community cardIf recent initiatives rolled out by Prudential Center and its home team, the New Jersey Devils, are any indication, there’s one question in particular that is top-of-mind for the arena’s leadership.

How do they help create deeper relationships between New Jersey sports and entertainment fans and the arena that go beyond those fans’ interest in the individual events that make up Prudential Center’s event schedule?

The answer: make the arena feel more like a community asset (for example, they hosted the launch of Newark’s Open Doors arts festival just this past weekend). And rally the entire state behind the arena, home to New Jersey’s only professional sports team, via initiatives like the recently launched “One Jersey” campaign.

“Newark’s Cornerstones” will recognize eight people who give back to the city

The most recent of those community engagement efforts is being launched by Prudential Center and the New Jersey Devils, the City of Newark, and Prudential Financial, which over its 140-year history has been an anchor corporate and philanthropic institution in the city.

The initiative, named Newark’s Cornerstones, will recognize eight peer-nominated individuals who are serving the city.

“Although the entire state is important to us, we want to obviously bring attention to the [fact] that Newark is our neighborhood,” said Hugh Weber, president of the Prudential Center and New Jersey Devils, during the team’s home game versus Minnesota Wild on Saturday, when they officially kicked off the campaign.

The Newark's Cornerstones nomination page at PruCenter.com/newarkscornerstones.

The Newark’s Cornerstones nomination page at PruCenter.com/newarkscornerstones.

Newark’s Cornerstones will achieve this by recognizing people who exhibit community-minded commitment to Newark. Starting today, New Jersey residents can nominate individuals who they think make a difference for Newark through their job or volunteer work. From November through February, two finalists per month will be chosen from among the nominees, and will receive recognition during New Jersey Devils home games.

In March, fans will be able to vote for one of those finalists to be awarded the grand prize: a pair of tickets to Prudential Center events, including Devils games, for one year starting July 1, 2017. The winner will be announced at a Devils home game in April, near the end of the regular pro hockey season. The eight finalists will also be honored at Kiyo Sakaguchi Hall in Prudential’s new office tower on Broad Street.

All eight finalists will be honored in Newark's Cornerstone partner Prudential Financial's new office tower in Newark, in Kiyo Sakaguchi Hall. (Photo: news.prudential.com

All eight finalists will be honored in Newark’s Cornerstone partner Prudential Financial’s new office tower in Newark, in Kiyo Sakaguchi Hall. (Photo: news.prudential.com)

“We really want to honor and celebrate those that have made a positive impact in celebration of this great anniversary for the city,” said Sarah Keh, Director of Corporate Giving at Prudential Financial, referring to Newark Celebration 350, the yearlong celebration commemorating the city’s founding for which Prudential is a signature partner, supporting dozens of initiatives like the recently launched Newark Walks mobile app and walking trail.

“We [also] really want to honor those that don’t necessarily get the recognition,” she added.

Connecting the Rock with its home city

More broadly, the recognition program is also meant to bring Prudential Center’s home city more into the fold at the arena. Weber said he spoke with key people in the neighborhood when he assumed his current role three years ago. “The metaphor I would use is that [Prudential Center] was kind of a castle on a hill,” said Weber. For some, the arena is attractive and highly visible, but also feels impenetrable. “It became a mission of ours to make sure that this was no longer a castle on the hill, but a town square,” said Weber.

The program creates engagement in two directions: by reaching out to people who care about Newark and bonding them with the arena, and then by having their stories reverberate throughout the arena itself twice a month through the fall and winter. In this way, Newark’s Cornerstones compliments the arena’s One Jersey campaign, which seeks to make Prudential Center a sports and entertainment beacon for the entire state.

Those who want to nominate someone for Newark’s Cornerstones must submit a 250-word essay online at PruCenter.com/newarkscornerstones describing how the person has contributed to causes or initiatives that enrich the lives of Newarkers through community service, innovation or thought leadership.

The selection committee for the eight finalists includes Newark Municipal Councilman Luis Quintana, Star-Ledger columnist Barry Carter and representatives from both Prudential Financial and Prudential Center.

Featured image by Andaiye Taylor

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Andaiye Taylor
Andaiye is a Newark native, Newark resident, and the show runner at BrickCityLive.com. Andaiye holds a master's degree from Columbia Journalism School and was a fellow in the Tow-Knight Center for Entrepreneurial Journalism at CUNY. She was the 2012 recipient of the Erik Lars-Nelson prize for excellence in reporting and writing. In addition to running Brick City, Andaiye is also head of content for Clover. Email her at andaiye@brickcitylive.com, and follow her on Twitter @andaiye.

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