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Madison Square Garden: We Cannot 'Be Forced To Move'

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In the Post, Madison Square Garden exec Joel Fisher officially responds to all the haters (a.k.a. community board members, neighbors, and politicians) who want to limit the arena's permit to operate to 15 years. MSG, of course, want to be able to continue on forever.

Fisher points out that the Garden meets all the requirements and standards for an indefinite permit (which the city freely grants similar institutions) and that it isn't fair how outside groups have seized upon the arena's permit renewal window to kick the Garden out in the next decade to make way for a revamped Penn Station. And, even if the permit length was curtailed, there's no way the city could make arena move without a fight. "MSG owns the land and the building, where it has been operating for 45 years as a sports and entertainment complex," Fisher writes. "Not only can we not be forced to move, but we'd still have the right, even if there was no arena, to build an office tower, with no obligation to free up space for Penn Station." The other argument against a move is that MSG just sunk $1 billion into major renovations, and requiring the arena to relocate (which would be costly?on that point everyone agrees) wouldn't allow it to earn back its investment.

If you consider the Garden to be just a venue for Knicks and Rangers games, plus concerts, according to an analysis by Crain's, then it'll take 40 years to recoup the money spent on the revamp. But if you look the MSG to be more than a physical entity, one that includes its profit-generating television networks, then it would recover its costs by 2018. If the City Council ultimately votes to approve the 15-year permit, then the arena has 10 more years after breaking even on the overhaul before resorting to some kind of plan B. Whether that's to move gracefully or to build an office building on its land out of spite remains to be seen, but it will no doubt take some very compelling incentives to entice MSG to release its stronghold on some valuable real estate.
· Special-interest Snakes v. The Garden [NYP]
· Uprooting Madison Square Garden [Crain's]
· Madison Square Garden coverage [Curbed]