When the top basketball clubs in Europe run up and down its floor at the 2008 Final Four from May 2 to 4, the Community of Madrid Sports Palace will take another step in its fascinationg resurrection. Like a phoenix literally rising from the ashes, on of the storied sporting venues in Spain has rebounced fully from the devastation of a fire that gutted the arena just seven years ago, in June of 2001. It is now among the most state-of-the-art facilities in Europe for all kinds of entertainment and sports events, yet keeps its increasingly unique situation in the very heart of the Spanish capital. There could be no more inspiring venue in the center of a capital city at which to bring the European basketball family together for the biggest event of the year.
The Final Four is the latest in a long list of world-class sports events to take place on the site. Although the modern Palace was only opened in 2005, its history dates back to 1874, when a bullring was erected that lasted for more than half a century. The first Community of Madrid Sports Palace was built in 1960 in the heart of the Spanish capital and basketball became one of its first events when Estudiantes played a do-or-die game against Montgat to avoid relegation. The Palace went on to host all kinds of major concerts and high-level sports competitions in fields including volleyball, track and field, cycling, handball and even windsurfing. But basketball has alwasy been part of the arena's lore.
Among the highlights of the old Palace was hosting the medal round at the 1986 World Basketball Championships, where it witnessed some historic games. In a classic semifinal that year, the Soviet Union rallied from a nine-point deficit in the final 70 seconds to send its semifinal against Yugoslavia to overtime and eventually earn a 91-90 win. Three-pointers by Arvydas Sabonis, Valeri Tikhonenko and Valdis Valters, the last coming at the buzzer, plus a key turnover by a 16-year-old Vlade Divac, helped the Soviets construct a miracle comeback against the Petrovic brothers and Drazen Dalipagic. In the title game, the United States, led by future Hall of Fame center David Robinson, beat the Soviets 87-85 to claim the gold medal.
The Spanish capital's basketball powerhouses, Real Madrid and Estudiantes, soon moved to the old Palace to play their games. The Palace went on to host the second leg of the 1988 Korac Cup final, in which Madrid downed Drazen Petrovic's Cibona Zagreb to win the title; the first leg of the 1999 Korac Cup final between Estudiantes and FC Barcelona; and the 1989 Saporta Cup semifinal, in which Madrid defeated Cibona behind 47 points by Petrovic against his former team. The old Palace also hosted countless Spanish League playoff games and saw Estudiantes advance to the 1992 Euroleague Final Four, downing Maccabi in a decisive Game 3.
The old Palace met its demise prematurely when in June 2001 a massive fire burned it to the ground. Soon, however, the Community of Madrid decided to build a new state-of-the-art arena on its ashes. The new Palace was completed by 2005, using part of the existing structure to become one of the most advance multi-purpose arenas on the continent. One major addition was making two of the stands fully motorized, which allows the arena to change its capacity in a brief period of time so that it can host a concert one day and still be ready for a major sports event the day after. It features a maximum of 16,000 seats, though it goes down to 15,000 for a first-class basketball event like the Final Four.
The new Palace also boasts a three-floor underground parking lot that can host up to 850 vehicles, while public transportation reaches it from all points of Madrid.
Basketball is just as important as ever to the new Palace, which has already hosted several major events including the 2006 Spanish King's Cup final eight, the medal round at EuroBasket 2007 and a 2007 NBA Europe Live doubleheader, highlighted by Real Madrid defeating the Toronto Raptors. With great visibility from every spot and at the forefront of light and sound indoor technology, 80 VIP boxes and five VIP areas, as well as all facilities required for media, the Community of Madrid Sports Palace is an ideal location for any world-class sporting event and a perfect fir for the 2008 Euroleague Basketball Final Four.