Madison Square Garden, often called "MSG" or simply "The Garden", is a multi-purpose indoor arena in the New York City borough of Manhattan. Located in Midtown Manhattan between 7th and 8th Avenues from 31st to 33rd Streets, it is situated atop Pennsylvania Station. It is the fourth venue to bear the name "Madison Square Garden"; the first two (1879 and 1890) were located on Madison Square, on East 26th Street and Madison Avenue, with the third Madison Square Garden (1925) further uptown at Eighth Avenue and 50th Street.
The Garden is used for professional basketball and ice hockey, as well as boxing, concerts, ice shows, circuses, professional wrestling and other forms of sports and entertainment. It is close to other midtown Manhattan landmarks, including the Empire State Building, Koreatown, and Macy's at Herald Square. It is home to the New York Rangers of the National Hockey League (NHL), the New York Knicks of the National Basketball Association (NBA), and was home to the New York Liberty (WNBA) from 1997 to 2017.
The Garden opened on February 11, 1968, and is the oldest major sporting facility in the New York metropolitan area. It is the oldest arena in the National Hockey League and the second-oldest arena in the National Basketball Association. In 2016, MSG was the second-busiest music arena in the world in terms of ticket sales, behind The O2 Arena in London. Including two major renovations, its total construction cost is approximately $1.1 billion, and it has been ranked as one of the 10 most expensive stadium venues ever built. It is part of the Pennsylvania Plaza office and retail complex, named for the railroad station. Several other operating entities related to the Garden share its name.
Two venues called Madison Square Garden were located just northeast of the square, the first from 1879 to 1890, and the second from 1890 to 1925. The first Garden, leased to P. T. Barnum, had no roof and was inconvenient to use during inclement weather, so it was demolished after 11 years. Madison Square Garden II was designed by noted architect Stanford White. The new building was built by a syndicate which included J. P. Morgan, Andrew Carnegie, P. T. Barnum, Darius Mills, James Stillman and W. W. Astor. White gave them a Beaux-Arts structure with a Moorish feel, including a minaret-like tower modeled after Giralda, the bell tower of the Cathedral of Seville – soaring 32 stories – the city's second tallest building at the time – dominating Madison Square Park. It was 200 feet (61 m) by 485 feet (148 m), and the main hall, which was the largest in the world, measured 200 feet (61 m) by 350 feet (110 m), with permanent seating for 8,000 people and floor space for thousands more. It had a 1,200-seat theatre, a concert hall with a capacity of 1,500, the largest restaurant in the city and a roof garden cabaret. The building cost $3 million. Madison Square Garden II was unsuccessful like the first Garden, and the New York Life Insurance Company, which held the mortgage on it, decided to tear it down in 1925 to make way for a new headquarters building, which would become the landmark Cass Gilbert-designed New York Life Building.
A third Madison Square Garden opened in a new location, on 8th Avenue between 49th and 50th Streets, from 1925 to 1968. Groundbreaking on the third Madison Square Garden took place on January 9, 1925. Designed by the noted theater architect Thomas W. Lamb, it was built at the cost of $4.75 million in 249 days by boxing promoter Tex Rickard; the arena was dubbed "The House That Tex Built." The arena was 200 feet (61 m) by 375 feet (114 m), with seating on three levels, and a maximum capacity of 18,496 spectators for boxing.
In 1959, Graham-Paige purchased a controlling interest in the Madison Square Garden. In November 1960, Graham-Paige president Irving Mitchell Felt purchased from the Pennsylvania Railroad the rights to build at Penn Station. To build the new facility, the above-ground portions of the original Pennsylvania Station were torn down.
The new structure was one of the first of its kind to be built above the platforms of an active railroad station. It was an engineering feat constructed by Robert E. McKee of El Paso, Texas. Public outcry over the demolition of the Pennsylvania Station structure—an outstanding example of Beaux-Arts architecture—led to the creation of the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission. The venue opened on February 11, 1968.
In 1972, Felt proposed moving the Knicks and Rangers to a then incomplete venue in the New Jersey Meadowlands, the Meadowlands Sports Complex. The Garden was also the home arena for the NY Raiders/NY Golden Blades of the World Hockey Association. The Meadowlands would eventually host its own NBA and NHL teams, the New Jersey Nets and the New Jersey Devils, respectively. The New York Giants and Jets of the National Football League (NFL) also relocated there. Felt's efforts fueled controversy between the Garden and New York City over real estate taxes. The disagreement again flared in 1980 when the Garden again challenged its tax bill. The arena, since the 1980s, has since enjoyed tax-free status, under the condition that all Knicks and Rangers home games must be hosted at MSG, lest it lose this exemption.
