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Could we see a fifth Madison Square Garden?

Madison Square Garden, 1908Developer Steven Roth is pitching MSG officials on a new arena directly next to the existing Madison Square Garden, but it sounds like the planned renovation of the historic venue will happen anyway.

Roth, who controls much of the real estate in the general vicinity of Madison Square Garden, wants to build a new arena on the adjacent land he owns. His pitch: instead of spending $850 million on a renovation, why not just build a new arena? While he may have a point, he may be too late: almost $70 million has already been spent on the renovation of Madison Square Garden, and officials there are already deep into the renovations. The theater is now close, with the MSG Channel folks moved across the street to 11 Penn Plaza.

Still, Roth’s plan is intriguing. He proposes placing the arena in the walls of the adjoining James Farley Post Office, with the old arena torn down to make way for new retail. Penn Station, which currently sits beneath Madison Square Garden, would be reconfigured, but not expanded.

There have been four Madison Square Gardens in New York City, with the first built in 1890, designed by famous architect Stanford White of McKim, Mead and White. Two subsequent Madison Square Gardens were built on the same site — on Madison Square, natch — before the present MSG opened in 1967. To put the history into perspective: the first Madison Square Garden was built before James Naismith invented the game of basketball.

Horse-show image courtesy of Library of Congress, circa 1908.

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