Saturday, January 18, 2014

Los Angeles Clippers 109 at New York Knicks 95 - January 17, 2014

Madison Square Garden has just completed a 3-year, billion dollar renovation that is being referred to as a "Transformation". As a correspondent for Stadium Journey now living in New York, I was asked to review the new Garden and used the NBA game last night against the Clippers to do so.

The Garden is located above Penn Station in central Manhattan, bounded by 7th and 8th Avenues and 31st and 33rd Streets. Take any subway to Penn Station and you are there, or you can walk from Times Square if you prefer.

The Transformation was self-funded by MSG, a publicly traded company, and it has certainly changed every element of the venue. The Garden was shut down for three consecutive off-seasons (2011, 2012, 2013), with construction continuing behind-the-scenes during the NBA and NHL seasons.

There are four new elements from the third and final phase of construction, which took place during the summer months in 2013. The first you might notice is the larger Chase Square 7th Avenue entrance, which includes a merchandise shop and two video screens alongside the box office.

Inside, the two new Chase Bridges on the 300 level provide unique views of the action down below and are really worth a look. However, seats here are very limited and due to the steep drop, are blocked by glass, which might be a problem for some.

The views are quite dramatic though, as you are actually above the 200 level seats, as you can tell below. This might be even more impressive for hockey.

The shot below is from the entrance to Chase Bridge South.

There is a lounge area dubbed the "EIGHTEEN/76 Balcony" on the east side of the Bridge level, with direct views into the Arena bowl. The seats here are very plush indeed.

The new GardenVision is a state-of-the-art scoreboard which has mini-scoreboards underneath for fans sitting low.

Finally, the iconic Garden ceiling has been restored in all its glory.

One thing that is not forgotten is the history that has transpired here. There are two excellent tributes that appear throughout the building. The first is Madison Square Garden’s 20 “Defining Moments,” where each moment is commemorated with a special exhibit that features photos and memorabilia. See if you can find all 20 (not that they are hidden), they are scattered about the Madison (100 level) and Garden (200 level) Concourses. Below is one dedicated to "The Dunk" by John Starks.

Meanwhile,  “Garden 366,” is a visual retrospective wrapping the circumference of the Madison Concourse, featuring one moment in Garden history for every day of the year.    


Concourses are bright and wide enough, even during halftime, when I had no trouble moving from level to level and around the venue.

Food is also quite impressive but very expensive, as you would expect here in New York. Many famous chefs are featured here, as are NY favourites such as the Carnegie Deli, Hill Country Barbeque, and La Esquina. However, expect to pay at least $10 for any entree; a hot dog is the cheapest option at $6.25. An 8-inch personal pizza at Casa Nonna is $10 and might provide the best value.

There are two more seating areas: the West Balcony, which is a bar area on bridge level, and the Blue Seats, which is the 400 level behind the West Balcony. Be careful here as the top row or two is blocked by the Balcony and you might have trouble viewing the scoreboard from here, especially if you are quite tall.

Two other things I want to note. First, there used to be an inner concourse that allowed fans and vendors to block the view of those sitting in the first couple of rows above it as they walked around. That has thankfully been removed so now you get an uninterrupted view of the action. As well, all seats replaced, as you can see below. It really looks fantastic.

Finally, I like the little bend as you enter the seating bowl below. Visiting so many stadiums, I am always looking out for little differences and this is one that I don't believe I have noticed elsewhere.

Overall, the new MSG is a vast improvement. This is especially true for those who can afford the luxury areas and the Chase Bridges, which I do hope to try sometime. But all fans are better off with the Transformed Garden and even if you have seen it before, I would recommend another visit to appreciate the upgrades.

The Game

I really didn't follow this one too closely as I was doing my review. The Knicks had an early lead, up 8 at 33-25, but LA came back and it was tied at 50 at halftime. The lead continued to seesaw and it was tied again at 65 late in the 3rd quarter, at which point the Clippers scored 9 in a row, highlighted by a Blake Griffin (above, being watched by NY Jets' DE Muhammad Wilkerson) alley-oop dunk. This was part of a 20-5 run which gave the Clippers an unassailable lead that resulted in an easy victory, 109-95.

Griffin led all scorers with 32, but Jamal Crawford was the real star against his old team, netting 29 off the bench and finishing +21 during his time on the court. For the Knicks, Carmelo Anthony went 4-23 but still managed 26 points on the strength of a 16/16 night at the line. Jeremy Tyler, who played with the Tokyo Apache while I was still living there, is now with the Knicks and bagged 6 points in 14 minutes. He should be a good bench player for a while with injuries hampering the Knicks.


As I was on a media credential, I was able to spend the second half on a walkway behind the Knicks' bench. This was not a good place to watch the game as much of the court was blocked by the courtside seats which rise a bit, but was great to watch the fans interact with the players here, and to see the expressions on the players' faces. That's Tyson Chandler below after he fouled out.

Next Up

I'm on my way to Denver for a great little 4-game long weekend. I should arrive in time for a National Lacrosse League battle between Buffalo and the Colorado Mammoth. Sunday afternoon is the AFC Championship game which is actually being played between 2 teams and not just 2 quarterbacks. Monday I will drive to Rapid City, South Dakota to see a CHL game, and then return to Denver for the Maple Leafs and Avalanche on Tuesday night. Check back on occasion for updates.



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