Garden owners spent $200 million in 1991 to renovate facilities and add 89 suites in place of hundreds of upper-tier seats. The project was designed by Ellerbe Becket. In 2004–2005, Cablevision battled with the City of New York over the proposed West Side Stadium, which was cancelled. Cablevision then announced plans to raze the Garden, replace it with high-rise commercial buildings, and build a new Garden one block away at the site of the James Farley Post Office. Meanwhile, a new project to renovate and modernize the Garden completed phase one in time for the Rangers and Knicks' 2011–12 seasons, though the vice president of the Garden says he remains committed to the installation of an extension of Penn Station at the Farley Post Office site. While the Knicks and Rangers were not displaced, the New York Liberty played at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey during the renovation.
Madison Square Garden is the last of the NBA and NHL arenas to not be named after a corporate sponsor.
In 1984, the four streets immediately surrounding the Garden were designated as Joe Louis Plaza, in honor of boxer Joe Louis, who made eight successful title defenses in the previous Madison Square Garden.
Madison Square Garden's $1 billion second renovation took place mainly over three offseasons. It was set to begin after the 2009–10 hockey/basketball seasons, but was delayed until after the 2010–11 seasons. Renovation was done in phases with the majority of the work done in the summer months to minimize disruptions to the NHL and NBA seasons. While the Rangers and Knicks were not displaced, the Liberty played their home games through the 2013 season at Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey, during the renovation.
New features include a larger entrance with interactive kiosks, retail, climate-controlled space, and broadcast studio; larger concourses; new lighting and LED video systems with HDTV; new seating; two new pedestrian walkways suspended from the ceiling to allow fans to look directly down onto the games being played below; more dining options; and improved dressing rooms, locker rooms, green rooms, upgraded roof, and production offices. The lower bowl concourse, called the Madison Concourse, remains on the 6th floor. The upper bowl concourse was relocated to the 8th floor and it is known as the Garden Concourse. The 7th floor houses the new Madison Suites and the Madison Club. The upper bowl was built on top of these suites. The rebuilt concourses are wider than their predecessors, and include large windows that offer views of the city streets around the Garden.
Construction of the lower bowl (Phase 1) was completed for the 2011–2012 NHL season and the 2011–12 NBA lockout shortened season. An extended off-season for the Garden permitted some advanced work to begin on the new upper bowl, which was completed in time for the 2012–2013 NBA season and the 2012–13 NHL lockout-shortened NHL season. This advance work included the West Balcony on the 10th floor, taking the place of sky-boxes, and new end-ice 300 level seating. The construction of the upper bowl along with the Madison Suites and the Madison Club (Phase 2) were completed for the 2012–2013 NHL and NBA seasons. The construction of the new lobby known as Chase Square, along with the Chase Bridges and the new scoreboard (Phase 3) were completed for the 2013–2014 NHL and NBA seasons.
Madison Square Garden is seen as an obstacle in the renovation and future expansion of Penn Station, which is already expanding through the James Farley Post Office, and some have proposed moving MSG to other sites in western Manhattan. On February 15, 2013, Manhattan Community Board 5 voted 36–0 against granting a renewal to MSG's operating permit in perpetuity and proposed a 10-year limit instead in order to build a new Penn Station where the arena is currently standing. Manhattan borough president Scott Stringer said, "Moving the arena is an important first step to improving Penn Station." The Madison Square Garden Company responded by saying that "[i]t is incongruous to think that M.S.G. would be considering moving."
In May 2013, four architecture firms – SHoP Architects, SOM, H3 Hardy Collaboration Architecture, and Diller Scofidio + Renfro – submitted proposals for a new Penn Station. SHoP Architects recommended moving Madison Square Garden to the Morgan Postal Facility a few blocks southwest, as well as removing 2 Penn Plaza and redeveloping other towers, and an extension of the High Line to Penn Station. Meanwhile, SOM proposed moving Madison Square Garden to the area just south of the James Farley Post Office, and redeveloping the area above Penn Station as a mixed-use development with commercial, residential, and recreational space. H3 Hardy Collaboration Architecture wanted to move the arena to a new pier west of Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, four blocks west of the current station/arena. Then, according to H3's plan, four skyscrapers at each of the four corners of the new Penn Station superblock, with a roof garden on top of the station; the Farley Post Office would become an education center. Finally, Diller Scofidio + Renfro proposed a mixed-use development on the site, with spas, theaters, a cascading park, a pool, and restaurants; Madison Square Garden would be moved two blocks west, next to the post office. DS+F also proposed high-tech features in the station, such as train arrival and departure boards on the floor, and apps that would inform waiting passengers of ways to occupy their time until they board their trains. Madison Square Garden rejected the notion that it would be relocated, and called the plans "pie-in-the-sky".
