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  • Greg Venuto

Madison Square Garden - St. John's Red Storm

Photos by Greg Venuto, Stadium Journey

Madison Square Garden FANFARE Score: 4.29

Madison Square Garden 4 Pennsylvania Plaza New York, NY 10001

Year Opened: 1968 Capacity: 19,812


Red Storm Ready to Make Noise at MSG

St. John’s Red Storm basketball, a member of the 11-team Big East Conference, has not made the NCAA Tournament since 2019 but appears to be on the way back under legendary coach Rick Pitino.

If early-season success is any indication, the Red Storm will be packing Madison Square Garden for the remainder of Big East Conference play. St. John’s calls four arenas home. The Red Storm play eight games at the "The World's Most Famous Arena", six at Carnesecca Arena on campus in Jamaica Queens, three at UBS Arena in Elmont New York, and one at Barclays in Brooklyn.

Pitino signed a six-year, $20 million in the offseason and promptly brought in 11 new players to the roster. The excitement and the crowds have followed him to the Garden.

The legendary building which houses the New York Knicks and New York Rangers is also famous as a major concert venue. Billy Joel will end his monthly residence at the World’s Most Famous Arena with his 150th-lifetime performance in July.

Food & Beverage 5

The food and beverage choices are varied and endless. In addition to the basic fare, there are tacos, Japanese food, sushi, gourmet burgers, barbeque, and deli sandwiches.

Some Stadium Journey recommendations include the Teriyaki Bowls, burgers at Fuku Spicy Chicken Sandwiches ($16), The Daily Burger (Cheeseburger $15), pastrami and corned beef ($19) at Carnegie Deli, and tacos at Avenue Cantina.

The multitude of stands means fewer lines and waiting. There are several drink and snack stands and also a few Beverage Marts where fans can grab a beer or soft drink and go. Draft beer is $15.50 for domestic and $16.50 for imported. The Craft Beer Garden offers at least 30 different varieties of beer including lagers, pilsners, and IPAs.

Atmosphere 4

The Red Storm is drawing better these days which comes along with winning. St. John’s brings an exuberant team of cheerleaders, a dance team, and a band which enhances the game-day experience.

The Garden does a solid job of transforming the arena into a home-court feel. The scoreboard, signage boards, and ceiling are all illuminated red. The game starts with the obligatory hype video, then player introductions include a plume of flames.

On this visit, MSG was hosting The Holiday Festival which used to be a two-day tournament the week between Christmas and New Year’s. Now it’s a one-day tripleheader event in early December. Georgia Tech and Penn St. battled in the first game, St. John’s hosted Fordham in Game 2 and the St. John’s women played Villanova in the nightcap.

Neighborhood 4

The area around MSG, located in midtown Manhattan, is busy and boisterous. Pedestrians, taxis, trucks, cars, and buses flood 7th and 8th Avenues and 34th Street even late at night. Penn Station is situated beneath the building and the new bold and beautiful Moynihan Train Hall (Amtrak and Long Island Railroad) is directly adjacent to MSG on 8th Avenue.

Macy’s, Empire State Building, Times Square, and Rockefeller Center are within walking distance. There is the Molly Wee Pub and Mustang Harry’s for pre-gaming and also Koreatown. NY Pizza Suprema, 413 8th Avenue, is often rated one of the best pizza places in Manhattan.

Fans 4

The Red Storm gets excellent support from local alumni. The fan base is starved for a winner after years of mediocrity. Led by Pitino and his ability to attract top-flight players, St. John’s should be able to satisfy their fans’ appetites. The Red Storm have not won an NCAA Tournament game since 2000.

St. John’s plays six games during January and February at MSG. Expect the number of dates at MSG to increase next season if Pitino gets his way. The Red Storm only played four regular season games at the Garden last year.

Access 4

Except for traffic around MSG, access is a plus. The Path Train from NJ, subway stations on 7th and 8th Avenue, LIRR trains from Long Island and Queens underneath at Penn Station, and Grand Central Station (serving Westchester and Connecticut) is about a 15-20 minute walk.

Driving to MSG can be problematic coming in from the West Side Highway or East River Drive. There are plenty of parking facilities nearby so check Spot Hero or Park Whiz to prepay for parking which could be as low as $25-30.

The Garden has six entrances for the general public. The main marque entrance on 7th Avenue is open but still undergoing construction. It will be a grand entrance once completed and funnel fans right into the lobby and box office.

Return on Investment 4

The investment for one event at MSG is costly. The upper bowl starts at $61.The lower bowl will start around $100. Food and beverages are pricey but much more options are available and the quality has improved. Souvenirs are often costly and could be purchased elsewhere.

Extras 5

Madison Square Garden opened in 1968, making it the oldest pro sports venue in the New York area and the oldest arena in both the NBA and NHL. Throughout its tenure as the city’s premier entertainment facility, MSG has hosted innumerable amount of historic events, and some of the most important are highlighted on the main concourse.

Madison Square Garden, which hosts about 320 events per year, is the last venue in the NBA or NHL to not support a corporate name.

MSG sports the following premium seating areas: The Hub Loft, Madison Club, Delta 360 Sky Club, and J.P. Morgan Club. There are also suites and lounges which can be rented out on a per-event basis.

Over a billion dollars went into renovations to MSG during three off-seasons from 2011 to 2013. The first part of the renovation included a massive scoreboard affixed to the center of the iconic roof, while the second involved two skywalks dubbed the Chase Bridge above the bowl which provide extra seating space and feature a bird’s eye view of the floor and additional areas for media and the handicapped.

St. John’s has played a game at MSG every year since 1931, a record 92 seasons. Since 1983, the Big East Tournament has been held at the Garden. The tournament is the longest-running conference tournament at any one site in all of college basketball.

Final Thoughts

Madison Square Garden is a must-see location for sports and entertainment fans alike. It’s an action-packed venue both inside and out. It can be loud and crazy, but always an exciting and worthwhile Stadium Journey.

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