NFL refuses to hold draft at Garden

Updated: February 11, 2005, 8:55 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

NEW YORK -- One week after their 11th hour bid on the property targeted for a new football stadium, Madison Square Garden officials on Friday answered questions about their $600 million proposal and asked for an expedited review of their bid.

In a letter sent to the property's owner, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the MSG group addressed 46 queries posed by MTA Chairman Peter Kalikow about price, payment and other questions related to the bid.

The Garden group, firing the latest salvo in its bitter fight with Mayor Michael Bloomberg and stadium proponents, stressed that it was eager to move ahead with its offer and asked the MTA to speed up its review process.

"MSG and its affiliates propose to pay $600 million out of cash on hand and available borrowing capacity ... to move forward with the transaction without delay," said a letter from MSG Vice Chairman Hank Ratner.

The Garden, owner of the New York Knicks, is battling with Bloomberg and the New York Jets for control of the site above the Hudson Yards, where the proposed stadium would house the NFL team and possibly the 2012 Olympics.

The NFL, citing MSG's attempts to block the stadium, even pulled its annual draft from Madison Square Garden

"Is the dispute over the Jets stadium an issue or a factor? Our comment is, 'Yes, it's a factor,' " Greg Aiello, an NFL spokesman told the New York Times on Thursday. "The contract we have with the Garden is up. We have not finalized any contract for the 2005 draft, so we are continuing to explore different venues. We expect to have it resolved in the next couple of weeks."

Supporters of the stadium deal were quick to rip the Garden's continuing efforts, headed by the Dolan family, owners of Cablevision and the arena. MSG has proposed a "dynamic mixed-use community centered on residential development" as opposed to the NFL stadium.

"If putting together lousy business deals and losing teams was an Olympic sport, Cablevision would surely take the gold," said Edward J. Malloy, president of the Building and Construction Trades Council. "Nobody experienced with big projects in our industry takes this amateurish proposal seriously."

Jets spokesman Matthew Higgins dismissed the Garden's offer, saying "we think it's time to move on with the [stadium] project." The mayor's office didn't immediately respond to the bid.

MTA spokesman Tom Kelly confirmed that the MSG letter arrived at their offices.

"We received a 12-page document from Madison Square Garden shortly after 4 p.m. today, and we are reviewing it," MTA spokesman Tom Kelly said.

The value of the property has become an enormous sticking point in negotiations between the MTA and the Jets, which hope to become the stadium's prime tenant at the start of the 2009 season.

The MTA's appraisal set the site value at $923 million for 6.8 million square feet of development rights. Since the proposed stadium would occupy only 2 million square feet, the appraisers subtracted about $600 million, for an end value of $330 million, the MTA says.

The Jets appraiser came up with a price tag for the property of $36.9 million -- the presumed worth of the site minus the $316 million cost of building a platform over the rail yards. Politicians immediately questioned why the Jets would receive credit for building the platform, considering that the city and state agreed to pay $600 million for it and a retractable roof for the stadium.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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