In June 2013, the New York City Council Committee on Land Use voted unanimously to give the Garden a ten-year permit, at the end of which period the owners will either have to relocate, or go back through the permission process. On July 24, the City Council voted to give the Garden a 10-year operating permit by a vote of 47 to 1. "This is the first step in finding a new home for Madison Square Garden and building a new Penn Station that is as great as New York and suitable for the 21st century", said City Council speaker Christine Quinn. "This is an opportunity to reimagine and redevelop Penn Station as a world-class transportation destination."
In October 2014, the Morgan facility was selected as the most ideal area for Madison Square Garden to be moved, following the 2014 MAS Summit in New York City. More plans for the station were discussed. Then, in January 2016, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced a redevelopment plan for Penn Station that would involve the removal of The Theater at Madison Square Garden, but would otherwise leave the arena intact.
Madison Square Garden hosts approximately 320 events a year. It is the home to the New York Rangers of the National Hockey League, the New York Knicks of the National Basketball Association, and the New York Liberty of the Women's National Basketball Association. The New York Rangers, New York Knicks, New York Liberty, and the Madison Square Garden arena itself are all owned by the Madison Square Garden Company. The arena is also host to the Big East Men's Basketball Conference Tournament and the finals of the National Invitation Tournament. It also hosts selected home games for the St. John's men's Red Storm (college basketball), the annual pre- and postseason NIT tournaments, the Millrose Games track and field meet, and almost any other kind of indoor activity that draws large audiences, such as the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show and the 2004 Republican National Convention. The Garden is the former home of the NBA Draft and the former New York City home of the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus and Disney on Ice; all three events are now held at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. It served the New York Cosmos for half of their home games during the 1983–84 NASL Indoor season.
Many of boxing's biggest fights were held at Madison Square Garden, including the Roberto Durán–Ken Buchanan affair, and the first Muhammad Ali – Joe Frazier bout. Before promoters such as Don King and Bob Arum moved boxing to Las Vegas, Nevada Madison Square Garden was considered the mecca of boxing. The original 18½' × 18½' (5.6 m × 5.6 m) ring, which was brought from the second and third generation of the Garden, was officially retired on September 19, 2007, and donated to the International Boxing Hall of Fame after 82 years of service. A 20' × 20' (6 m × 6 m) ring replaced it beginning on October 6 of that same year.
Madison Square Garden hosts more high-profile concert events than any other venue in New York City. It has been the venue for George Harrison's The Concert for Bangladesh, The Concert for New York City following the September 11 attacks, John Lennon's final concert appearance (during an Elton John concert on Thanksgiving Night, 1974) before his murder in 1980, and Elvis Presley, who gave four sold out performances in 1972, his first and last ever in New York City. Parliament-Funkadelic headlined numerous sold out shows in 1977 and 1978. Led Zeppelin's 3 night stand in July 1973 was recorded and released as both a film and album titled The Song Remains The Same. The Police played their final show of their reunion tour at the Garden in 2008.
At one point, Elton John held the all-time record for greatest number of appearances at the Garden with 64 shows. In a 2009 press release, John was quoted as saying "Madison Square Garden is my favorite venue in the whole world. I chose to have my 60th birthday concert there, because of all the incredible memories I've had playing the venue." Billy Joel, who broke the record, stated "Madison Square Garden is the center of the universe as far as I'm concerned. It has the best acoustics, the best audiences, the best reputation, and the best history of great artists who have played there. It is the iconic, holy temple of rock and roll for most touring acts and, being a New Yorker, it holds a special significance to me."
Madonna performed at this venue a total of 31 concerts, the first two being during her 1985 Virgin Tour, on June 10 and 11, and the most recent being the two-nights stay during her Rebel Heart Tour on September 16 and 17, 2015.
U2 performed at the arena 25 times: the first one was on April 1, 1985 during their Unforgettable Fire Tour, in front of a crowd of 19,000 people. The second and the third were on September 28 and 29, 1987 during their Joshua Tree Tour, in front of 39,510 people. The fourth was on March 20, 1992 during their Zoo TV Tour, in front of a crowd of 18,179 people. The fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth and ninth was on June 17 and 19 and October 24, 25 and 27, 2001 during their Elevation Tour, in front of 91,787 people. The 10th, the 11th, the 12th, the 13th, the 14th, the 15th, the 16th and the 17th were on May 21, October 7, 8, 10, 11 and 14 and November 21 and 22, 2005 during their Vertigo Tour, in front of a total sold out crowd of 149,004 people. The band performed their following eight performances at the arena on July 18, 19, 22, 23, 26, 27, 30 and 31, 2015 as part of their Innocence + Experience Tour.
