With a storied history, Madison Square Garden in New York City is one of the world’s best known entertainment venues. Located in the midtown section of Manhattan, it stands directly above Pennsylvania Station, which itself is also one of the most famous locations in America. Madison Square Garden is used for a wide range of entertainment purposes, including sporting events such as professional baseball, ice hockey and boxing. The Garden has also been used for concerts, circuses and special events such as three presidential nominating conventions of the Democratic Party and the 2004 Republican Party Convention. Part of its commercial appeal is its prime location close to many of New York’s major attractions, such as the Empire State Building and Macy’s.
History of the Structure
The current Madison Square Garden is actually the fourth structure to bear that name. The three buildings preceding the current Garden were located elsewhere in greater New York than where the current one is now. The original two structures, built in 1879 and 1890, were located in Madison Square, a section of the city near Fifth Avenue and Broadway that was named after President James Madison. When the third version opened in 1925 on Eighth Avenue, the Madison Square Garden name followed it there, despite technically no longer standing in the Madison Square area. The current building opened in 1968 at a cost of over $1 billion dollars, making it one of the most costly entertainment venues ever constructed.
The construction was controversial at the time, because the building of it required tearing down the beautiful and historic train station that originally stood at that location. In fact, public outrage over its demolition resulted in the formation of the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission to prevent future construction projects in the city from being so neglectful of local history. A major renovation of the 1968 structure was carried out in 1991 at a cost of $200 million, and yet another major renovation was completed twenty years later in 2011.
Madison Square Garden has long been the site of some of the biggest sporting events in history. That is especially true of boxing, where Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier had their famous bout. Legendary musical events have also been held there, such as The Concert for Bangladesh featuring George Harrison and Bob Dylan, plus John Lennon’s last public performance and several sold out performances by Elvis Presley. Ricky Nelson’s hit song “Garden Party” was written about Madison Square Garden. Performers Elton John and Billy Joel have made the Garden their unofficial concert headquarters, and the Grateful Dead performed there 52 times. Michael Jackson did a famous television special from the Garden, for which he was paid the equivalent of $150,000 per minute. Other TV specials that have been filmed at the Garden include the Grammy Awards and the Country Music Awards.
Despite its enduring fame as a sports and music center, the Garden is expected to move into a whole new building in an entirely new location within the next ten or fifteen years. Only time will tell whether this fifth version of Madison Square Garden will attain the same legendary status as its predecessors.
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