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Madison Square Garden

New York, NY

Home of the New York Liberty

3.4

2.2

Madison Square Garden (map it)
4 Pennsylvania Plaza
New York, NY 10001


New York Liberty website

Madison Square Garden website

Year Opened: 1968

Capacity: 19,563

There are no tickets available at this time.

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Give Me Liberty

Beginning in 2011, Madison Square Garden began a 3-year, billion dollar makeover that took place during the summers, when the Knicks and Rangers were enjoying their vacations. However, the Garden does have a regular summer tenant: the WNBA’s New York Liberty, who were forced to play in the Prudential Center in Newark for three seasons while the Garden underwent its transformation. With the renovations complete, the Liberty have returned to New York City.

3.4

What is FANFARE?

The FANFARE scale is our metric device for rating each stadium experience. It covers the following:

  • Food & Beverage
  • Atmosphere
  • Neighborhood
  • Fans
  • Access
  • Return on Investment
  • Extras

Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".

Food & Beverage    4

All of the same concessions that are available at NBA and NHL games are still here, although several duplicate stands are closed, as there are fewer fans in attendance. You should head over to Section 106 where top New York chefs are featured, such as Jean-Georges Vongerichten, whose Simply Chicken stands offer a chicken sandwich with mayo and frizzled onion strings for $14.25, an organic chicken hot dog for $6.95, and chicken sesame noodles for $10.95. Drew Nierpoint's Daily Burger comes in at $9.25, and for an extra dollar you can get a Daily Cheese Burger with bacon and onion jam or a BBQ burger, while fries are $4.95. Sausage Boss by Andrew Carmellini offers specialty links for $10.25, with a bag of Terra chips (Yukon Gold or Mediterranean varieties) just $2.

Other NY favorites include the Carnegie Deli (Pastrami, Corned Beef, or Turkey sandwich for $14.95, while a Potato Knish is $5.25). An 8-inch personal pizza at Casa Nonna is $10 and might provide the best value. The Garden Market is the most common stand, with $6.25 hot dogs ($6.75 for the foot-long variety), a $5.25 soft pretzel and $5 ice cream along with other snacks and candy.

Beer is plentiful, but again not cheap with 24 oz. domestics at $10 and premium or imported, such as Bronx Pale Ale, at $10.50. Fountain soda is supplied by Coca-Cola and comes in two sizes - a 24 oz. medium for $5.25 and 32 oz. for $5.50 ($6.75 if you want a souvenir cup). Bottled water is $5.25, truly ludicrous.

The WNBA is not a major league by any stretch of the imagination, and the prices here should be lowered to reflect that, rather than employing the same gouging tactics you see at Rangers and Knicks games, where demand merits these prices. Simply offering $2 off any item over $10 and a dollar off any item under $10 (from the regular price you see at other events) would encourage more fans to partake in the belief they are getting a bargain.

Atmosphere    2

Music is played in the concourse as fans gather before the game. With a smaller and less agitated crowd than you would experience at the other events, you can hear the music clearly and it can be a bit annoying.

Before the game, the lights go out and a cool video plays before the Liberty are announced with a small torch shooting flames. Maddie the mascot, (named after the arena) starts the game by jumping on each letter in the logo at center court as the crowd follows along, shouting out L, I, B, E, R, T, Y!

During the game, music or drumbeats try to get fans to chant "D-Fense," but with 5,000 in such a huge venue, the effect is muted at best. During breaks, the Torch Patrol runs around tossing t-shirts or using the Mega-T Machine to get more Liberty merchandise to the crowd, while two dance teams entertain during quarter breaks: the Timeless Torches comprise dancers 40 and over, while the Lil Torches are a junior dance team.

Liberty attendance figures vary considerably and that will affect the overall atmosphere. With the team spending the past three seasons on the other side of the Hudson, it may take a while to get fans to return to MSG. The 2010 average attendance was 11,069 while the game we attended saw about half that inside the venue. With the Garden just a quarter full, a lot of the energy that you might otherwise expect is missing and hence atmosphere suffers.

