The Rock Rocks

And we tell you the best ways to get there from Hoboken

The Prudential Center in Newark opened about two weeks ago appropriately with the first of 10 Bon Jovi concerts and the Devils’ home opener a few days later. For residents of Hoboken, and particularly those without cars, the new arena, nicknamed The Rock, is much more convenient to get to than the Meadowlands.

For some odd reason, despite train tracks running within a ½ mile of the arena, stadium and race track in East Rutherford, New Jersey Transit never bothered to create a station or two running to and through the sports complex, thereby making it impossible to attend any events off Exit 16W if leaving from Hoboken. The only option is to leave from the Port Authority in Manhattan by bus, which is problematic enough to prompt many looking to go to the game to simply decide to watch it from home.

But traveling to the Rock is different, as there is both NJ Transit train and PATH service to Newark.

As one of those Hoboken residents sans wheels (unless a kick-ass bicycle counts), I have mastered all mass transit routes for most of Northern and Central New Jersey. For example, do you need to get to the beach? Pack three beers, a portable DVD player and some peanuts and head to Hoboken terminal. Hop on the North Jersey Coastline train (express only) to Spring Lake. Call a cab three stops away from arrival and you’re at your house in Spring Lake, Sea Girt or Manasquan in less than two hours from Hoboken with another movie under your belt and a light buzz to boot. Beats traffic on the Parkway…

As for Newark, that can actually be a bit more complicated by train, so if going to a concert or a Devils game, read closely for the most expeditious route.

Do not take the PATH. For starters, it is much slower and you’ll need to connect to another train at Journal Square (which features an outdoor platform that can’t be fun on cold autumn and winter nights). Commuting from Hoboken to Newark via PATH can take 25-35 minutes depending on when you travel (trains run less frequently as the time from rush hour becomes greater), so by all means, look at the next option

The next option) Go to and check out the train schedules from Hoboken to Newark Penn Station. If the schedule indicates a transfer in Secaucus, DO NOT take that train. The time between transfers can be staggering to the point that you’ll almost be better off hitchhiking or borrowing my bike. However, there are a few trains that run directly from Hoboken to Newark Penn Station at 5:46 (arrives at 6:09) and 6:19 PM (arrives at 6:38).

The Devils have scheduled all of their weekday night home games for 7:00 PM, so the 6:19 PM train is your probably your best (and unfortunately) only option if going to Newark Penn Station, which is located about four blocks away from The Rock. And if you’re worried about Newark’s reputation as being a bit less safe than Hoboken, there is a very noticeable police presence around the train station and leading up to the arena. Signs are everywhere to ensure you find your final destination as well (although it’s hard to miss the massive arena when exiting the train).

One other convenient option in terms of more train service is to go from Hoboken to Newark Broad Street station, which is located ½ mile away from The Rock. The arena provides free shuttle service for all events, so this is definitely your best option if missing the 6:19 train to Newark Penn Station.

Departing direct trains (remember, avoid a Secaucus transfer at all costs) to Broad Street occur at 6:04, 6:08, 6:14, 6:17, 6:40, 6:51, 7:00 and 7:06 PM. All trains take 16 minutes to get there from Hoboken. From that point, the shuttle takes less than five minutes. 

Upon arriving at the Rock, you’ll be amazed at the size of the video screen outside the arena (the largest in the United States) as well as the open space throughout the inside. The culinary options are vast: Sushi, pizza, Cuban wraps, gyros, sausage, chicken, and the usual burgers, fries and hot dogs…a definite step up from the bland and limited food served at the Meadowlands.

Besides the two bar/restaurants inside the Rock (Fire and Ice Lounge and Goal Bar), a nice local touch is added in the form of high school hockey jerseys from across the state that are hung all over the walls to give it a Jersey feel (no pun intended). Escalators take you to different levels of the arena, which means it is much easier to navigate crowds than the one-level-to-all-seating concourse at Continental Airlines Arena, now known as the Izod Center.

The seats themselves are wider and have cup holders on even in the cheapest seats ($10.00 tickets are sold the day of the game at the arena box office and seats as inexpensive as $20.00 can be bought via Ticketmaster, making it much more affordable than other teams in the area). And because the seating capacity itself is smaller than the Izod (that name may take some getting used to), every seat is a good one not to far away from the ice, floor (for Seton Hall basketball games), or stage for concerts.

The Devils, after selling out their opening game at home on October 29 (a 4-1 loss to Ottawa), have once again struggled to pack the joint on non-weekend games (about 80% capacity against Tampa, Toronto and Pittsburgh), but it’s still early in the season when attendance is lower across the board in the NHL, and the whole Newark concept may take some getting used to for suburban fans.

In an interview at his offices across the street from Prudential Center, Devils owner Jeff Vanderbeek told me that 11,000 season tickets have been sold for this season, up from 8,000 in 2006. He also is counting on more walk up sales from people working in Newark at companies like Prudential and the large law firms in Newark’s financial district close to the arena.

“In East Rutherford, our walk up ticket sales (people who literally walk to the arena) the night of a game was zero. Our model shows us that 750 people will now walk to the arena on game nights in Newark. Over 70 companies in the (Newark) area alone have already brought club seats to the game.”

As for driving to the game, Vanderbeek states, “We offer over 4000 parking spots within two blocks of the arena…which is much less than the number of spots located around CAA (Izod Center), and there are more than 25,000 spots within eight blocks of Prudential Center overall.”

“I also ask you how many spots there are to park around Madison Square Garden,” he continues. “People need to realize this is an urban arena, but we’ll have more than enough parking for those looking to drive. We anticipate mass transit being used more frequently by fans from places like Hoboken because of the speed and convenience, as well as the money saved from parking.”

Still, the Devils and Vanderbeek have their work cut out for them if they want to increase demand for seats in an arena situated in a city with the dubious distinction of Newark. There is the challenge of overcoming perceptions from safety concerns (Police Director Garry McCarthy stated on Monday that not one visitor to the arena has been the victim of a crime) and traffic congestion (roads in and out of The Rock have been arranged to handle more traffic in certain directions by opening more lanes on one side or the other on major thoroughfares for those traveling to or exiting an event there. The Jersey Journal reported little congestion for both the Bon Jovi concerts and the Devils opener, which saw over 17,000 in attendance, respectively).

After attending the Leafs-Devils game on November 2 (an exciting 3-2 Jersey victory), the feeling here echoes what almost all from Hoboken who I’ve spoken to that have already traveled to The Rock: Once you experience a game or concert there once, any trepidation of going into Newark ceases to exist. Most importantly, the arena itself is such an incredible spectacle and comfortable stay that you’ll want to go back again and again.

Just remember to avoid that Secaucus transfer on the train ride in and out.