In the summer of 2017, Phish performed 13 consecutive concerts at the venue, which the Garden commemorated by adding a Phish themed banner to the rafters. The "Bakers' Dozen" brought the total number of Phish shows at MSG to 52.
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It has previously hosted the 1976 Democratic National Convention, 1980 Democratic National Convention, 1992 Democratic National Convention, and the 2004 Republican National Convention, and hosted the NFL Draft for many years (now held at Garden-leased Radio City Music Hall). From 1982 to 1990, the Church of God in Christ in New York under the leadership of Bishop F.D. Washington used Madison Square Garden for its Annual Holy Convocation.
The New York Police Academy, Baruch College/CUNY and Yeshiva University also hold their annual graduation ceremonies at Madison Square Garden. It hosted the Grammy Awards in 1972, 1997, 2003 and 2018 (which are normally held in Los Angeles) as well as the Latin Grammy Awards of 2006.
The group and Best in Show competitions of the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show are held every February for two days at MSG.
MSG has hosted the following All-Star Games:
UFC held its first event in New York State, UFC205, at Madison Square Garden on November 12, 2016. This was the first event the organization held after New York State lifted the ban on Mixed Martial Arts.
Seating in Madison Square Garden was initially arranged in six ascending levels, each with its own color. The first level, which was available only for basketball games, boxing and concerts, and not for hockey games and ice shows, was known as the "Rotunda" ("ringside" for boxing and "courtside" for basketball), had beige seats, and bore section numbers of 29 and lower (the lowest number varying with the different venues, in some cases with the very lowest sections denoted by letters rather than numbers). Next above this was the "Orchestra" (red) seating, sections 31 through 97, followed by the 100-level "First Promenade" (orange) and 200-level "Second Promenade"(yellow), the 300-level (green) "First Balcony", and the 400-level (blue) "Second Balcony." The rainbow-colored seats were replaced with fuchsia and teal seats during the 1990s renovation (in part because the blue seats had acquired an unsavory reputation, especially during games in which the New York Rangers hosted their cross-town rivals, the New York Islanders) which installed the 10th floor sky-boxes around the entire arena and the 9th floor sky-boxes on the 7th avenue end of the arena, taking out 400-level seating on the 7th Avenue end in the process.
Because all of the seats, except the 400 level, were in one monolithic grandstand, horizontal distance from the arena floor was significant from the ends of the arena. Also, the rows rose much more gradually than other North American arenas, which caused impaired sight lines, especially when sitting behind tall spectators or one of the concourses. This arrangement, however, created an advantage over newer arenas in that seats had a significantly lower vertical distance from the arena floor.
As part of the 2011–2013 renovation, the club sections, 100-level and 200-level have been combined to make a new 100-level lower bowl. The 300-level and 400-level were combined and raised 17 feet closer, forming a new 200-level upper bowl. All skyboxes but those on the 7th Avenue end were removed and replaced with balcony seating (8th Avenue) and Chase Bridge Seating (31st Street and 33rd Street). The sky-boxes on the 9th floor were remodeled and are now called the Signature Suites. The sky-boxes on the 7th Avenue end of the 10th Floor are now known as the Lounges. One small section of the 400-level remains near the west end of the arena, and features blue seats. The media booths have been relocated to the 31st Street Chase Bridge.
The Theater at Madison Square Garden seats between 2,000 and 5,600 for concerts and can also be used for meetings, stage shows, and graduation ceremonies. It was the home of the NFL Draft until 2005, when it moved to the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center after MSG management opposed a new stadium for the New York Jets. It also hosted the NBA Draft from 2001 to 2010. The theater also occasionally hosts boxing matches on nights when the main arena is unavailable. The fall 1999 Jeopardy! Teen Tournament as well as a Celebrity Jeopardy! competition were held at the theater. Wheel of Fortune did tapings at the theater twice in 1999 and 2013. In 2004, it was the venue of the Survivor: All-Stars finale. No seat is more than 177 feet (54 m) from the 30' × 64' stage. The theatre has a relatively low 20-foot (6.1 m) ceiling at stage level and all of its seating except for boxes on the two side walls is on one level slanted back from the stage. There is an 8,000-square-foot (740 m2) lobby at the theater.
Madison Square Garden sits directly atop a major transportation hub in Pennsylvania Station, featuring access to commuter rail service from the Long Island Rail Road and New Jersey Transit, as well as Amtrak. The Garden is also accessible via the New York City Subway. The A, C, and E trains stop at 8th Avenue and the 1, 2, and 3 trains at 7th Avenue in Penn Station. The Garden can also be reached from nearby Herald Square with the B, D, F, M, N, Q, R, and W trains at the 34th Street – Herald Square station as well as PATH train service from the 33rd Street station.
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