Madison Square Garden Closed Due to Asbestos Cleanup

Officials at Madison Square Garden ordered the postponement of a scheduled game between the NBA’s Orlando Magic and the hometown New York Knicks due to dust falling from the arena ceiling during an asbestos cleanup project. Work crews at the Garden were converting the arena floor for the basketball after a game featuring the NHL’s New York Rangers. During the conversion and subsequent cleanup, dust and debris from the ceiling hit the floor.

According to a statement from the Knicks, the cleanup included cleaning out areas of the ceiling that held “asbestos-related materials”. The statement also said that the team and the arena would work with city officials and independent environmental testing services to “determine the most appropriate course of action”. The team said that they would not reopen the arena until they had received assurances that no fans, players or staff would be exposed to any health hazards from the debris.

Madison Square Garden has long been considered a New York City landmark and is known to sports fans as “The World’s Most Famous Arena”. With the start of the NBA, NHL and college basketball seasons, the building is experiencing one of its yearly peaks in terms of use and attendance. The arena serves as the home to the Knicks, Rangers, and the St. John’s University Red Storm basketball games.

The current schedule calls for another NBA game between the Knicks and the Washington Wizards on Friday (5 November), a concert by former Pink Floyd guitarist Roger Waters (6 November) and a day-night double-header between the Knicks and the Philadelphia 76ers at noon, followed by an NHL contest between the Rangers and the St. Louis Blues at 7:30pm (7 November).

Constructed in the late 1960s, the newest version of the venerable arena opened in 1968. During the construction project, as was typical at the time, workers used asbestos-laced materials as insulation and fireproofing materials. The Garden is the oldest building still in use in the National Hockey League and the second-oldest still in use by the National Basketball Association. The recent asbestos scare came during efforts to remove the carcinogenic substance from the building as part of a major renovation project.

An official with the New York Department of Environmental Protection said that their office investigated the incident. Investigators found that “no asbestos (was) released” and declared that there was “no health concern” for anyone who worked in or visited the building.

MSG officials have yet to announce when or if they will reopen the arena for any upcoming events. However, one executive said that they expect the debris to be cleared away by today (3 November) and that the only event effected by the scare would be the Knicks/Magic game.

If officials later decide to keep the building closed until further notice, a spokesman said that they have contacted arena owners in New Jersey and Connecticut to house the NBA and NHL games. Ticket holders are urged to check with the team web sites to find out when or where their games will be rescheduled or relocated.

Sources: New York Post, CNN, ESPN,