They call Madison Square Garden “The World’s Most Famous Arena” and that description is an apt one. Whereas New York’s other professional sporting venues are scattered throughout the five boroughs, Madison Square Garden is located right in the nexus of the universe, on top of one of the country’s busiest train stations and less than eight blocks from Times Square.
The Garden is a busy place with more events each year than any other arena in the country, yet the longest-standing tenant is the New York Rangers hockey club. The current Garden is actually the fourth such building to bear the name (and the second not to actually be located at Madison Square, the small park at the intersection of Broadway, Fifth Avenue and 23rd St.) The Rangers have called the third Garden, and now the current Garden home since 1926.
Built in 1968, Madison Square Garden is now the oldest arena in the NHL, nipping nearby Nassau Coliseum by four years. Yet the Garden has the look and feel of a newer building. The Cablevision company, which owns the arena, the Rangers, and the Knicks, has invested a fortune into the building, with the last round of major renovations set to proceed over the summer of 2013. Over the past two off-seasons, the seats and concourses have been modernized and the amenities at the Garden are indistinguishable from a newer building.
The FANFARE scale is our metric device for rating each stadium experience. It covers the following:
Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
The food at Madison Square Garden has been overhauled as part and parcel of the renovations. New food stands from local celebrity chefs Jean-Georges Vongerichten, Andrew Carmellini and Drew Nieporent dot the concourses. It's worth noting that the gourmet food is not restaurant-exclusive - you can go down during an intermission and pay a concession worker for a Jean-Georges chicken sandwich and still be back in your seat for the next period to begin. Prices... well, it's New York. But they're not as expensive as you might expect.
MSG also does have a couple of restaurants on site, and the standard arena fare as well as the fancy stuff is carried at ample concession stands.
The Garden is a smaller building with a low, concave roof that amplifies sound, and the Rangers have a long, proud history of leather-lunged fans. When the team is doing well, they compete with any team in the league for atmosphere. The video board and sound system are excellent and include a live organist and electric guitarist playing throughout the game. Color-matching banners hang in a circle around the ceiling for the Rangers and Knicks. The newly-renovated concourses now feature extensive memorabilia from throughout the arena's history, including a mural that runs the entire length of the main concourse that has "this day in Garden history" for every day of the year.
The Garden is a short walk from Times Square and is located in the heart of midtown Manhattan. The surrounding area is packed at all hours of the day. There are literally hundreds of restaurants and bars in the neighborhood, and "the city that never sleeps" proves it in the area near the rink. It's impossible to give the Garden anything but top marks for the surrounding area - this is the liveliest arena neighborhood in the NHL, and quite likely in all of North American sports.
The Ranger diehards are some of hockey's oldest, most knowledgeable and loudest fans. Even in the expensive seats, most people are there at the start of a period to watch the game and stay until the end before getting up. The Rangers' own "Hey Hey Hey" goal song is chanted at full volume by the entire building whenever they score. The team sells out every game and nearly everyone is bedecked in red, white and blue.
The Ranger faithful have long memories as well. In 1979, Islander Denis Potvin broke Ranger Ulf Nilsson's ankle on a hard check, and to this day, the "Potvin Sucks" chant is still heard at every single home game.
If you're travelling by public transit, Madison Square Garden is among the easiest arenas to reach anywhere. The 34th-Penn Station subway stop serves residents of the five boroughs, while Penn Station itself handles traffic from the Long Island Rail Road and New Jersey Transit. If you're anywhere in the entire New York Metro Area you should be able to get to MSG with a minimum of hassle.
If you want to drive, it's another story. Traffic in midtown Manhattan is ridiculous and parking can easily approach the cost of another game ticket. It's hard to see what the Rangers could conceivably do differently, since it's the price of doing business in New York, but this is certainly the least car-friendly arena in the NHL.
"Investment" is probably the right word for it. Going to a Rangers game once is an incredible experience. Going regularly is something that most middle-class people simply can't afford to do. The Garden sells out every game, so the pricing is obviously suited to the market, but a Rangers game is an expensive proposition regardless of your income level.
Tickets from the Garden box office usually sell out the day they go on sale. Beyond that, they can be found on ticket reseller websites, but they're usually going to be significantly marked up.
