By virtue of a 47-1 (!) New York City Council vote yesterday, Madison Square Garden has been granted an extension of it’s operating permit for the next 10 years. Mayor Bloomberg had recommended a 15-year extension and the Garden itself was hoping for literally an infinite extension, but the Council decided upon 10. The Garden has to renew this permit every so often to retain the right to continue existing on top of Penn Station. In 1963, the old Penn Station was demolished to make way for the transit/sports sandwich that now sits on the site, consisting of Penn Station and the Garden, and was given a 50-year operating permit.
The reason this extension is so significant and possibly the beginning of the end for the Garden, is that the City Council seems to have every intention of kicking the Garden out of Penn Station after the 10 years is up. That time frame is the Council’s guess as to how long it will take the city to come up with funding and, you know, a plan as to how to rebuild Penn Station.
But don’t start typing those Kansas City jokes to make fun of the Rangers just yet; the Garden can reapply for its permit in 10 years and could receive another extension. There’s no guarantee that the political and economic climate that created the almost unanimous vote yesterday will exist in a decade. Not only that but money is power and MSG’s owner, James Dolan, sure has a lot of it.
Dolan has spent close to a billion dollars to renovate — err, transform — the Garden, a project that will be completed this summer. Maybe that was to hedge against this sort of blowback from the city. But when it comes to building or not building arenas in Manhattan, Dolan has a lot of experience. If you recall, he was also a catalyst for keeping the Jets and their West Side Stadium plans out of Manhattan, so there’s the possibility he could win when it comes to a battle over the Garden’s current site.
One theory that has been floated is that the Garden is also hedging its bets by trying to take over the Nassau Coliseum. The thought is that if, perchance, this Penn Station thing takes a turn for the worst that the Knicks and Rangers could head east.
That’s not likely to happen.
Chances are the Garden would find a new location in the City, as it has done multiple times in its 135 year history, possibly with the help of the City Council. The Council may want the Garden away from Penn Station, but that doesn’t mean they want it out of the city entirely.
The Barclays Center was built with the help of eminent domain, which is the ability of the state to take private property for public use. That the quick and potentially sketchy way to find a new spot. Or, another possible location could be on the West Side, where Dolan stopped the Jets from re-locating to. But all of this jumps the gun in assuming the Garden will be kicked out of 34th and 8th for good, which is far from certain.
Only time will tell, so let’s all check back in a decade.
Speaking of Arenas in New York City
…the Barclays Center is doing quite well for itself. The arena was #1 in US-based arena ticket sales in its first year and comes in at #3 worldwide. That’s another reason the Garden won’t head east; Barclays has proven that there are endless monetary possibilities in a city of 8-million if you play your cards right.
The only two arenas to beat the Barclays in ticket sales last year were the O2 in London and Manchester Arena, also located in England.