Super Bowl turns spotlight on New Jersey

Sun Jan 19, 2014 7:07am EST
 
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By Victoria Cavaliere

EAST RUTHERFORD, New Jersey (Reuters) - When New Jersey steps into the spotlight next month to host its first Super Bowl, it hopes to alter its international reputation beyond stereotypes from TV shows such as mob drama "The Sopranos" and the vapid 20-somethings of "Jersey Shore."

One problem for the state, which has long lived in the shadow of its superstar neighbor New York, is that the new MetLife Stadium, site of the February 2 National Football League championship game, is in an industrial area that belies New Jersey's designation as "The Garden State."

Officials in East Rutherford, some 10 miles west of New York City, will roll out the red carpet for an expected 400,000 visitors, with economic activity forecast at $500 million.

"New Jersey has been fighting a negative stereotype for a long, long time," said Michael Rockland, a professor of New Jersey history at Rutgers University. It "was kind of the national joke there for a while, with a reputation for corruption, being called the armpit of America."

New Jersey is a state of contrasts. Home to the largest number of Superfund toxic waste sites in the country, it also takes pride in 120 miles of shoreline - some of which is still recovering from the devastation of Superstorm Sandy in 2012 - and about 15 percent of its land is freshwater wetlands.

The state was at the forefront of the 19th century American industrial revolution, and its major cities remain dotted with long-abandoned warehouses and smokestacks.

It is home as well to some of America's wealthiest communities, including the borough of Alpine, with a median home price of $4.5 million, the most expensive in the country, real estate experts say.

Many of the residents who live in New Jersey's toniest areas commute to New York City for work, and the state has been seen as an annex of its more famous neighbor. In fact, two sports teams that call MetLife Stadium home are, in name, from New York - the Giants and Jets.   Continued...