The TD Garden, formerly known as the Fleet Center and the TD BankNorth Garden, is the home of both the NBA’s Boston Celtics and NHL’s Boston Bruins. Built just nine inches from the original Boston Garden, it is named after its sponsor, TD Bank. Closing in on its 20th season as the home of the most decorated franchise in NBA history, the Garden remains a marquee venue in its own right, and can boast an NBA title of its own to go with the 16 won next door on Causeway Street.
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 concessions at the TD Garden live by the motto "quantity over quality". There are 47 separate concession stands here, 42 permanent stands and 5 portable carts. Stands are named to evoke a Boston atmosphere, with names like Sal's Pizza, Boston Pops, and West End Chicken. Unfortunately, the menu does not venture too far from these basics. Pizza, hot dogs, sausages, and chicken fingers dominate the menu. For an alternative to the same old menu, choose the Back Bay Carvery stand for a freshly sliced Turkey or Roast Beef wrap, or the West End Chicken and Brew stand for Lobster Rangoons. Fans seeking out something different for dessert should check out the Sweet Spot, where several different flavors of Gelato are featured.
As would be expected, thirsty fans can quench their thirst with a cold Sam Adams, or can sample from several local craft beers at the Craft Beer Garden on the level 7 concourse. Fans looking for a change from your standard concession stand style of dining will be pleased to find the Premium Club Bistro on level 5.
Be warned, if you plan to eat or drink at a Celtics game, bring some money. Boston has one of the highest cost indexes in the NBA (more on that later). With a few exceptions, there is nothing on the menu here that will classify as a "must have" item. Even more disappointing is the lack of any real local signature items. With the impressive variety of places to eat and drink in the immediate vicinity of the Garden, my recommendation is that you save your appetite until after the game and visit one of the many fine establishments within a short walk of the Garden.
The staff at the Garden put on a good a show as anyone in the NBA. A new HD entertainment scoreboard serves as the centerpiece of the action, often acting in sync with the ribbon boards that circle the arena. The Celtics feature the usual scantily-clad dance team, as well as a cheerleading squad featuring male cheerleaders, which is pretty unique in the NBA. Another unique aspect of the game day experience is the Celtics mascot, which, rather than being some furry creature, is an actual human being dressed as a leprechaun. "Lucky" is a part of the cheerleading squad, and has some good moves of his own.
Nostalgic fans will lament the fact that the atmosphere at the new Garden (and yes, some fans still refer to the TD Garden as the "new" Garden even though it is almost 20 years old) can't come close to the old barn, and that the seats don't hang over the court like they used to, but the fact is that a building can't be built like that anymore. The Garden fits over 18,000 fans in the arena, and while some upper level seats are a bit far from the action, overall the view from any seat in the place is good, if not great.
The Garden gears their game day experience towards families, and in this regard they succeed greatly. There is plenty to do for the youngsters, from face painting to a nonstop parade of fan cams during play stoppages. It seems that almost every fan in the building gets to see their face on the jumbotron at some point during the game.
One aspect of the Garden that is sure to confuse and infuriate any visiting fan is the physical layout of the building. Instead of entering the building into the arena, the ground floor entrances bring you into the North Station subway stop. Located on this level are several train tracks, a McDonald's, the Bruins (and by default the Celtics) Pro Shop, and the Garden ticket office. This area is known as the Red Auerbach concourse in honor of the long time Celtic GM and architect.
A pair of escalators will take fans up to a small landing area where your tickets will be taken. Additional escalators are waiting here to take fans into the arena and main concourse. Fans holding upper level tickets will take more escalators to get to their seats. Just make sure you take the right escalator, lest you end up lost on the wrong level.
Luckily, ushers are present to help direct you to the proper section. After all, no fan wants to end up in a luxury box by mistake. Fans wanting to go from the upper levels down to lower levels must take the stairs. After all, these are one way escalators. Just be careful to get out of the stairwell at the right time. There are stories of fans who have ended up outside by mistake while trying to go from the upper to lower concourse. Traversing around the TD Garden can feel like being trapped in an M. C. Escher painting at times.