Is it worth it? Absolutely, and it particularly is if you've never been to a game there. Just don't expect it to be cheap.
Cablevision gets credit for renovating an iconic arena, instead of relegating it to the dustbin of history. With Nassau Coliseum's days numbered and noise being made in Edmonton and Detroit about new arenas, the Pond in Anaheim may soon be one of the three oldest in the NHL. We should preserve at least some of our hockey heritage. The Garden's future looks secure for another 45 years, and the low ceiling and small size guarantee great views from all sections and great atmosphere. The ongoing renovation project has given new life to a historic old building and it's now in better shape, with better food and better amenities than buildings a fraction of its age. The old memorabilia was also put back on display this past year, and MSG once again feels like a rink with a history.
Unfortunately, 2012-13 may be the last season that watching games from the cheap seats is worth it. Planned "pedestrian bridges" for the wealthy, due to be built over the summer of 2013, will impede views of the far side of the building from the entire upper deck. It remains to be seen how this affects atmosphere, but judging by the architectural drawings, long-time upper tier season ticket holders are not happy about it.
The Rangers are an original six team, the Garden is an iconic arena and the atmosphere is nearly unparalleled in the NHL. Just as New York City is somewhere that everyone should visit at least once in their lifetime, the Garden should be at least a once-in-a-lifetime pilgrimage for every hockey fan.
Originally built in 1968, Madison Square Garden is steeped in history and tradition. The venue has
hosted shows, concerts, famous boxing matches, NBA Finals, and Stanley Cup Playoffs while serving as the home of the New York Rangers and New York Knicks.
Located on top of Penn Station, "The Garden" sits right in the heart of Manhattan. The stadium holds 18,200 people for hockey games - most of which are diehard Ranger fans.
The Rangers have been around since 1926 and were one of the "Original Six" NHL teams. However, being a Ranger fan has been quite a challenge. The team stresses "Ranger Pride," but the franchise has only won two Stanley Cups in the last 70 years.
The "Blueshirts" are approaching 2,500 victories as a franchise, and the theme of the "New York Legacy" is still alive.
In summer 2011, The Garden underwent a series of renovations that will take three offseasons and cost nearly $850 million. It's one of the older arenas in the league, so these renovations are much needed. The first step was brand new first-level seating which was completed before opening night.
The next stages of construction will further add to the appeal of the legendary Madison Square Garden.
Madison Square Garden is a legendary arena. It has been host to the New York Rangers, Knicks, Democratic National Convention, Republican National Convention, legendary concerts and boxing events and so much more. There have been several versions of the Garden around the island of Manhattan. The current edition was opened February 11th, 1968 and was built on top of Pennsylvania ("Penn") Station.
Transportation to the Garden is relatively easy depending on where you come from. MSG is located between 31st and 33rd streets and 7th and 8th avenues. If you choose to drive to the Garden from Long Island or Queens, the Queens Midtown tunnel will let you out on 34th street where there is plenty of parking nearby. The Lincoln Tunnel coming from New Jersey empties onto 34th street. Parking for a Rangers game usually costs about $40 for the night.
As you make your way through the concourse there is a steady bustle of enthusiastic, stereotypical New Yorkers. These Rangers fans, most of whom are diehards, make their way inside. If you have "Club" seats, there are entries from 31st and 33rd streets. This separate entry allows you an express route into the building and access to the Play by Play sports bar and restaurant, as well as The Club, a higher end restaurant. Here, you can dine before heading upstairs to your seats.
If you're fortunate enough to have skybox seats, there is a private elevator outside the Play by Play restaurant. An attendant waits to double check your ticket before heading upstairs. Once you head up the private elevator, there is a balcony area and attendant to escort you to your box. The boxes are stocked with a full bar (beers, vodkas, rums, cordials, etc.), as well as your own buffet-style finger food selection consisting of hot dogs, waffle fries, chicken fingers, cookies, and M&M's. Each suite has its own bathroom and two TV's. Views from the skybox are excellent. There is no worry of fans standing up in front of you, and no play along the boards missed. If you have the ability to experience a skybox, it's an excellent experience.
It doesn't get much better than basketball at Madison Square Garden, but hockey will do as well. The location is amazing, and the fans are insanely passionate about their team.
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