NBA Arena Review: Madison Square Garden

Madison Square Garden

Background on Madison Square Garden

Madison Square Garden is the most famous arena in the National Basketball Association. It was built in 1968 and is the NBA’s 2nd oldest arena. In addition to being the home of the New York Knicks, it’s also home to the NHL’s Rangers, and hosts numerous concerts, boxing matches, MMA, professional wrestling, and even the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. Throughout the years, the Garden has seen its fair share of all time NBA performances.

  • Walt Frazier posting a ridiculous stat line of 36/19/7 in game 7 of the 1970 NBA Finals
  • Bernard King dropping 60 on Christmas Day
  • Jordan scoring 55 in only his 5th game after baseball
  • In recent memory, Kobe (61), Lebron (52 and 50), Curry (54), and Melo (62) all have had memorable nights at the Garden.
  • And of course who could forget this…

Madison Square Garden is located in the heart of midtown Manhattan and sits atop of Penn Station. The building that stands today is known as Madison Square Garden IV with three previous buildings having held the Garden name going back to 1879. The Garden that stands today recently completed a $1 billion dollar renovation in 2013. In 2013, the New York City Council voted to limit Madison Square Garden’s permit to a 10 year lease. At the end of the permit, the Garden either has to move to a new location or reapply for an extension. It is quite possible that the current building can be demolished in order to expand the aging Penn Station. A recent NYU study shows a potential cost of $5 billion which many real estate experts cite as the main reason the Garden is unlikely to move.

Madison Square Garden Review

Location

David: You really can’t beat Manhattan. Like we mentioned above the Garden sits on top of Penn Station which is not only a big stop for NYC visitors via the MTA, but also those of Long Island, New Jersey, and the Northeast part of the country because of Amtrak and other rail systems. In terms of public transportation, it’s probably the easiest accessible NBA arena there is. You walk up the stairs and BAM! The Garden is there to greet you. Quiet awe inspiring.

Sherief: The best part for me is how the arena is embedded into the skyscrapers of Manhattan. The arena sneaks up on you like no other arena in the country. The area is fairly busy and lively, as is the rest of New York.

David: My only gripe with the actual location of the Garden is its immediate neighborhood. It’s really nestled among condos, businesses, and a very large Post Office. There’s a few restaurants here and there but it’s not an area I would pick to hang out at on a normal day. Although the B&H Photo Video flagship store is around the corner so if you’re an A/V or photography nerd like I am, it’s a must visit before the game.

Sherief: Yeah – unfortunately there isn’t much to do before or after the game in that vicinity. Maybe it is because New Yorkers are busy enough to hang out before a game? I haven’t been back for five years, but what I remember is a lot of corporate America folks and a hotel that I printed my ticket at.

Amenities

David: I really dug the main concourse level.They have some well known local NYC restaurants represented. You can get BBQ, tacos, pastrami sandwiches, and gourmet burgers. What other NBA stadium are you going to get sushi or a lobster shrimp roll? This blog is making me hungry.

Sherief: Five years later, I remember having probably the best foot-long hot dog of my life. I am not even a hot dog person. But it felt like it complimented the game and the arena well. Being it was the second area I visited outside of the Target Center, the food seemed amazing. So I was impressed.

David: The sad part about all this great food in the main concourse is that the 400 level concourse (also known as the Chase Bridge level) gets the short end of the stick. Other than pizza, popcorn, and hot dogs there’s not much up there. Although there was a pizza/soda deal for $10 if you use your Chase debit card. If they bettered the food situation for the cheap seats (which aren’t cheap) I would score the Garden higher.

Sherief: I can’t recall much else. I don’t remember being blown away by the bathrooms at all.

David: In the 400/300 level they where small…like two urinals small.

Fan Experience

David: I make it a point to get to a game early for pregame introductions. The Knicks did not disappoint with their Tron-esque performance. They’ve jumped on the trend of using the on-court projection system which is always breathtaking. I really dug that they introduced Joakim Noah from “Hell’s Kitchen New York”. And then I immediately thought of the Netflix show Daredevil.

Sherief: I had a unique experience. I got to converse with a 15-year season ticket holder who was gushing with basketball knowledge and experience. He even got a free t-shirt for me in one of the giveaways. They didn’t have the annoying in-arena host that is polluting today’s fan experience, which helped keep MSG’s authentic-feel.

David: I love the Knick’s Celebrity Row. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to see Spike but I saw Leslie Jones (SNL/Ghostbusters), Jeremy Piven (Entourage), Jerry Ferrara (Entourage), and Danielle Brooks (Orange is the New Black).

I also like the Garden’s bag policy. You can bring a bag that fits under your seat (beware of beer). The NBA usually has a restrictive bag policy but it makes sense for the Garden given people come after work with their laptops or tourists may have a shopping bag with them. This to me helps with the fan experience.

Aesthetics

David: My favorite part about the main concourse. They have these pictures that wrap around the concourse showing important moments that occurred at the Garden. Famous concerts, NCAA games, boxing matches, and one commemorating a Marcus Garvey convention (stay woke). Needless to say there weren’t too many Knicks memories. As a matter of fact, they even commemorated Kobe’s 61 pt game as the highest in Garden history (they probably haven’t gotten around to making Melo’s). They even had lots of memorabilia on the walls including some cool old school NBA trophies…and of course the Hulkster!

Hulkster at Madison Square Garden

Sherief: I was taken aback by just being able to see MSG in person and live. I grew up watching so many games that took place there. As a basketball fan, it felt like I entered a museum of the NBA. So the nostalgia factor of MSG blew me away.

David: Where I think the Garden suffers the most is the aesthetics from the 400 level. The seats in the back rows of those levels have an obstructed view. So much so that the Garden has TVs spaced every few feat so fans can watch the game.  So yeah, unless you’re in the first few rows of the 400 level, buyer beware. I also didn’t like the huge amount of escalators you had to use to get to the upper level. Felt like it took forever.

Madison Square Garden Review Conclusion

Pros

  • The most historic NBA arena by far
  • Really nice food options
  • It’s in Manhattan
  • Literally on top of public transportation

Cons

  • It’s surrounding area doesn’t have much going on
  • Amenities in the upper level don’t compare to the lower concourse
  • Restricted views in the back rows of the upper level

Here’s how David and Sherief rank Madison Square Garden. Care to comment or disagree? Leave a comment below!

Madison Square Garden Rating
Location Amenities Fan Experience Aesthetics Total Score
David 9 6 8 6 29
Sherief 10 8 8 8 34

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