The immediate area around the Garden hardly looks the part of a neighborhood you would want to visit. The streets are narrow, the buildings are old, and the area looks, well, kind of sketchy. The neighborhood is changing, though. Long-time Celtics fans can tell you how this entire neighborhood used to be located underneath subway tracks and highways. Now that those tracks and roads have gone the way of the original Garden, there are spacious, open green areas where there used to be ugly stretches of cement and iron. New businesses have moved into the area, dive bars have been replaced by more upscale clubs, and revitalization has begun to take hold.
Packed into the five blocks directly across the street from the TD Garden are more bars and restaurants than you might think could be concentrated into such a small area. Fans looking for just a quick bite to eat can choose from several locations, such as Halftime King of Pizza, D'Angelo's Sandwiches, Qdoba Mexican Grill, or Dunkin' Donuts.
For a proper Garden experience, many Celtic fans choose from one of the many outstanding locations in the neighborhood. The Four's was named the best sports bar in the United States by Sports Illustrated in 2005, and has menu items named after many Boston sports icons. Boston Beer Works is a popular destination due its selection of craft brews. Out of towners should sample the Bunker Hill Blueberry Ale. Space restrictions prohibit me from mentioning all the fine locations in the immediate area, but it's tough to go wrong with this many options.
Walk a few blocks past this cluster, and you will arrive at Faneuil Hall, a popular Boston tourist attraction. Containing a multitude of restaurants, clubs, and shops, it ranks as one of Boston's top destinations for out of towners. Celtics fans will find a statue of Red Auerbach lighting up one of his legendary victory cigars after yet another Celtic win here.
Fans looking for fancier dining options should take a left onto Causeway Street after leaving the Garden and cross over I-93 into the North End, home of some of the finest Italian restaurants this side of Rome. Also located in the North End are some buildings of historical significance, such as the Old North Church and Copp's Hill Burial Ground.
Visitors looking to explore Boston's many historical sites can follow the Freedom Trail, which passes only a few blocks from the Garden. The Freedom Trail is a 2.5 mile long brick-lined route that connects 16 of Boston's most significant historic sites. This walking tour winds throughout the city and is one of the best ways to explore Boston.
Despite the diminished expectations of the current group of Celtics, Boston fans remain enthusiastic and demonstrative throughout the game. Celtics tickets are no longer the hot commodity they were just a few years ago, but many Boston hoops fans continue to support the Celtics in hopes of a return to their usual spot near the top of the standings. Open seats can be found at games now, particularly during weekday games, but that hasn't seemed to affect the noise level at the Garden. When the action on the floor is lacking, it's not unusual to hear Celtics fans direct their enthusiasm to any of the local celebrities who frequent the Garden, or to any unlucky fan happening to be making a spectacle of themselves.
A positive development of the downturn in the overall franchise's performance is a noticeable increase in the number of children and families that can be found in attendance on a given night. Normally priced out of the building, the greater availability and affordability has meant that the next generation of Celtic fanatics are being groomed for banner number 18 and beyond.
Anyone who has spent any time in the city of Boston can testify that it is not an easy city to get around. City streets, dating back to colonial times, are laid out in seemingly random directions. Finding a parking spot on a city street is a rare feat indeed. Those fans brave enough to try and drive to the Garden should not be fooled by the fact that the Garden is located only a few feet from Interstate 93. No matter what direction you may be traveling from, the most direct route to the Garden is to take exit 26 off of I-93. Once off the highway, follow the signs to the Garden. Beware, the city streets around the Garden are narrow, and several turns must be navigated before arriving at your destination.
A much simpler and more efficient method for getting to the Garden is to take public transportation, known in Boston as the "T." The TD Garden is located directly on top of the North Station MBTA stop. Both the green and orange lines stop at the Garden, making it easily accessible from any part of the city and beyond. Subway fares are $2, making taking the T to a Celtics game a much more affordable option. Even better, if attending the Garden on a cold winter night, you will never even have to step foot outside once arriving at the Garden.
