Thursday, November 17, 2011

WSU legend Bernard Lagat to headline US Open Indoor meet at Madison Square Garden...

Interesting to receive a release from USA Track & Field Thursday announcing that the sport in its indoor form will return to New York City's Madison Square Garden (left/photo by Paul Merca) on Saturday January 28th for the US Open Track & Field meet to kick off the indoor Visa Championship Series, after the Millrose Games announced back in May that it would move out of the Garden to uptown Washington Heights.

Garden legend and Washington State University hall of famer Bernard Lagat will headline in the men’s mile in a USA Track & Field meet that promises to showcase the best of the sport’s tradition in a streamlined in-stadium and broadcast presentation. 

The U.S. Open will be the first track meet to be held in The Garden following the completion of the first phase of the building’s historic, top-to-bottom, three-year Transformation, and will be the first major professional meet in the United States as the 2012 Olympic Year gets under way.

"Madison Square Garden feels like home to me, and I am so happy to be coming back in 2012," said Lagat, a 2-time Olympic medalist and the American record holder who has won eight 1-mile races in the Garden. "I can't think of a better place to kick off the Olympic year. I look forward to seeing the New York track fans who have supported me for so many years, many new fans in the new Garden."

"The U.S. Open will provide the fast-paced, exciting meet expected at every MSG event," USATF Interim CEO Mike McNees said. "This will be a tightly scheduled meet featuring the 'best of the best' from past Garden meets while providing a fitting kick-off to the 2012 Olympic year. We are excited about our partnership with The Garden and are especially glad that everyone from kids to families to VIPs will be able to access the meet."

"Track and field has a long standing history at Madison Square Garden spanning nearly 100 years and has played an important role in the building's status as The World's Most Famous Arena," said Scott O'Neil, president, MSG Sports.

"We are excited to continue our partnership with USA Track & Field and launch the U.S. Open at Madison Square Garden. This new event will kick-off the 2012 Olympic year and provide fans with a look at some of the top athletes in the sport, including legendary runner and Garden crowd favorite Bernard Lagat, as they begin their race toward London."

You can read the full release here.

The question that must be asked is why would the Millrose Games, the premier indoor meet in the country, move out of Madison Square Garden, and why would USATF want to pour money into an indoor meet at MSG, especially with declining attendance at the Garden, and the high rent to use the Garden (then again, a discount may have been given, especially with the chances of a 2011-12 NBA basketball season looking very slim, and arenas around the country scrambling to fill dates).

USA Track & Field spokeswoman Jill Geer told the New York Post, “USA Track & Field has operated the Millrose Games for the Armory Foundation. Within the past year, they clearly stated their intent move to the Armory. We feel strongly the Garden is the site for world-class, elite track and field in New York,’’ Geer said. “As committed as they were to move the event, we were equally committed to having a meet in the Garden.’’

The Armory, which owns the Millrose Games, is moving the meet to the New Balance Track & Field Center, formerly known as the 168th Street Armory.

Ironically, the Millrose Games announced recently that sprinter Allyson Felix, whose image currently hangs above the Footaction USA store located next door to the Garden, was signed to run the 60 meter dash.

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