Madison Square Garden (MSG) is known as “The World's Most Famous Arena." It’s home to the New York Rangers, Knicks, Billy Joel, March Madness, and some of the biggest music acts in the world. The garden is the forefront of entertainment in New York. While the arena is a New York City staple, its operating license is expiring in July and could be bad news for MSG.
A Brief History of Madison Square Garden
MSG has a robust history in New York City, having had four locations, the first of which opened in 1879. From 1879 to 1925 the first two arenas were located near Madison Square Park, at Fifth Avenue and 23rd Street. A third MSG opened in 1925 on Eighth Avenue and 50th Street, this arena closed in 1968. Currently, MSG is located in Midtown Manhattan between Seventh and Eighth Avenues from 31st to 33rd Street above Pennsylvania Station.
When it was announced that MSG would move above Penn Station, not everyone was celebrating the new location. The public, architecture lovers and preservationists were all upset that Penn Station would lose its charm because the light-strewn main waiting room would be no more. Nonetheless, the developers won and the project began construction. In order to build MSG, Penn Station was relocated below ground and kept functioning during the five years of construction.  When all was said and done MSG and a new office building were erected on the site.
Madison Square Gardens License Issue
The anger that many New Yorkers felt about Penn Station being moved underground is at the forefront of the latest dispute between MSG, the community, and the three major transportation authorities. A New York City law requires arenas with more than 2,500 seats to get special permits to operate. Ten years ago, MSG requested a permanent permit which was denied. Instead, in 2013, the city granted MSG a ten-year license, shorter than the 50-year permit that was granted in 1963.
On Wednesday, June 7, 2023, the City Planning Commission will begin hearing testimony on MSG’s bid to operate permanently after the current city permit expires on July 24, 2023. The fate of the MSG’s location is complicated because of several issues (1) how to transform Penn Station so it meets the needs of the city (2) whether to expand the station to accommodate more trains and (3) whether to build ten new office towers around the station.
A new shocking report from the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) may put MSG’s location in jeopardy. The MTA released a report stating that Penn Station and MSG are no longer compatible together. The report stated: “The Garden’s site plan and loading arrangements may have been compatible with Penn Station and the surrounding community in the early 1960s. Today, however, MSG’s existing configuration and property boundaries impose severe constraints on the station that impede the safe and efficient movement of passengers and restrict efforts to implement improvements, particularly at the street and platform levels.” The MTA was backed by the station's other two tenants: Amtrak and NJ Transit.
This is an interesting tactic by the MTA if they are trying to sway MSG owner James Dolan into moving the arena to another part of the city. There have been talks of MSG moving to Hudson Yard which hosts the National Hockey Leagues offices. However, one thing people love about MSG’s location is the convince of Amtrack, NJ Transit, the LIRR, and New York City subways. Penn Station offers the ease of traveling to events at MSG and encourages people to take public transportation as opposed to driving. A spokesperson for MSG Entertainment stated: “We are disappointed to see this compatibility report from the MTA and the other rail agencies, considering how we have been cooperating throughout this process. This is the opinion of a few and not all stakeholders involved.”
Impact on the Rangers and Knicks
If MSG is not granted a new license, the arena would not be able to host more than 2,500 people. MSG holds about 18,500 - 19,812 people for Rangers and Knicks games. This would create a hardship for the Rangers and Knicks who have strong ties to the city. The ramifications of not being granted a new license would severely impact these two franchises financially because they would only be able to sell 2,500 tickets per game. Both teams would lose money for lack of ticket sales. Fans would also have issues getting tickets to games because so few would be sold. Trying to get tickets to see the teams play would be harder than getting tickets to The Eras Tour. Jobs would also be lost because fewer concessions would need to be open. The blow to the teams’ finances could force them to seek out other arenas and possibly leave New York permanently. It wouldn’t be the first time professional teams left a state due to not filling up seats at a game. As someone who sees MSG as a second home, I hope the city and the arena can come to a compromise to renew the license.
Jessica Shaw is a graduate of New York Law School and awaiting admission in New York State. She can be reached on Twitter @JessicaShaw22.
 Agovino, Michael J. “How the Magic Came to Madison Square Garden.” Zurich.Com, 3 Nov. 2022, www.zurich.com/en/media/magazine/2022/how-zurich-north-america-helped-bring-the-magic-to-madison-square-garden#:~:text=And%20it%20placed%20Madison%20Square,fights%20there%2C%20winning%20each%20time. Id.  Rubinstein, Dana. “Madison Square Garden Wants to Stay Put Forever. It May Not Be so Easy.” The New York Times, 31 Jan. 2023, www.nytimes.com/2023/01/31/nyregion/madison-square-garden-permit-dolan.html.  Calder, Rich. “MSG, Penn Station Are ‘not Compatible’ Due to Boundaries Restricting Improvements: MTA.” New York Post, 3 June 2023, nypost.com/2023/06/03/msg-penn-station-are-not-compatible-mta/. Id.