Madison Square Garden, Radio City Music Hall Lead Charge As New York City Venues Reopen

Timothy A. Clary / AFP via Getty Images
– Full Capacity Music Hall
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (center), flanked by MSG Entertainment’s James Dolan (left) and Tribeca Enterprises’ Jane Rosenthal (right), announces new progress in New York City’s reopening.

In the latest indication that New York City, once the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic, is returning to normalcy, the NBA’s New York Knicks announced it had sold out its first two playoff games against the Atlanta Hawks, each set to accommodate 15,000 fans at Manhattan’s Madison Square Garden.

The games will be the largest indoor gatherings in New York state since the start of the pandemic, according to a press release, and the team expects approximately 90% of fans in attendance to be fully vaccinated.

The games are set for May 23 and May 26, and will require one of the following for entry: a) proof of full vaccination, 14 days or more removed from a single dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine or the second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines; b) proof of a negative antigen COVID-19 test taken within six hours of the event start time; or c) proof of a negative PCR COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours of event day.

In accordance with state guidelines, fans in fully vaccinated sections will not be required to socially distance or wear masks when seated.

New York City’s current 7-day daily average of new COVID-19 cases is 660, the city’s lowest mark since Oct. 28, according to the New York Times. Current city data indicates that 4.05 million New Yorkers have received at least one vaccine dose, and that 3.36 million New Yorkers are now fully vaccinated.

“I hope everyone in sports and entertainment is listening because the public has spoken – they are fine with getting vaccinated and want to get back to the experiences they love,” said James Dolan, MSG Sports executive chairman and MSG Entertainment executive chairman and CEO, said in a statement. “This overwhelming response by Knicks fans – almost 90% of whom are vaccinated – should silence any doubters. It’s time to start booking events and filling up our schedules, so stay tuned. We want to thank Governor Cuomo for this leap forward; he knew we could do this – not just for us, but for New York.”

The games are an encouraging step forward for the Manhattan arena, which has already announced several concert bookings for the fall. From September to the end of the year, Madison Square Garden headliners will include Chris Stapleton, Genesis, Billy Joel, Maluma and Andrea Bocelli, among others.

The Garden isn’t the only MSG Entertainment property making news with its post-pandemic reopening. On June 19, the Tribeca Festival – the first in-person North American film festival since the pandemic began – will hold its closing night event at Manhattan’s Radio City Music Hall with a full capacity, completely vaccinated audience.

“This beautiful hall will be filled once again with what I am sure is going to be a phenomenal, phenomenal evening and attraction,” said Governor Andrew Cuomo earlier this week. “Having Radio City back at a hundred percent without masks, with people enjoying New York and the New York arts, is going to be not only symbolic and metaphoric, but I think it’s going to go a long way towards bringing back this state overall.”

Meanwhile, Big Apple venues of all sizes have announced fall bookings, and the city’s Governors Ball festival, typically held in June, will take place in late September, headlined by Billie Eilish, Post Malone and A$AP Rocky.

New York state fully reopened on May 19.