SBD/October 25, 2013/Facilities

Madison Square Garden Unveils Final Phase Of Its $1B Makeover, Including Two Bridges

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MSG officials held a ribbon cutting on Thursday to mark the occasion
Two new floating bridges at MSG are "a spectacular feat of imagination and engineering -- and will revolutionize the way spectators view sports," according to Jennifer Gould Keil of the N.Y. POST. BBB Architects Principal Murray Beynon said, "These are the most unique seats in a sports arena. There is nothing like it anywhere in the world." The Chase Bridges, which "hang from the ceiling, are a symbolic reminder of the world famous suspension bridges that connect the island of Manhattan to the rest of the world." They flow "seamlessly into the bowl, providing an incredible vantage point." MSG President & CEO Hank Ratner said, "We’ve built a brand-new arena inside the icon and we kept the flavor and feel of all the memories that have occurred here." Ratner added that MSG will "now have improved sightlines for everyone, and that the bridges will include public concourses so that everyone at the Garden will feel like they are in a club-like environment." The new Chase Square Seventh Avenue entrance has "nearly doubled in size, adding a new retail store, a broadcast location for MSG Network and a dedicated area for the Garden of Dreams Foundation." About 900 people "can walk safely on the bridges, which will be an open concourse". They are meant for people "to stroll around, like a promenade." Only "a limited number of bridge seats are left for purchase." In total, there are "355 seats on one bridge and about 75 on the other available to the public, with the rest reserved for media." But less than 50 seats "are available for each team per Knicks and Rangers game" (N.Y. POST, 10/25).

FIRST LOOKS: In N.Y., Justin Tasch writes the new bridges "passed all the eye tests." The 10th-floor bridges "don’t hang over the playing surface and are suspended much closer to the north and south ends of the arena." Most notable for "ticket holders with seats behind the new bridges is that their view of the action is not obstructed whatsoever." Views of the new central scoreboard and videoboard "are obstructed, but three large video screens attached to the outer side of each bridge will have all the same graphics and video" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 10/25). On Long Island, Neil Best notes the public will "get its first look at the completed Garden when the Knicks host the Bobcats in a preseason game Friday night, followed by the Rangers' home opener against the Canadiens on Monday." Numerous athletes and entertainers attended the grand opening of the renovated MSG, including Hockey HOFer Mark Messier and Basketball HOFers Walt Frazier and Willis Reed. Frazier called the makeover "magnificent." He added, "This is going to resonate throughout the league for free agents" (NEWSDAY, 10/25).

NOT ALL IMPRESSED: The N.Y. Daily News' Frank Isola tweeted, "Yes the place looks nice. But honestly it also resembles the Fed Ex Forum in Memphis. ... The concourses needed to be updated but inside should have stayed the same. The old design made it unique. Now, it is the Fed Ex Forum East. ... I'll admit it they lost me once they removed the 'Willis Reed Tunnel.' Because, you know, that is the most iconic moment in Knick history" (TWITTER.com, 10/25). SNY's Adam Schein asked, "Did the Garden really need renovation?" SNY's Chris Carlin said, "I don't really know that it did. They've got a skywalk there. I don't really know what the point of that is? To look down on the game? I don’t get it" ("Loud Mouths," SNY, 10/24).

CAN'T WAIT: In N.Y., Paolina Rella writes the "much-anticipated new amenities offer a wow factor that starts from the moment you arrive." But it is "not just the spectacular new space that will be attracting visitors -- the new restaurant and food concessions will have people cheering." Ratner said, "Along with enhanced menu options and upgrades for all of our food offerings, we’re proud that some of the best chefs and restaurateurs in the world will offer exclusive items in the completely transformed Garden as part of our signature collection, which will only be available to fans attending our events" (N.Y. POST, 10/25). Also in N.Y., Zach Braziller writes, "Make no mistake about it ... the Knicks are thrilled to be back home and see the new and improved MSG, get a first look at their plush locker room, the huge scoreboard that will hang from the ceiling, and the other new additions." Knicks G Iman Shumpert said, "I know it’s going to be dope." Unlike the Rangers -- their "co-tenants who were forced to play their first 10 regular-season games on the road -- the Knicks will see a lot of their new building out of the gate, with four of their first six games" at the Garden (N.Y. POST, 10/25).

ENJOY IT WHILE IT LASTS: In N.Y., Richard Sandomir notes while there is "much to admire" about MSG, the "reality is that even before the last seat was put in place, the Garden had received an eviction notice." The City Council in July voted "to let the Garden operate where it is for 10 more years, in hopes that plans will be developed to build a new Pennsylvania Station that doesn’t feel like a dungeon." Ratner on Thursday said, "Today is not about the special permit; it's about the transformation. We can talk about that another time." Ratner also "did not want to discuss the tax exemption or whether the Garden needed it, what with all the new revenue it will make." Sandomir: "If you’re [MSG Exec Chair James] Dolan, you fight as hard to keep the Garden from being torn down as you did a decade ago to stop plans for a West Side stadium for the 2012 Summer Olympics and the Jets" (N.Y. TIMES, 10/25).
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