, MD. However, bitter disputes regarding public tax subsidies derailed the plan.
Meanwhile, the Ghermezians expanded their holdings elsewhere. Most notably, in 2006, they gained control of the already existing Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota, the largest shopping mall in the US. However, the family really wanted to have a project of that magnitude in this country that they conceived of and developed themselves.
A new opportunity but a very costly one
A new opportunity presented itself with an entertainment and retail complex in the Meadowlands then known as Xanadu. The facility, which the former owners had expected to open in Nov. 2008, had fallen on hard times due to the recession. As a result, it did not open until the summer of 2009, with construction still incomplete.
Then, in 2011, to make matters worse, a portion of the structure caved from heavy snow on the roof. Also, the owners’ funding sources had dried up, so they were at an impasse.
Later that year, the Ghermezians’ multinational conglomerate, the Triple Five Group, took over the project, agreeing to invest $1 billion in renovations and enhancements, with an anticipated 2014 opening. The new owners renamed the project The American Dream.
However, the cost just for Phase One exceeded $5 billion, and it did not open until 2019 According to a March 29, 2021 article on NJonlinegambling.com, the dream took 17 years to realize.
Why the opening date for The American Dream Meadowlands Project had to be pushed back
The owners wanted Phase One of The American Dream Meadowlands project to be ready by 2014 in time for the Super Bowl being played at Met Life Stadium that year. However, the hoped for 2014 opening failed to materialize.
The Giants and the Jets filed a joint lawsuit, claiming that the addition of The American Dream project would create major transportation and parking problems that would hurt business at Met Life Stadium. Triple Five Group countersued.
Although the parties dropped the suit, the long legal battle prolonged the delay in completing the project.
The Ghermezians wanted to model the project after the West Edmonton Mall, which includes a large indoor water and amusement park. Toward that end, they gutted the entire interior and increased the total square foot area by 25 percent for what they envisioned as just Phase One.
They also succeeded in obtaining a $1.7 billion loan to help meet the staggering construction costs. However, the loan was contingent on the lenders being able to claim a 49% stake in the Triple Five Group’s West Edmonton Mall and Mall of America in the event the company defaulted.
Finally, in October 2019, the American Dream Meadowlands project was able to open to the public on a limited scale. As planned, it included an indoor amusement park and a large ice skating rink. A snow park and a few stores opened shortly thereafter but not the also envisioned water park and, later down the road, casino and convention center.
Then COVID-19 hit
As mentioned, the American Dream Meadowlands project took 17 years from the time the idea was first conceived to reach the first stage of completion. However, in March 2020, only four months into its existence, like countless other businesses across the country, it was forced to shut down completely until it could safely reopen several months later.
When the facility finally reopened, it was without many of the stores that were no longer able to fulfill the terms of their leases. The loss in revenue proved disastrous for Triple Five Group. At a recent meeting of the Bloomington, Minnesota City Council, Kurt Hagen, a corporate executive, stated the following:
“It would have been much better if American Dream would have burned down or a hurricane hat hit it, financially, because we would have been covered by insurance. This pandemic that we didn’t see coming has not been covered and is the worst scenario imaginable.”
The long road to recovery and a tough lesson for The American Dream project owners
The good news is that at long last, during the fourth quarter of 2020, Triple Five was able to see some light at the end of the tunnel. The company reported $39 million in revenue–triple the amount registered for the first three quarters of the year combined.
The bad news is that Triple Five Group’s creditors were unwilling to wait to be repaid indefinitely. As a result, half of the company’s holdings wound up changing hands.
In short, America is indeed a land of opportunity where people with grand-scale ideas that they believe they can carry out successfully are welcome to try. But, as Triple Five learned the hard way, they could also be taking a big risk, with no guarantee of success.