This Year's Super Bowl Has a Particularly Embarrassing Neighbor

Chris Christie described it as "the ugliest damn building" in the state, "and maybe America."

Image
Associated Press

Next door to the Meadowlands's MetLife Stadium, host of Sunday's Super Bowl, is an unfulfilled mega-real estate fantasy.

Originally known as Xanadu, the project was designed as an entertainment complex anchored by an indoor ski slope. It's had three different owners since construction started in 2004, and has become a local embarrassment. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie called it "the ugliest damn building" in the state, "and maybe America." 

Its multi-colored aluminum panels and sprawling site plan stand out even in a state that specializes in the gaudy shopping center. But Xanadu's problems stretch well beyond aesthetics. 

Work on Xanadu ground to a halt in May 2009 after its financier, a subsidiary of bankrupt Lehman Brothers, could no longer make payments. Though it was 80 percent complete, part of its eastern wall and roof collapsed in 2010 thanks to snow and ice.

Last year, Triple Five Group, which owns the Mall of America, took over the project, renaming it "American Dream." The final product is expected to come with an even larger footprint, including a water park, Ferris wheel, ice rink, performing arts center, movie theater, an aquarium, a mini golf course, hundreds of stores, the "world's first exclusive kosher food hall" and of course, the indoor ski slope.

American Dream shows no signs of opening any time soon, despite promises that it would be ready in time for this weekend's Super Bowl. The updated vision will require new permits and public financing arrangements (the project will likely require nearly $1 billion in municipal bonds). And the Jets and Giants are suing the developers to try to block the new water and amusement parks, claiming it would make traffic and parking impossible on game days. Triple Five has since sued them back

All of that means, as a Triple Five spokesman told the USA Today earlier this month, American Dream now hopes to open by 2016. Meanwhile, Super Bowl attendees this weekend will simply experience it as an odd-looking police staging area surrounded by a fence. 

A 2009 image of Xanadu's ski slope. Image courtesy Brad Miller/Wikimedia Commons.
The unfinished retail and entertainment complex formerly known as Xanadu is seen in East Rutherford, N.J., July 21, 2010. (AP Photo/ Mel Evans)
A 2009 photo inside the unfinished mega-project then called 'Xanadu'. Image courtesy Flickr user ProPublica
American Dream, the unfinished and oddly patterned retail and entertainment complex in East Rutherford, N.J., July 21, 2010.  (AP Photo/ Mel Evans)
A sports viewing area that will feature a large television screen at the new American Dream at Meadowlands retail and entertainment complex is seen, Tuesday, May 3, 2011, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
Mark Ghermezian, a member of the Ghermezian family that operates development company Triple Five, walks on the construction site of the American Dream at Meadowlands retail and entertainment complex, Tuesday, May 3, 2011, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
The ski lift at the indoor winter sports section of the new American Dream at Meadowlands retail and entertainment complex is seen, Tuesday, May 3, 2011, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

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