Although there are many options for parking in the area around the Garden it can be quite expensive to leave your car anywhere in the vicinity. There is a 5-level garage located directly underneath the Garden, but it will run you $38 to park there for a game. There are several surface lots in the immediate area, as well as numerous parking garages, ranging in price from $25-$40 for the event.
Once inside the Garden, you will find yourself in a wide concourse lined with concession stands on both sides. The Garden contains 34 rest rooms split evenly between men's and women's facilities. There are 13 escalators and 7 elevators to help fans travel between the Garden's several concourses. Fans requiring specialized seating will be pleased to find several seating areas dedicated to accessible seating.
The Fan Cost Index for 2013-2014 ranks the Celtics as the fifth most expensive game experience in the NBA. High prices for tickets, concessions, and parking inflate the Celtics' overall price. With the team struggling recently, ticket prices have fallen off a bit, and it is possible to get upper level tickets for under $20 for certain games. Parking can run you as much as $40 in the vicinity of the Garden, although you can save some money by parking a few blocks from the Garden, or by taking public transportation to the game.
Statues- There is a statue just outside of the Garden, but it does not commemorate any Celtic legend. A statue recreating Bobby Orr's famous Stanley Cup winning goal is located in the entry plaza to the Garden. Fans looking for statues of famous Celtic legends will have to walk about 15 minutes from the Garden to Faneuil Hall and City Hall Plaza to find bronze works honoring Red Auerbach and Bill Russell, respectively.
Championship Banners- No other team in the NBA can match the Celtics' 17 championship banners, all of which hang proudly from the rafters of the Garden. There is no room for mere division title banners or even conference title flags here. It's a title or bust here in Boston.
Retired Numbers- Also joining the championship banners are two banners honoring the many Celtic retired numbers from throughout their history. In all, 22 former Celtics have been honored by having their jersey numbers retired. That's a lot of retired numbers, but that's the price you pay when you have the history the Celtics have. There are so many retired numbers here, in fact, that the honored players do not have their own unique banner. All the numbers are simply laid out on a couple of grids. No names, no frills, just three banners full of the numbers of some of basketball's all-time greats.
The Sports Museum- Perhaps the greatest hidden sporting gem in Boston, it's a must see for any sports fan visiting Boston. Located on levels 5 and 6 of the Garden, the Sports Museum features items celebrating the city of Boston's long and storied sports history.
The Parquet Floor- Often imitated, never duplicated, the famous parquet floor at the TD Garden is unfortunately not the same floor with the infamous dead spots that the Celtics played on at the Boston Garden. The original parquet floor was built out of scrap wood due to a lumber shortage that was going on while the floor was being built during World War II. A new floor was made when the Celtics moved into the TD Garden.
While the current incarnation of the Garden still has a ways to go to match the tenure of its predecessor, TD Garden has emerged as a first-rate venue in its own right. It may never match the notoriety or history of the original Garden, but it has been steadily building its own history, hosting an NBA championship and multiple NBA finals. It remains a must see destination for any true basketball fan.
In 2005, when TD Bank purchased the naming rights to the basketball venue on Causeway St. in Boston, they hoisted a large banner on the building that read "Go ahead, call it the Garden again." For sentimental value, it was a smart move. Its previous name, the Fleet Center, was one of those generic, corporate titles that meant nothing to fans. So yes, you can call it the Garden again (the caveat being there's now a "TD" in front of it). All that said, nothing compares to the old Boston Garden. The TD Garden is missing the old quirks that made the real Garden what it was, but has also improved on those same quirks that made the old venue a sometimes difficult place to watch a game.
Now that the Celtics are struggling, prices have come down and the real fans are returning. Make sure to see the Sports Museum on Levels 5 and 6 - just $10, although it closes at 4 pm. You can get inside the Garden when it's completely empty. A secret heaven for sports fans.
TD Garden is amazing. Some great history is in this place. A definite must see. Make sure you take a trip to the Boston Hall of fame on levels 5 and 6 while there.
Boston Celtics games are always a good time. The atmosphere is always good during the games and the prices aren't to bad. Always mini games and other activities as well during intermissions. A lot fun.
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