A Film and Television Studio is Born in the Meadowlands

the staff of the Ridgewood blog

East Rutherford NJ, opened in 1981 to host professional sports and concerts, the Izod Center in the Meadowlands, previously known as the Brendan Byrne Arena and the Continental Airlines Arena, was one of New Jersey’s premiere entertainment venues. The more recent arrival of the Prudential Center, and subsequent departures of both the New Jersey Devils and New Jersey Nets, left the venue underutilized and eventually shuttered.

That was before the Motion Picture and Television Commission recommended the building to executives at NBCUniversal, who were seeking studio space for their new FBI-themed series “The Enemy Within.” Show creator Ken Woodruff immediately recognized the arena’s untapped potential. In the wake of New Jersey’s new 30-37% tax incentive program, NBCUniversal green-lit 13 episodes of the show’s first season to be filmed in the Garden State. A projected air date just a few months down the road caused NBC to move expeditiously, and they transformed Izod into a production facility practically overnight. Thanks to the cooperation of the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority, and the creative brilliance of the NBC crew, it all came together beautifully.

While most of the permanent sets for the show were built on the arena floor, many practical locations were found in other areas of the Izod Center, including hallways, offices, locker rooms, and even a trucking tunnel that doubled as the exterior of the J. Edgar Hoover Building in Washington, DC. Skyboxes provided executives and production staff with comfortable office space that literally overlooked the sets. And to keep everyone abreast of the day’s schedule, scene and take information flashed across the electronic scoreboard while the arena’s buzzer indicated “quiet on the set.” The vacant former grandstand building for the Meadowlands Racetrack and adjacent, easily controllable roads within the complex also provided a wealth of additional locations.

“The Enemy Within” was not renewed for a second season, but the Izod Center was. The crew for NBCUniversal’s “Lincoln” moved in late this summer and began prepping for their thirteen episode first season. Can the former home to such sports legends as Jason Kidd and Martin Brodeur find continued life as the first large scale studio complex of New Jersey’s tax credit era? Stay tuned.