Fans confused, disappointed at Garden

NEW YORK -- Reinaart Vandenbrock came in from Belgium on Friday for a five-day stay in Manhattan.

He thought one of the highlights of his trip would be attending Tuesday night's Knicks-Magic game at Madison Square Garden, where he could see Dwight Howard, one of his favorite players in the NBA, live and in the flesh.

So Vandenbrock was confused and disappointed Tuesday afternoon when he saw a message splashed across the Garden marquee informing fans that the Knicks-Magic game had been postponed.

"We'd been planning this trip for three months. I can't believe this happened today," Vandenbrock said.

Vandenbrock was one of hundreds of basketball fans who showed up for the Knicks-Magic game on Tuesday only to be turned away by MSG employees who informed fans that the game had been postponed due to a potential asbestos problem in the building.

Employees met fans -- many of whom were tourists -- at the entrance and politely informed them their tickets would be refunded at the point of original purchase. They also handed out a piece of paper with a written explanation stating that debris fell in the arena during overnight maintenance, "which included asbestos-related materials in the attic above the ceiling." The game hasn't been rescheduled and it is unclear when the World's Most Famous Arena will re-open.

"I think they did the right thing but I'm also surprised that in 2010 a stadium like this has an asbestos problem," said Dan Ridout, who was in town from London and had a ticket for himself and his girlfriend.

"It's better that it happened when no one was around rather than when we were in there," added Anton Olsson from Sweden. "But it's a bummer that we missed the game."

A Garden employee also stood on the walkway outside the arena, yelling into a bullhorn to inform fans of the postponement and instructing them to log on to the team's website for scheduling information.

But that explanation didn't do much to soothe Johannes Kowalski, who spent an extra night at a midtown hotel solely to see Tuesday's game.

"I'm upset and surprised that something like this would happen here," Kowalski said. "It's not like this is a third-world country."

Many fans were unsure of where to turn to recoup the money they spent on tickets.

Garden employees told fans who purchased tickets from Ticketmaster that they would be fully refunded. They told those who'd purchased their tickets from the box office that they could get a full refund at the Garden on Wednesday morning. Fans who bought the tickets from a third-party vendor were told to contact that vendor for a refund.

At one point around 7 p.m., a Garden staffer tried to clear away the crowd in the entrance way by asking all fans who had their questions answered to leave the area. She then asked if anyone had any more inquiries.

"Yeah, can you pay for my plane ticket?" one angry fan fumed.

But not all fans were upset with the postponement.

Reggie Kelly, a Knicks fan from the Bronx, took the news in stride. He chose to put a positive spin on one of the most bizarre days in franchise history.

"I was looking forward to seeing Dwight Howard vs. Amare [Stoudemire]," Kelly said. "But I'm not that mad because now the Knicks will have a few more days to prepare. And we know they need it."

Ian Begley is a regular contributor to ESPNNewYork.com.

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