NEW YORK -- It didn't prevent the Knicks from playing in their exhibition home opener at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday night against the Boston Celtics, but the World's Most Famous Arena is undergoing the initial transformations of a four-year project to enhance the facility. Work is being done structurally in preparation for larger-scale changes over the next few years.
"The Transformation of Madison Square Garden is currently under way. Construction workers have been at the Garden since June preparing for more extensive work next summer following the Knicks' and Rangers' seasons," MSG President & CEO Hank Ratner said. "A brand new interior will be built within the iconic exterior, and the only thing people will recognize inside the building is the Garden's signature ceiling."
Over the next few years, MSG will spend between $775 million and $850 million for upgrades throughout the facility. While there will be work done year-round on the arena, most of the construction will take place during the summers when the Knicks and the Rangers are idle. The Knicks and Rangers will continue to use MSG, while the New York Liberty, who play during the summer, will move to the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J., starting in 2011.
For the 2011-2012 season, there are scheduled upgrades to lower bowl seating, an expanded lower concourse, 20 new event level suites and a new Delta Sky360 Event Level Club. For the 2012-2013 campaign, the upper bowl seating and upper concourse will be revamped and 58 new lower-level suites will be added, along with a Super Club.
The final renovations will be made for the 2013-2014 season, including a new 7th Avenue entrance, party decks on the 10th floor, a new GardenVision scoreboard, 18 remodeled 9th floor suites and two bridges above the court/ice from which fans can watch the game.
The bridges will be approximately 65 feet above the playing surface and will be located on the 10th floor. The north bridge will be 235 feet long, while the south bridge will be 226 feet long. Ratner does not believe the bridges will be a distraction for players.
"We believe the bridges will be a signature element of the transformation and provide fans with one of the most unique and desirable locations in sports and entertainment to watch games, concerts and events," Ratner said. "We will be adding video boards, TV screens and additional statistical ribbons to the back of the bridges to enhance the experience for fans sitting in the upper deck.''
Said Ratner: "This is going to be a great project for New York and a project that New York really needs right now."
Matt Ehalt is a regular contributor to ESPNNewYork.com.