Since opening in 1968, Madison Square Garden has been home to legendary athletic and artistic performances—everyone from Muhammad Ali to Willis Reed, Bing Crosby to the Rolling Stones, Bob Hope to Dane Cook. The arena has begun an ambitious three-year, top-to-bottom, self-funded overhaul, with upgrades ranging from the mundane (50% more space dedicated to bathrooms) to the spectacular (two observation bridges, suspended seven stories above the court/ice, that span the entire length of the Garden). As part of the planning phase, sports fans and rock stars alike were asked what they wanted to see in the new Garden, and there will be upgrades for everyone, whether improved sight lines in the upper bowl, new luxurious suites that are close to the action or just more comfortable chairs (all 18,000-plus are being replaced and increasing in size). Because Madison Square Garden is the busiest venue in the country, the renovations are being done in stages (fear not, Knicks and Rangers fans: construction has been scheduled around the playing seasons). Here's a look at how the "World's Most Famous Arena" will be stepping up its game.
Seventh Avenue Entrance
Madison Square Garden's new entrance, slated to be completed in 2013, will welcome visitors with open—and more dramatic—arms. The space will be nearly twice as large as the existing entrance, feature retail locations and interactive kiosks, and, best of all, will be fully enclosed and climate controlled (no more shivering in the cold until you reach the box office). A full-ceiling projection will be tailored for each event—whether a Knicks game or an Andrea Bocelli concert—while a broadcast area will give visitors a view of live sportscasts.
By next year, the lower-level concourse inside the Garden will widen considerably. The hallways will double in size (offices that are currently located along the corridor are being relocated), and the additional space will be devoted to the top requests from fans and visitors: more bathrooms and more concessions. The expanded concourse will extend all the way to the Garden's windows to let in natural light and offer expansive City views.
The expansion on the upper-level concourse will debut in 2012 and be even more drastic, with this area tripling in size. As with the lower-level concourse, fans here will be able to check out views of Manhattan from the Garden's windows. Additional bathrooms and concessions will be available on this concourse as well.
Perhaps the most anticipated addition to the Garden will be the two bridges, each more than 225 feet long, that will be suspended seven stories above the court/ice beginning in 2013. Stretching the entire length of the Garden, they'll offer views like no other—and be the only ones of their kind. All eventgoers will have access to the bridges; fans will even be able to purchase tickets to sit up there.
On the 10th floor, at the top of the Garden behind each basket or goal, the new Fan Decks will be a welcome upgrade in 2013 for those who don't have access to the suites that are currently located there. Each of the two Fan Decks will offer food and drink to patrons as well as a unique area in which to socialize. What's more, the Garden's entire upper bowl is being rebuilt with a steeper pitch (17.5 degrees, to be exact). This will improve sight lines, bringing fans an additional 5 feet closer to the court/ice.
Unlike most big-ticket suites, which tend to be farther up, 20 event-level suites will be as close to the action as you can get. Debuting in 2011, most of these suites will walk directly out to some of the best seats in the house (the suites themselves are technically below the Garden's seats). They're as big as some New York City studio apartments—and equally well furnished. All have flat-screen TVs, couches, a wet bar, a dining table, a fireplace and a bathroom.
The bulk of the Garden's 58 lower-level suites will encircle the arena at the 23rd row. When they're completed in 2012, they'll be 40% larger and half the distance from the court/ice as the existing suites, with similar layouts to the event-level suites below.
Delta SKY360º Club and Super Club
Opening in 2011, the event-level Delta SKY360º Club will essentially be the Garden's VIP zone. It will put fans inches from players as they enter and exit the locker room through a glass-enclosed walkway. In addition, the Delta SKY360º Club will house a television studio and have a dedicated chef and specialty dining options. The Super Club, on the other hand, combines 10 standard suites for a supersize lower-level event space. It is scheduled to open in 2012.
The upgraded Garden will have its share of improvements for athletes and performers, too. Beginning in 2011, players will get state-of-the-art training and medical facilities, along with new locker rooms and a lounge area. Performers will enjoy a completely renovated greenroom and dressing rooms.