They don’t call it The Mecca of Basketball for nothing. In 1968, The World’s Most Famous Arena, Madison Square Garden, opened on 7th Avenue in Manhattan, taking up two full city blocks between 31st and 33rd Street and sitting directly above Penn Station, the busiest commuter transit hub in North America. Madison Square Garden plays home to the New York Rangers, New York Liberty, St. John’s Red Storm, the NIT, the Westminster Dog Show, monthly Billy Joel concerts, and countless additional events year-round. But New York is a basketball town and Madison Square Garden is, above all, home to the New York Knicks. Following the 2013 completion of its most recent renovation, the formerly tired, dated arena is now one of the crown jewels of the NBA, an absolutely stunning venue worthy of its history and the city in which it resides.
As with most things in New York, it all comes with a hefty price tag. The worst seats in the farthest reaches of the arena retail for $70 or more for even the lowliest of opponents, and anything in the arena’s lower bowl will typically run well over $100. Food and beverage prices are absolutely ludicrous as well. When the Knicks are good, or when a good opponent is in town, fans are priced out in spades. Madison Square Garden can feel like quite an exclusive club, but for any serious basketball fan it is the definition of a historic, must-see arena.
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".
MSG has all the bases covered when it comes to their concession offerings. From hot dogs ($6.25) to sushi ($12-$19), fresh salads ($10) to chicken sesame noodles ($10.95) and gourmet short rib tacos ($12), you will absolutely find something you want to eat at the Garden. It will not be cheap, but the selection is endless and vendors are located all over the arena.
The fancier concession stands, featuring menus designed by celebrity chefs such as Jean-Georges Vongerichten and Sausage King Andrew Carmellini, are generally located on the 100-level, mixed in with more standard fare. Upstairs in the 200-level and beyond, you'll mostly find the basics. Soft drinks run from $5.75-$7.25, and a 20oz bottled water costs $5.50. Though wildly expensive, alcohol is readily available on all levels of the arena, with a wide variety of imported, domestic, and craft beer (from $10.25-$11.50). Wine goes for $15 per glass, and cocktails (including alcoholic slush beverages) range from $11-$13.
From the second you enter the building, Madison Square Garden feels like a special experience. The high-roofed entryway from 7th Avenue, often featuring the Knicks drumline, leads fans to a bright, welcoming foyer. The anticipation builds as fans ascend the escalators to their seats, and the energy extends to each of the wide, spacious concourses.
Upon entering the seating bowl, fans are greeted by MSG's famous round, tiled ceiling and endless banners celebrating former Knicks and Ranger greats, team accomplishments, and Billy Joel's ever-growing record number of concerts. No matter where you're sitting, be it courtside on celebrity row or suspended over the court in the Chase Bridges (which boast the best bang for your buck in the arena), your view of the court is likely to be fantastic and the proceedings feel special and important, no matter the quality of the home or visiting team.
The Knicks City Dancers and well-produced team introduction videos kick off the game, with fans cheering their faces off for the Knicks. You cannot attend a game at Madison Square Garden and not feel that you're watching something exclusive and extraordinary. There is nothing like it east of Golden State.
It must be noted that Sunday afternoon games are notorious for sloppy play, as opposing players are known to dabble in the city's vast nightlife options upon arrival in the City that Never Sleeps. If you're looking to spot a player, try 1 Oak or Avenue in the Meatpacking District any time after 2am the night before a Knicks home game.
Madison Square Garden is located in the heart of Manhattan, almost to a fault. Even by Manhattan standards, the Penn Station/Herald Square area is overcrowded, dirty, and generally hectic. MSG sits in the Garment District, a short walk from Hell's Kitchen to the west, Midtown to the east, Times Square to the north and Chelsea to the south. While the block or two immediately surrounding the Garden is a bit dingy, it is essentially safe. A short walk in any direction other than north brings you to a calmer area of town, and there are endless bars, restaurants, and entertainment options within a short stroll.