Neighborhood    5

The Garden is located above Penn Station in central Manhattan, bounded by 7th and 8th Avenues and 31st and 33rd Streets. The Empire State Building is just two blocks away, while Times Square is a few minutes north. Walk over to 9th Avenue and the Hells Kitchen Neighborhood, with its plethora of smaller bars and eateries. Hibernia Bar and Grill at the corner of 9th and 50th Street is a friendly neighborhood tavern, if you want something really unique, have a look at Rudy's on 9th at 44th, where pitchers start at $8 and you get a free hot dog with every drink. Note that the regulars don't have the hot dogs. For those fans of chain restaurants, a new Buffalo Wild Wings has just opened on 47th Street between 7th and 8th Avenues.

Fans    3

There were some serious fans who really appreciate this team, which has been around since 1997, the year the league was founded. But it is tough to remain focused on the game and most fans are passive from start to finish. Women's basketball doesn't have the hype that the men's game does, although the level of play is surprisingly high and more team-oriented than what you get in the NBA. Fans ooh and ahh at some of the nicer moves, but without dunks and alley oops, it is tough to get them on their feet.

Access    4

Getting to MSG is easy and public transit is the way to go for any visitor. The 1, 2, 3, A, C, and E subway lines all stop at Penn Station along with the Long Island Railroad, while the B, D, F, M, N, Q, and R lines are just a block away at 34th St/Herald Square. With only the lower bowl open for most games, you take the escalators up to the 100 level, known as the Madison Concourse. Concourses are bright and wide and not crowded at all.

The upper bowl is the 200 level and known as the Garden Concourse and even though tickets are not sold for this area for some games, you can still take the escalators up and have a look. It is quite interesting to have the entire concourse to yourself, although if you decide to sit you might get asked to leave. There are some times when a larger crowd will necessitate the opening of the upper bowl, but even then getting around will not be a problem. You can take a stairway back down to the Madison Concourse once you've had your fun here.

I took the escalator all the way to the top in the hopes of getting into the Chase Bridges on the 300 level. These recent additions span the north and south sides of the arena and provide unique views of the action down below as they are directly above the first row of the 200 level seats. Unfortunately, the doors to this area were locked, so I had to run back down the escalator as it was going up, a task not as easy as it sounds. I don't know why they had that escalator running but if there are no people on the 200 level, don't bother heading to the 300 level.

Return on Investment    3

The cheapest tickets are $20, which is all you really should be paying to get in. This is not a big draw in New York, despite marketing attempts to tell you otherwise. You will get a live sporting event for your money, with all the bells and whistles that MSG provides, but again, the smaller crowd will not allow you to experience MSG to its fullest.

Extras    3

Two excellent tributes to the Garden appear throughout the building. The first is Madison Square Garden's "20 Defining Moments," with each moment commemorated with a special exhibit that features photos and memorabilia from the event. See if you can find all 20 (not that they are hidden, they are scattered about the Madison and Garden Concourses). Meanwhile, "Garden 366" is a visual retrospective wrapping the circumference of the Madison Concourse, featuring one moment in Garden history for every day of the year.

GardenVision is the new, state-of-the-art scoreboard which has mini-scoreboards underneath so that fans sitting low don't have to crane their necks looking up, a nice touch.

There is free Wi-Fi throughout the building and it is by far the fastest I have experienced at any sporting venue.

Final Thoughts

The transformed Madison Square Garden is a beautiful arena and the Liberty experience benefits from being located in the center of the greatest city on the planet. There are advantages with sharing the facility with the Rangers and Knicks in terms of food and historical displays, but you'd be better off waiting for the winter to see the Garden in all its glory, with a full-throated fan base in attendance. Only if you are a summer visitor who is desperate to get inside the venue should you consider seeing a Liberty game; even then the MSG Tour might be a better option.

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Hibernia Bar and Grill  (map it!)

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New York, NY 10019

(212) 969-9703

http://hiberniabar.com/

Rudy's Bar & Grill  (map it!)

627 9th Ave

New York, NY 10036

(646) 707-0890

http://www.rudysbarnyc.com/

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