The vibrant, multicolored plastic what-is-it opposite is a see-through model of the newest incarnation of that phoenix of sport—Madison Square Garden. The luminescent colors, keyed to the numbered areas, only suggest the wonders it contains. This fourth Garden is now rising not from its own ashes but from those of New York's old Pennsylvania Station.
Half of a real-estate complex (the other half is a 29-story office building) to be known as Madison Square Garden Center, Inc. or, more simply, Two and Four Pennsylvania Plaza, the Garden is scheduled to open in the fall of 1967. The building itself, designed by Charles Luck-man Associates, will be an immense drum 425 feet in diameter and 153 feet high. While in size it will not rival Houston's Astrodome (diameter 642 feet, height 208 feet), the Garden will provide an extraordinary number of facilities. The building will incorporate new solutions to problems that range from indoor smog to the fact that ladies' heels often become clenched in the teeth of escalators. A palace of a sports place, it will have more in common with Madison Square Garden No. 2 than with Gardens 1 and 3.
The first Madison Square Garden, built in 1874, began as a carbarn for the New York and Harlem Railroad. The third is the one still in use, the dingy box on New York's Eighth Avenue—the one the architects forgot to provide with ticket windows and the one that has outgrown the requirements of present-day sports to a point where horses have had to be massaged by hand because there was no room for them to warm up, and where the athletes' dressing rooms lack only leg-irons to complete their resemblance to medieval dungeons.
Madison Square Garden No. 2, on the other hand, designed by Stanford White in 1889, was a gracious airy building with colonnades, a Spanish tower, a luxurious restaurant, a ballroom, a concert hall, theater and roof garden. None of this elegance noticeably inhibited the activities of Heavyweight Champion John L. Sullivan, Strangler Lewis or any of the hosts of six-day bicycle racers who performed there or, for that matter, of Harry K. Thaw, who shot Architect White to death in the roof garden in 1906.
The new Garden will be handsome in a fashion that could scarcely be less like White's, but it will accommodate a wide variety of activities with equal grace. Fully air-conditioned, it will contain restaurants and clubs, a cinema, an art museum and library of sports, a permanent sports hall of fame and 48 bowling lanes. In this day of conventions and boat and automobile shows, there will be a prodigious lot of exhibition space.
Finally, the new Garden will have not just one but two arenas, and not a single one of the 5,227 seats in the smaller Forum or the 20,234 seats of the Main Arena will be blocked by a post. The Main Arena, represented by the amber tiers in the model (7) is a complete circle—it has been cut away here for visual purposes. The lights are not going to blaze into spectators' eyes, since the roof will support a special lighting system.
Getting into and out of the new Garden should be a breeze in the strangle of midtown New York. The principal facilities will be distributed over three main levels (split-leveled into 13 in all), accessible from four escalator towers, a tower for each quadrant of the building (12 on the model). A trucking ramp (11) to the arena floor will support the weight of any truck permitted on the U.S. highways, and thus everything from exposition materials to the circus tigers can be unloaded virtually on the spot.
A special four-lane private roadway (10) between the Garden and Two Pennsylvania Plaza will handle 2,000 cars an hour, and there will be some 6,000 off-street parking spaces within a few blocks (as opposed to none at the present Garden). Public transportation to the Center could not be better—the Garden is built literally atop two railroads and two subway lines and is within easy walking distance of two more subway lines and New York's principal bus terminal.
Offering so much, easy to get to, to get around in and to get out of, Four Pennsylvania Plaza thus promises to be a beauty. Beauty and convenience are not enough to make a famous arena, though. The new Madison Square Garden is going to have to be warmed by some historic sporting moments before anyone can rest assured that it is a worthy successor to the title.
1 Forum (5,227 seats)
2 Forum Stage
3 Cinema (501 seats)
4 Bowling (48 lanes)
5 Sport Museum and Hall of Fame
6 Lobby (26 ticket windows)
7 Main Arena (20,234 seats)
8 Arena Floor
9 Exposition Rotunda
10 Taxis and Cars
11 Truck Ramp
12 Moving Stairs