Mustang Harry's on 30th and 7th is a well-established pregame hangout with plenty of TV's, and Stout on 33rd between 6th and 7th Avenues is another reliable standby. For those in desperate, immediate need, there is a Sbarro across 7th Avenue, but you're better off walking a bit farther to any hole in the wall pizza joint for a real New York slice.
Times Square, less than 10 blocks north of MSG, is home to New York's Theatre District, and anyone planning to see a Broadway matinee followed by a game at MSG can do so without even taking a cab or subway. The area is also home to dozens of hotels of varying quality. All New York City has to offer is just a walk or subway ride away.
The Knicks are the one unifying force in the New York sports landscape. While loyalties to the team's MLB and NFL teams can divide friends and households, the Knicks are truly New York City's team (sorry, Brooklyn Nets, but it's the truth). These fans have been through quite a lot over the past decade and a half, brought on mostly by the consequences of incompetent ownership. The Knicks franchise has been a circus throughout the James Dolan years, but the fans remain incredibly loyal and knowledgeable. There are plenty of corporate types, but even they cheer on even the lowliest of Knicks squads, and when the Garden truly comes alive it is a sight to behold.
The Knicks faithful wear their hearts on their sleeves and aren't shy about giving the home squad a hearty booing when things are going poorly. You're likely to see at least one celebrity sitting courtside, and several if there's a big opponent in town. Ben Stiller, CC Sabathia, Woody Allen, Tom Hanks, and the remaining Beastie Boys are fixtures at MSG, along with Spike Lee childishly embarrassing himself any time a foul is called on a Knick player, no matter how correct the call.
Though visiting fans may expect some light teasing, they are generally treated with respect, and the fans are mostly well-behaved. The fans also go absolutely nuts for the t-shirt tosses, which utilize a pair of massive, rotating turret-style launchers to shower the crowd with orange XL t-shirts featuring corporate logos.
Madison Square Garden sits on top of a massive train station servicing the 1, 2, 3, A, C, and E lines of the NYC Subway, the Long Island Railroad, the New Jersey Transit, Amtrak (including the Acela up and down the northeast corridor), and several bus lines. Without leaving public transportation, you can get to any of New York's three airports, and the subway lines connect MSG with all four mainland boroughs of the city, with the 1 train terminating at the Staten Island Ferry. The LIRR and NJ Transit provide access to the suburbs to the east and west of the city, and the Metro North to Connecticut and upstate arrives and departs from Grand Central Station, a 15-minute walk away.
You can get anywhere from Madison Square Garden, but driving is not recommended. MSG is located in one of the toughest areas of the entire city traffic-wise, with Times Square and the Lincoln Tunnel close by. Parking is scarce and expensive, and there is not a parking lot or garage run by MSG. The public transportation options are limitless, use them.
As for the stadium itself, the concourses are bright, well-marked, and handicap accessible via elevator. It can take quite a bit of time from entering the arena to actually reaching your seat, as it requires walking down the long concourses on the street level and taking an escalator several flights up depending on seat location. When exiting the arena, using the stairways is recommended. They are typically far less crowded than the elevators and provide a quick exit, though they occasionally smell of marijuana and/or cigarettes.
Going to a Knicks game is truly a fantastic experience no matter the quality of the competition, but it is impossible not to consider the sheer cost of it. For fans visiting from other parts of the country and world, it is absolutely worthwhile to shell out a decent amount of dough to attend a game. It is quite clear that, while still good fans, many folks in the lower bowl are there using corporate tickets, and the luxury suites are almost always in use. Assuming you are not one of those folks, it can be financially difficult to attend more than a handful of games in a given season, and seats in the lower level for less than $150 can be nearly impossible to come by barring a last-minute secondary market miracle. Even when the team is terrible, it is rare to find even the worst nosebleed seats for less than $50.
Don't even bother with the scalpers outside, they're absolute pros. The most bang for your buck can be found in the lower rows of the 200 level, slightly past each baseline. It's best to avoid the higher levels of the 200 section, as you're likely to find yourself watching the game on the video boards attached to the back of the Chase Bridges rather than the actual court.
