NEW YORK (AP) -Madison Square Garden, which last hosted an NCAA tournament game in 1961, is hoping its $500 million renovation will help it land the East Regional championship as early as 2012.
The current Garden, which opened in 1968 and is home to the NBA's Knicks and NHL's Rangers, announced its plans for the building upgrade in April and now has its sights set on bringing back college basketball's national championship tournament in 2012 or 2013.
``When we announced the renovation, it was with the thought we would be able to draw a lot of these type big events we've never had,'' Joel Fisher, the executive vice president of Madison Square Garden for Sports and Arena Renovation, said Monday. ``And it's important for us to complete the 2011-12 season, the first after the renovation, with an event of that stature.''
The current Garden is the fourth such New York arena with that name.
The NCAA tournament selection committee, which chooses where the tournament will be played as well as which teams will be in it, has yet to begin the process of selecting sites for the 2012 tournament but there is interest in Madison Square Garden hosting part of the tournament for a 17th time.
``The renovation makes it much more conducive to the kind of space we would take a look at,'' Greg Shaheen, the NCAA's vice president for men's basketball, said Monday. ``We are not in an active bid cycle right now with everything awarded through 2011, but it is always part of an ongoing discussion. Clearly Madison Square Garden is interested, and I think the basketball committee is interested as well.''
Shaheen said the committee is looking at Final Four bids for 2012 through 2016 and will begin looking at early round and regional sites early next year with the final decisions announced about a year from now.
Madison Square Garden has hosted the Final Four seven times (1943-48 and 1950) and has been the only host every March of the National Invitation Tournament that started in 1938, one year before the NCAA tournament began. In 1961, the Garden hosted three first-round NCAA tournament games.
Madison Square Garden has an extensive college basketball schedule every season as a home court for St. John's as well as the site of the NIT Season Tip-Off, the 2K Sports College Hoops Classic supporting Coaches vs. Cancer, the Jimmy V Classic, the Big East tournament and the NIT.
``Right now, as a neutral site, we feel we have the best college basketball anywhere in the country when you look at our events,'' Fisher said, ``and we feel we can add to that schedule without affecting the NIT at all.''
The renovation, to begin in 2009 and expected to be completed in 2011, will be done in the summers and not affect basketball and hockey seasons.

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