After three years, Madison Square Garden is finally ready to show off its $1 billion renovation that officials say pays tribute to its 134-year history, including the return of its familiar blue seats. NY1's Roger Clark filed the following report.
Madison Square Garden is a second home to the man Knicks fans know as "Clyde." So basketball legend and now broadcaster Walt Frazier was thrilled to check out some home improvement there.
"They did a wonderful job. The World's Most Famous Arena, that's what they should do," Frazier said. "The expectations are here, New York fans think everything should be state of the art, and that's what this Garden has become now."
MSG executives were joined by other Garden sports legends, including Willis Reed and Mark Messier, plus Governor Andrew Cuomo for a ribbon cutting to celebrate the billion-dollar top-to-bottom transformation.
The Garden had to be shut down for three consecutive offseasons for construction. Behind-the-scenes work continued during events there.
Among the highlights for the 45-year-old arena is a massive new scoreboard, plus two so-called "Chase Bridges," which were built to provide a unique view of the action.
"One of the wonderful things about the Chase Bridge is, they disappear, that they are part of this arena bowl as if they have always been part of this arena bowl," said Hank Ratner, president and CEO of Madison Square Garden.
The building also has wider concourses, bigger seats, more bathrooms and places to get something to eat or drink. An exhibit called Garden 366 recalls great moments in the arena's history through pictures and words. The building's iconic ceiling was also restored.
"We hope and believe that we have succeeded in creating an arena that will to continue deliver unforgettable and enduring memories for everyone who walks through our doors for generations to come," Ratner said.
Trouble is, it may not be possible. MSG had asked the city to extend its permit to operate above Penn Station basically forever, but the City Council approved only a 10-year deal, with the possibility that the Garden will have to move to make way for a renovated Penn Station.
Hank Ratner didn't want to discuss that.
Q: You don't want to talk about the permit situation?
Ratner: Not today.
The first big event to take place at the newly renovated garden will be a preseason game between the Knicks and the Bobcats on Friday Night. The Rangers make their debut here on Monday night.