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Volume 20 No. 42
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MSG offers midpriced club seats

Madison Square Garden has developed a new midpriced premium-seat product expected to generate about $8 million in annual revenue at the famed arena.

The 174-seat Madison Club, featuring an all-inclusive ticket package, will open next year as part of the second phase of MSG’s sweeping three-year, $977 million renovation. The seats are located in the arena’s west end zone, 23 rows from the ice for hockey and 30 rows from the court for basketball. They will be sold in two- and four-seat packages at a cost of about $45,000 per seat, tied to three-year and five-year terms. The price includes tickets to all Knicks and Rangers games and about 30 college basketball games.

Seats in the Madison Club will be sold in two- and four-seat packages.
The space currently features regular seating, which will be pulled out, but total capacity in the arena will remain in the range of 19,700 after the entire project is completed in two years.

The cost of food and drink is included in the new club seat package, but alcohol is a separate fee, an “organizational decision” consistent with all premium-seat options at the Garden, according to Scott O’Neil, president of Madison Square Garden Sports.

For Rangers games, the Madison Club will be behind the goal where the home team shoots twice. For concerts and other events that set up at stage end, those seats will go dark, O’Neil said.

MSG officials will start selling the Madison Club seats this month, and O’Neil said they are aiming squarely at smaller businesses, law firms, accountants and hedge funds that have a need to entertain clients but without the demand to consistently fill a 12-seat suite for 275 annual events.

The club seats are affordably priced compared with MSG’s 20 bunker suites, which are priced at $1 million a year, or the 58 suites on the same level as the Madison Club that run six figures annually.

The sold-out bunkers opened last month as part of the arena renovation’s first phase. The midlevel suites, part of the second phase, are about 70 percent sold, O’Neil said.

Season-ticket renewals for 2011-12 were more than 90 percent for the Knicks and more than 85 percent for the Rangers. As such, the Madison Club provides a new option for fans to guarantee Knicks and Rangers seats for next year, O’Neil said.

“We have segmented something for each market,” he said. “It is a way to offer hospitality in a great location.”

At 5,000 square feet in size, the Madison Club will have drink rail space and small televisions in front of the seats, and a large group hospitality space in back. It’s a concept that matches what other major league arenas have been offering of late for companies that desire a suite-like experience without being forced to buy 12 to 14 seats. Most of these spaces have been retrofits to meet the shift in demand for premium seats at older NBA and NHL facilities.

United Center, Bradley Center, Verizon Center and US Airways Center have developed a similar product called theater boxes. TD Garden in Boston has The Lofts, 12 opera-style boxes with four to six seats sold in 10-game packages for the Bruins and Celtics.

In New York, the Madison Club essentially is competing for much of the same business niche as Barclays Center, the $1 billion arena opening next fall for the New Jersey Nets in Brooklyn. The working class borough has 40,000 small to midsized businesses.

Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment, the Nets’ arena division, will go to market in February with its loge seat product, the closest thing to the Madison Club. While the exact number of four-seat loges and their pricing have not been established, they will range from $200 to $300 a seat in the southeast corner of the lower bowl, said Fred Mangione, chief marketing officer of the Nets and Barclays Center. The price covers food and drink, but no alcohol.

In addition, Barclays Center has 67 lofts, 10-seat suites smaller than the traditional skybox model. The price for those units starts at $215,000 annually and goes up to $267,000. There are about 15 to 20 lofts left to sell, Mangione said.

For both arenas, officials are hitting the market with the new premium seats just as the NBA lockout wipes out the first month of the season. The Knicks had been scheduled to play five home games at MSG in November.