The Chase Bridges themselves are another decent area to get a (relatively) reasonable price. They also offer relative privacy, as there are only two rows of seats in each and they are sectioned off with glass partitions. Despite the limitless food options, it is wise to show up full to the game to avoid paying the ridiculous prices charged by vendors.
If you're a basketball fan, a stadium chaser, or anything in between, you need to see Madison Square Garden. The tradition of the building, energy of the arena, and exceptional fans who support the team through thick and (usually) thin combine to create a special, unique experience. If you're lucky enough to attend a rare Knicks playoff game, the experience is heightened even further. Madison Square Garden is the Mecca of Basketball, and it doesn't let you forget it.
I always look forward to a great time when I watch the Knicks at Madison Square Garden, the "World's Most Famous Arena." Truly an iconic place, MSG has hosted some of the most exciting events in the world.
The arena always provides fans with an upbeat and pleasant experience, but it's the team that can sometimes fall short of expectations.
When you're in New York City, you're in the entertainment capital. When you want to see a basketball game live there's no place like the mecca. I'm talking about the "The World's Most Famous Arena" aka Madison Square Garden.
The Garden draws people from all over the World. In 2011, the building started under going a major renovation which will transform the whole experience of seeing basketball and other forms of entertainment for many years to come. The process is in the first phase. There will be two more phases over the next two years before the transformation is completed that will face lift the venue.
Since I've lived here all my life I've been privileged to have seen around 1,000 basketball and hockey games combined as well as concerts and other events at Madison Square Garden.
The renovations have turned MSG from a pain to a pleasure. Widened concourses, friendly staff, new seats, monitors, the west balcony, and of course the best location in the world.
Sure tickets are expensive but that's supply and demand. Getting in and out will always be a pain and Knick fans can be annoying, but ultimately MSG is worth the hassle. Celebrities in the courtside seats add an element of intrigue and the daily anniversary display that surrounds the inner concourse is unique. If you've yet to see MSG, do it now. If you've seen it before, time to revisit as the new Garden is not the same as the old Garden.
The first Madison Square Garden was opened in 1879 and so named as it was built on Madison Square at the intersection of 5th Avenue, Broadway, and 23rd Street in Manhattan. A newer venue was constructed in the same location in 1890, where it stood for 35 years before a more modern arena was built on 8th Avenue between 49th and 50th Streets. Although no longer near Madison Square, the new stadium retained the original name and became an iconic part of New York, hosting thousands of events during its 43-year history, including President Kennedy’s birthday party in 1962 when Marilyn Monroe famously crooned ”Happy Birthday.” However, MSG was badly designed for a multi-use venue, with terrible sight lines, particularly for hockey. The arena was also poorly ventilated and in those days, and smoking was allowed, so there was often a haze in the upper portions.
By 1964, it was clear a new venue was needed, and so construction began above Penn Station, which had removed its surface structure to allow the Garden to be built. It was a challenge to create an entirely new arena above an active railroad station, but it succeeded brilliantly and MSG became known as the “World’s Most Famous Arena,” hosting both the New York Knicks and Rangers, as well as hundreds of other events every year. Of course, with all that use the Garden aged quickly, and there was a renovation in the early 1990s, but by 2010, it was in dire need of a more thorough overhaul.
Beginning in 2011, MSG began a 3-year, billion dollar makeover that is being referred to as a "Transformation." The Transformation was self-funded by MSG, a publicly traded company, and it has certainly changed every aspect of the venue. The Garden was shut down for three consecutive off-seasons (2011, 2012, 2013), with construction continuing behind-the-scenes during the NBA and NHL campaigns. The finishing touches were applied during the third and final phase of construction, which took place during the summer months in 2013 and the grand re-opening took place in October with a Knicks pre-season game.
They got it right and now Madison Square Garden is again the iconic venue that New York City deserves.
Overall one of the better atmospheres i've experienced. Definitely belongs on any sports fans bucket list
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