NEW YORK (WFAN/AP) — Was it a dig at MetLife Stadium or the Jets — or both?
Jets fans had long been tortured by playing in Giants Stadium. When the building formerly known as the New Meadowlands Stadium went up, Gang Green faithful thought they were finally out of the big, blue shadow.
Now it’s officially MetLife stadium. But to one Giants star, an old moniker will always ring true.
“To me it’ll always be Giants Stadium,” defensive leader Justin Tuck said on Wednesday. Maybe he would have been happier with JetBlue?
Tuck, who said the Jets were “second fiddle” in New York before the 2010 season, wasn’t done needling Rex Ryan’s squad.
When asked about former teammate Plaxico Burress and his nifty over-the-shoulder touchdown grab on Sunday, Tuck said: “It looked familiar. Maybe (Mark) Sanchez went back and watched some of the games he played with Eli (Manning).”
MetLife, the New York-based insurance giant, signed an agreement Tuesday with the Giants and Jets to buy the naming rights to the $1.6 billion stadium that will be the site of the Super Bowl in 2014.
None of the parties would say how much North America’s largest insurance company paid for the right to call the one-year-old facility MetLife Stadium for the next 25 years, although there have been multiple reports that the deal will net the co-owners between $17 million to $20 million annually.
MetLife chief executive Steven A. Kandarian said his company wanted to partner with a world-class venue that would expose its brand to even higher level.
Kandarian said that having the Super Bowl played in MetLife Stadium was “an added benefit” in negotiating a naming rights deal that has eluded the Jets and Giants for three years.
“Had there not been a Super Bowl,” he said, “we still would have done this transaction.”
As soon as the words left his mouth, Giants co-owner John Mara pounced.
“Now you tell me,” Mara quipped, drawing laughter from those at the news conference at the stadium that opened a year ago and which had been known as the New Meadowlands Stadium.
Sitting behind a white helmet emblazoned with MetLife Stadium and a New York City skyline with a blimp over it, Kandarian was as quick with his response.
“But perhaps,” he said, “at a different price.”
As part of the deal, the Meadowlands sports complex — at least the area that includes the stadium, the Meadowlands Racetrack and the Giants headquarters — will be known as the MetLife sports complex.
The state of New Jersey owns the land, but it gave the Jets and Giants permission to sell the complex naming rights when they agreed to privately fund and build the stadium.
MetLife has been associated with the teams for almost three years, It had been paying them between $7 million to $8 million annually to be one of four cornerstone sponsors for the stadium along with Verizon, Anheuser-Busch and PepsiCo.
Beth Hirschhorn, the MetLife executive that helped negotiate the deal, said MetLife also will receive working space at the stadium to expose its products to the roughly two million fans who come to the facility annually to watch football, college sports and concerts.
Hirschhorn said MetLife isn’t worried about getting a return on its investment, saying having the name on the stadium will be a constant reminder to people.
“A reminder of the brand is what we are trying to achieve,” she said. “Aside from awareness, this is a brand that is well liked and well-known once people are given a reminder. That’s what is contributing to this ROI.”
The Giants and Jets were close to a deal with Allianz in 2008 that would have been worth an estimated $30 million annually. Negotiations, however, ended when it was disclosed the that the German insurance company once had ties to the Nazis, a revelation that brought criticism from Jewish organizations, Holocaust survivors and some football fans.
Mark Lamping, the chief executive of the New Meadowlands Stadium company, which operates the stadium, said the teams did their due diligence in vetting MetLife, adding their working relationship with them the past three years left little doubt they were worthy associate.
“Sometimes it just takes time,” Lamping said of the deal. “I know in this case, we ended up exactly where we needed to be.”
Do you agree with Tuck that it’ll always be Giants Stadium? Sound off on the comments below…
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