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Associated Press
8/21/2007 8:04:03 PM

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) - Continental Airlines Inc. has decided to opt out of its deal for its name to appear on the home of the NBA's New Jersey Nets and the NHL's New Jersey Devils, the arena's owner said Tuesday.

The Meadowlands building has been called Continental Airlines Arena for 12 years, but the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority said it is hunting for a new company to put its name on what is now Continental Airlines Arena.

A spokesman for Houston-based Continental, which has a major presence at Newark Liberty International Airport, said an option in its contract allows it to opt out following a major change. The Devils, one of the arena's main tenants, is leaving this fall for a new home in Newark.

''The current arrangement remains in effect until the NJSEA designates a new sponsor,'' said Dave Messing, a Continental spokesman. ''We have had a rewarding relationship with the arena and are happy to continue to have our name on it until a new sponsor takes over.''

George Zoffinger, CEO of the authority, said the state would get a better deal with a new sponsor because the current contract pays only US$1.3 million annually, with half the fees being paid through airline tickets.

''We think this is a real opportunity for us to improve our cash flow,'' he said.

The authority said it is seeking bids by Sept. 24 from companies interested in procuring the naming rights.

Zoffinger said the Nets will help in the effort. The basketball team, which plans to move to New York City's Brooklyn borough, has signed a lease to play at the Meadowlands until 2012 but can opt out earlier, Zoffinger said.

He said he expects the Meadowlands facility to command a premium price, based on other recent naming rights deals.

Barclays Bank PLC announced in January it would spend as much as $400 million over the next 20 years to put its name on the new pro basketball arena planned as the Nets' future home in Brooklyn. The 18,000-seat facility designed by the architect Frank Gehry will be called The Barclays Center.

But a similar-sized arena in Newark, where the Devils hockey team is moving in October, didn't fetch nearly as a high price. Prudential Financial Inc. will pay $105.3 million over 20 years for the right to call the Devils' new arena the Prudential Center.

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