"We want to show all that the region has to offer as a destination," he said. "We believe that we have to collectively market the region as a brand. Branding is immensely important."
The MLCVB will hold its second annual mDEST destination industry trade show on Nov. 28 and 29 at the Meadowlands Exposition Center in Secaucus in an attempt to boost what they see as a booming brand. The bureau hopes to highlight the fact that the region that it promotes, which includes the 14 towns within the authority of the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission (NJMC) and the Bergen and Hudson county waterfront, accounts for more than $8 billion of the $32 billion in revenue raised by travel to the Garden State. This 25 percent contribution to New Jersey's tourism dollars is expected to grow as eco-tourism continues to rise alongside the ongoing ecological recovery of the Meadowlands.
Emphasis on new facilities
Kirkos spoke about a surge of new infrastructure coming to the Meadowlands designed to help handle a growing tourist trade in the area.
"What has transpired since last year is some new and additional plans," he said. "Now there is a plan for a new Giants and Jets stadium, and the EnCap golf course development project is getting closer to completion. They are beginning to sculpt fairways off the Turnpike in the Rutherford and Lyndhurst area. A second course will be built as a public access course for Bergen and Hudson county residents in the North Arlington and Kearny area.'
Kirkos also pointed to additional accommodation improvements.
"There is also in excess of $100 million in facility upgrades for just hotel properties alone," he said. "All of these upgrades create new opportunities here in the Meadowlands area. We're in the infrastructure stage, and we have to start to tell the story of what is about to come, including the new football stadium, the golf courses and the Xanadu entertainment complex. The Giants and Jets stadium will probably be a close to a $1 billion project, and the golf courses will probably also cost about that much."
The Giants and Jets hope to begin play in the new stadium for the 2010-2011 season.
The future of the adjacent Continental Arena has been drawn into question with the New Jersey Devils hockey team leaving for Newark in 2007 and the New Jersey Nets basketball team leaving for Brooklyn shortly thereafter. Despite these losses, Kirkos was confident about the arena's immediate future.
"I'm told by the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority (NJSEA) staff that they have the ability to book all types of family entertainment well into the future with or without professional sports teams in the arena," he said. "They recently booked the circus until 2012. The circus knows that there is going to be an arena in Newark in 2007. Why would they book the circus at Continental until 2012 if they didn't think it was a viable venue? If they think it's a viable place for family entertainment, then certainly we should too."
Meadowlands already a destination point
While developers and project promoters push to make what are now artists' renderings into realities, Kirkos noted that there are already significant drawing points in place in the Meadowlands.
"Despite all of these big picture projects, there are 8,500 acres of preserved ecosystem that have been a proven draw, which we saw at the MeadowFest event at Laurel Hill Park in Secaucus this summer and a ecotourism triathlon which also attracted a lot of people," he said. "We still have over 8,000 hotels rooms ready right now."
Although there have been concerns about the future of these projects, particularly Xanadu, Kirkos explained how the goals of the mDEST trade show is not tied to any one venture.
"What we're really promoting is not the individual components of the area, but the idea that the Meadowlands region is a very powerful emerging destination," he said. "If we market it as such, there could be a real positive economic impact for all of the communities around here."