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GOP convention to have the Garden floor

7/22/2004 - New York Liberty

NEW YORK -- Move over Rockettes. The New York Liberty are taking over Radio City Music Hall.

Over the years, the renowned venue has hosted awards shows,
political rallies, presidential birthday celebrations, movie and
television screenings, concerts and the famous Christmas show.

Add basketball to the list.

To allow for preparations for next month's Republican National
Convention at Madison Square Garden, the WNBA's Liberty have moved
to Radio City for their next six home games.

The team left the Garden after last Sunday's game against
Charlotte, moving their belongings, including some office
equipment, out of the arena. They will not be allowed to return
until after the convention setup has been dismantled in
mid-September.

The Liberty's court was moved, in approximately 225 pieces, and
laid out on the stage Monday. The teams' benches and the scorers'
tables are situated at the back of the stage, against the wall.
There are about six rows of seats on each end of the court, and the
media will be seated in the orchestra pit against the front of the
stage.

"I think it's pretty cool," Liberty interim coach Pat Coyle
said. "It fits great. It's the same measurements we have in the
Garden. There's probably more room on the baselines and the
sideline [at the front of the stage]. We probably have more room
here than we have in the Garden."

When the Republicans announced last year they would hold the
convention at the Garden, Liberty senior vice president and general
manager Carol Blazejowski knew the team would have to look for an
alternate site for some games.

"We made a list of all the venues that could be possible," she
said. "We looked at Nassau Coliseum, the Meadowlands ... the
colleges in the area. We looked at everything.

"Most of our [fans] are from Manhattan and the New York area,
and we're making it as easy for them as possible. They just have to
travel 20 blocks farther. We thought this makes sense."

After accepting the reduced capacity at Radio City -- 5,945,
compared with 19,763 at the Garden, the biggest challenge for
Blazejowski was assigning seats for the team's season
ticket-holders.

"We don't have the same venue seating arrangements," she said.
"We had to make a determination in our minds what we view is a
comparable seat."

The Liberty's games, beginning with Saturday's against the
defending champion Detroit Shock, will be the first team sports
played at Radio City. The only previous sporting event there was on
Jan. 15, 2000, when Roy Jones Jr. beat David Telesco in a 12-round
light-heavyweight title fight.

Coyle isn't worried about the distractions for her team.

"Once the ball goes up, you're so focused on the game all the
other stuff around you is secondary," she said.

The coach and players expect shooting to improve, since three
sides of the stage will provide a dark background.

"I think the orange rims glow against the black background, so
maybe you can focus a lot better," Liberty guard Becky Hammon
said.

The only problem could be when facing the crowd.

"That's going to be an adjustment because you're looking into a
sea of people and lights," Hammon said.

The Rockettes aren't being locked out at their home. They will
perform during halftime Saturday.

The Liberty will play only six games at Radio City, since the
league will take an Olympic break from Aug. 1 to Sept. 1. The team
will return to the Garden for its season finale on Sept. 19.