Senator Ray Lesniak is a longtime Rutgers basketball fan. Over the past few months, he has spearheaded the charge to improve Rutgers' Athletic Facilities. He took some time to chat with On the Banks today regarding his new bill of tax incentives to help the Scarlet Knights.
OTB-How long have you been a Rutgers supporter?
RL-Since the Phil Sellers years. I would drive from my home in Elizabeth closer to New Brunswick to listen to away games on WCTC. My girlfriend and I have celebrated many Valentines Days with dinner at Panico's and a game at the RAC.
OTB-When did you decide it was important to take action and help create a plan to improve facilities?
RL-The lack of encouraging statements from Rutgers administration and significant donors giving up on the future of Rutgers athletics prompted me to speak out on behalf of the benefits that would accrue to Rutgers and the State of New Jersey from B1G quality Rutgers athletics.
OTB-How does the tax credits bill work and will it lessen the amount of money that will need to be raised from other places? If so, how?
RL-The $25 mil. tax credits will reduce the development costs by $20-25 mil. through either a public private partnership or a transfer of the tax credits to a for-profit entity.
OTB-Some Rutgers fans have given you a bit of flack for wanting to share the 75 million dollars evenly with NJIT and Rowan. Can you explain the rationale behind part of the bill?
RL-I've removed NJIT and Rowan only because their project, an osteopathic school in Newark, is not ready to move forward. Should it be, I will move a bill on their behalf because there is a critical need for these health care providers in NJ.
OTB-How involved are you with the planning process at Rutgers? Is the plan for a facilities upgrade starting with and centered around basketball?
RL-My only involvement is to urge that it be B1G quality. While it is centered around basketball, all 21 sports, men and women, will benefit.
OTB-Aside from facilities, what are other improvements Rutgers needs to make in order to take advantage of the B1G's financial benefits?
RL-Improved donor relations and donations, but that will only develop with a commitment to B1G quality facilities. And commitments from a few Brian Leonards and Quincy Doubys .
OTB-How confident are you in athletic facilities being built at Rutgers in, say, the next 5 years?
OTB-The report on your website has detailed how this will help not only Rutgers, but also the entire state of New Jersey. What would you say to residents of the state who are not Rutgers alumni? Why should they support this plan?
RL-Not only will NJ benefit economically from the added attendance at athletic events including tourists from out of state, but Rutgers has already upgraded the LSAT scores of student applicants because of the national media exposure from the B1G. That's good for the entire state.
Thank you, Senator!