Meadowlands Matters: What’s On Tap This Fall

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For the second straight autumn, big changes are afoot at the Meadowlands Sports Complex. Here’s a guide to help you avoid any strategic errors.

As with last fall during the first year of regulated sports betting in New Jersey, NFL Sundays are complicated for horse race simulcasting fans and for those who want to watch the football games — and gamble — at the FanDuel Sportsbook in the Meadowlands Racetrack.

The Giants or Jets maintain control of the complex for the bulk of game days, so that has to be accounted for.

First, the easy part — there are no Jets or Giants Sunday games on:

  • Sept. 22
  • Oct. 27
  • Nov. 3
  • Nov. 17

That means simulcasting bettors are welcome to visit the track those days and wager on races around the country.

A lot of hurdles to “pass”

But what about when the Jets or Giants have a 1 p.m. home game — which is most Sundays through December?

You can’t get into the Sports Complex without a parking pass, which will run you from as low as $10 to as much as $100 on the secondary market, depending on the quality of the home team, the popularity of the road team, the weather, and how close to the stadium your parking section is.

But even if you find a relatively cheap pass, fighting the traffic is no bargain — especially for someone not even attending the game. You also can arrive at the stadium via a train from Secaucus Junction, take a bus from the Port Authority Bus Terminal, or park at nearby Redd’s Restaurant.

But the simplest idea for locals might be found in a willingness to compromise. If you can wait until 2 p.m. — an hour after kickoff — then you can park outside FanDuel Sportsbook for free. Catch the second half of numerous games, then stay for the 4 p.m. contests to avoid the postgame traffic.

What about 4 p.m. starts for the local teams? The Giants don’t currently have any such games, but the Jets host the Dallas Cowboys on Oct. 13 (a 4:25 p.m. start).

For that one, to visit the FanDuel Sportsbook, you don’t arrive late — you come very early, before 11 a.m., if you want free parking.

(Also, remember that the NFL has a “flex” policy beginning Week 6, meaning it is possible that game times will be changed. In a nutshell, if the Giants or Jets are doing better than expected, they might have a Sunday afternoon home game bumped to Sunday night for national television purposes.)

For some, the better bet may just be visiting the sportsbook on Monday nights. But be careful; the Jets are taking on Cleveland at MetLife Stadium this Monday night and the Patriots on Oct. 21, so you may want to make alternative plans for those nights. The same is true on Nov. 4, when the Giants host Dallas.

Other options for football betting in NJ

If all that seems exhausting to remember, there are better bets if you’re mainly interested in people-watching, camaraderie, excitement, and maybe a casual wager or two — in which case sitting on the living room couch betting online doesn’t seem appealing.

That better bet is college football Saturdays, with free parking and admission from noon til midnight (or even beyond). Many savvy fans are taking advantage of hassle-free planning.

Especially for those who live south of the Meadowlands but well north of Atlantic City’s casinos and sports betting there, a trip “down the shore” to Monmouth Park is a reasonable option — with no need to track the Giants or Jets schedule. And as a bonus, there is live racing at the Oceanport track on Sundays in September and October. Also, keep in mind that the thoroughbreds will race on Friday and Saturday afternoons in October (except Oct. 19).

As for harness racing, that resumes at the Meadowlands on Oct. 11 — so those college football followers can combine betting on live races with watching prime-time gridiron games in the sportsbook. The harness races will then take place at the Meadowlands every Friday and Saturday for the rest of the year.

The long-awaited Dream coming true

Finally, there is American Dream Meadowlands, the 3 million square foot shopping and entertainment complex that opens — 17 years after its predecessor Meadowlands Xanadu was proposed — on Friday, Oct. 25.

Notice from the football schedule above that it just so happens that there are no home Sunday games in the first two weekends after the project’s debut. That gives everybody a chance to get a sense of the landscape.

Annual visitation to the project has been projected at anywhere from 30 to 50 million, so that could have a material impact on Giants and Jets season ticketholders, sportsbook fans, and horse racing bettors.

The good news is that such visitors would be arriving at all hours of day or night, without a specific “kickoff” or “post” time.

Still, that Giants-Jets game on Nov. 10 might produce some Big Apple-sized gridlock.

Meanwhile, for all the kvetching that goes on about American Dream and traffic, it might produce a positive result as well.

Until now, Giants or Jets ticket buyers who don’t like to tailgate — especially if the weather isn’t cooperating — had little incentive to arrive well before the game. But with dozens of restaurants, an indoor water and amusement park, an NHL-sized skating rink, and other attractions, American Dream — just an overpass walk over Route 120 away — offers plenty of reasons to arrive early.

And, it’s worth adding, to stay late. If many fans are smart, they won’t be racing to their cars at 4 p.m. just to get stuck in long lines. Instead, visit American Dream for an hour or two and avoid that headache.

Some of those restaurants offering ticketholder discounts or offerings such as free appetizers would make sense, too.

Plus there is more than 1 million square feet of retail, so … never mind. Thanks to Bergen County’s quirky “blue laws,” most retailers in the county are closed on Sundays. And so far, it’s looking like American Dream, which is located in East Rutherford, perilously close to, but not quite in, Hudson County, will be no exception.

That could suppress visitor turnout enough on Sundays to make things manageable for football fans who already have enough competition on the local roads. We’re only weeks away from finding out.

Photo by Richard Cavalleri  / Shutterstock.com

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John Brennan

John Brennan has covered NJ and NY sports business and gaming since 2002 and was a Pulitzer Prize Finalist in 2008, while reporting for The Bergen County Record.

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