Madison Square Garden

Madison Square Garden, The Garden, MSG, The World’s Most Famous Arena, The Mecca of Basketball (stated as such by Michael Jordan)…this building has more monikers than it has Championship Banners hanging in the rafters. Ok, ok…I digress! My Devils may have a beautiful new(ish) arena in Newark, but this is still the best place to see a pro hockey game. Truth be told, this is THE Arena of all Arenas, and it’s located smack dab in the center of New York City, the media capital of the world. Located just blocks from the Empire State Building and directly on top of the busiest train hub in the country, The Garden is truly an engineering marvel!

The current building, the fourth to bear the name of Madison Square Garden, is located between 31st & 33rd Streets and between 7th and 8th Avenues in Midtown Manhattan, and is the home to the New York Knicks of the National Basketball Association and the New York Rangers of the National Hockey League. It was also the home to the New York Liberty of the Womens National Basketball Association for 20 years, and also has been the site of numerous historical sporting events such as the first Ali-Frasier boxing match in 1971, the NBA & NFL Drafts, the Big East Men’s NCAA Basketball Tournament, among MANY others.

The Garden has also been known as the Mecca of Vince McMahon’s WWE, as all of their “big four” events have taken place there numerous times over the years: WrestleMania, the Royal Rumble, Summer Slam & Survivor Series. Before professional wrestling sported a pay per view each month, WrestleMania was the first of it’s kind, and based off of it’s success, the Royal Rumble, Summer Slam & Survivor Series became the the big quarterly events for the company. Once WWE’s main competitor in the 1990s, Ted Turner’s WCW pushed the yearly number of pay per views up to 12, WWE followed suit.

Seated atop New York’s Pennsylvania Rail Station, accessing the arena is no hassle at all! Virtually trains from everywhere converge here. Whether you’re taking New Jersey Transit, the Long Island Rail Road or MetroNorth, all roads (well, almost) lead to Pennsylvania Station. Of course, the arena is accessible by car or bus, but the easiest way BY FAR to get to The Garden is by train. Even a number of the Penn Station NYC Subway line stops have signs like the one pictured here, done all in tile, directing you to the correct exit to take to get to the entrances to the arena.

From street level, The Garden has a fairly grand entrance from 7th Avenue at 32nd Street, complete with a marquee showing what’s happening that evening. Oftentimes, they’ve used the marquee to also pay tribute or convey their condolences for personalities who had performed at the venue during their lifetime. Along with the marquee, you can also sometimes tell what’s going on at the arena from a distance now since with the recent renovations, they’ve installed LED lights on the outside of the building which will light up in red, white & blue stripes for Rangers games or blue and orange for Knicks games.

Update: The Marquee screen has been taken down as the “inside-out” renovations of Madison Square Garden continue. What first started with seating bowl upgrades, adding luxury boxes and the bridges, to the concourses and the arena lighting has now made it’s way to the entrances to the arena. Sadly, the marquee is no more. We’ll have to stay tuned to see what the intended new look will be. I’ll sorely miss that classic marquee screen.

The Arena itself, as mentioned previously, sits directly atop Pennsylvania Station, so in order to reach the floor of the arena, it’s several escalator rides up, since the floor of the arena sits six stories above street level. So if you’re coming up from the train station beneath, you’ll feel like you’re endlessly going up to reach the arena. From said escalators though, you’ll have great views of the surrounding streets as you reach your intended section. Each level of seating is well labeled, so it’s fairly easy to navigate.

Before the recent renovations, the lower seating bowl used to consist of upper and lower sections, with the lower section seats in purple being the premium seating and had a wait staff that would bring you your concessions to your seat, enabling you to not miss out on any of the action…while anyone sitting in the green seats would have to get out of their seats to get whatever food or drinks they wanted themselves (I know…so tedious! *sigh*). The two sections of seating were separated by an inner concourse in which you could make your way completely around the venue without having to leave the seating bowl. It was quite unique, and the seating sections were smaller as well. Compared to how the seating is arranged now (which I’ll get in to in just a bit), I’d have to say that I much preferred the previous layout. With the old layout though, the arena was missing a lot of the premium luxury boxes that are expected in a state-of-the-art facility these days.

Post-renovations, the inner concourse was removed, thus adding additional seating, while a lot more luxury boxes have been added along with a new feature not found anywhere else…bridge seating. Built length-wise across the arena on each long side of the ice or court are bridges above the upper seating sections near the ceiling of the arena, giving fans a bird’s eye view of the action. It’s quite unique & if you can handle heights, I highly recommend checking it out at least once! They can be accessed from each end of the arena, near each of the four towers. From the walkways, there are a total of 3 rows of seating. The first two are your typical arena seating style while the third is higher and has a counter in front of you with a bar-style stool. Also, if you’re sitting near the top of the upper sections though, the bridges will obstruct your view of the center ice scoreboard, however televisions have been installed along the back of the bridges to compensate. It certainly does make for a unique experience!

Finally, the ceiling! The ceiling in The Garden is like no other. If you’ve ever been to a concert at MSG, the sound is incredible! I don’t know exactly why, but my best guess has to do with this unique ceiling of this venue. It’s not open rafters with speakers hanging down like a lot of other arenas have, instead, The Garden has this finished ceiling with what look to be baffles much like an orchestral theater would have. It keeps the sound in so it’s not lost up in the rafters like in most other arenas. I’ve seen a number of concerts at the Garden from Nine Inch Nails, the Foo Fighters to Kid Rock (twice) & Lynyrd Skynyrd and there’s no place better to really appreciate a live band in a large arena setting than at Madison Square Garden. Everyone who is anyone in the music industry has performed there, it’s a rite of passage!

Though I’ve never been to a Knicks game, I have been to The Garden for a number of Rangers games and the atmosphere is always fun! When the Rangers score a goal, they have their own unique goal song, which they’ve had for YEARS! The crowd is always pumped for games and it’s almost always a full house. Location, location, location certainly comes into play at MSG since it’s situated in the center of a city of 18 million plus people, not counting those who come into the city to catch a game, games are always either a sellout or very close to a sellout. It should also be noted that Madison Square Garden is the ONLY major pro sports arena in the nation today that does not have a corporate sponsorship in it’s name.

As for wrestling events, the place has always been the stomping grounds for WWE. Vince McMahon has always used The Garden as sort of a testing ground for wrestler gimmicks & storylines. If something catches on at MSG, the rest of the world will likely go along with it. Vince also chose Madison Square Garden as the venue for the original WrestleMania along with a number of subsequent events as well: WrestleMania X & WrestleMania XX. Even as WrestleMania venues got larger, he didn’t forget about The Garden. For WrestleMania 29, when the event was held at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey, the WWE Hall of Fame Ceremony was held at The Garden. Even as other venues have popped up in the area, namely the Prudential Center in Newark, NJ and the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, The Garden has still always been the location for the first live event after Christmas every year for WWE.

Even as a Devils fan, while I think the new arena in Newark is beautiful and a nice monument to the greatness & success that the Devils achieved during the late 90s & early 2000s, there’s still nothing like going to watch a hockey game at The Garden. The ease of getting there, the atmosphere while in the building and incredible sound enjoyed within the venue, regardless of whether you’re there for a sporting event or a concert, there’s no arena that matches Madison Square Garden. If you haven’t been, it needs to be put on your bucket list. It’s the Yankee Stadium/Lambeau Field/Fenway Park of indoor arenas.

Thanks for reading.

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