Following three years of construction, the newly renovated Madison Square Garden is now celebrating its floor to ceiling transformation. And we at Hornall Anderson are proud to celebrate with them! Even before the new arena began its metamorphosis, our team created The Garden’s Transformation Center resulting in the sale of 100% of the Event Level suites, and 75% of the Madison Suites prior to construction even beginning. Last year, we partnered with them again to bring Defining Moments to life at The Garden proper, including the Chase Square experience, the Garden of Dreams installation, and the 6th/8thfloor concourse storytelling. I was really excited to see our work featured in a recent issue of SEAT magazine (the in-depth article is reprinted below). If you want more information about these types of renovations, be sure to check out the 2014 ALSD Conference & Tradeshow, where I'll be one of six presenting on a Renovation Super Panel on July 7th.
In time for the start of the 2013-2014 NHL and NBA seasons, Madison Square Garden completed its ambitious, three-year transformation. After multiple years of renovation, essentially the only aspect of "The World's Most Famous Arena" that remains the same is its address, situated atop Penn Station in mid-town Manhattan, located between 7th and 8th Avenues.
The privately funded, nearly $1 billion Trans-formation (the most expensive arena project in history) took the past three off-seasons to complete, with some construction going on concurrently with a full slate of Garden events. It is unprecedented on the renovation scale, as modern design and building techniques now allow for its renovated space to look nothing like renovated space. "We're effectively unveiling an entirely new Madison Square Garden arena," states Hank Ratner, President and CEO of The Madison Square Garden Company.
From floor to ceiling, nearly every nook and cranny of the building has been made-over, designed to improve the experience for all who enter its doors. "Madison Square Garden is uniquely beloved by both the fans in the seats and the athletes and performers they've come to see," adds Jim Dolan, The Madison Square Garden Company's Executive Chairman. "And we are pleased to transform it for the next generation."
The best place to begin breaking down the Transformation is ironically not with the "next generation," but with the one aspect of the arena that wasn't touched: the Garden's history. Twenty Defining Moments are commemorated on the new Madison and Garden Concourses. Additionally, also located on the Madison Concourse is Garden 366, a gallery wrapping the concourse, which features one moment in Garden history for every day of the year.
These two exhibits illustrate the trend of teams and venues creating museum spaces in their buildings to market their histories, an effective strategy for an arena such as MSG with its rich and mystical history that lives for so many sports fans not only in the five NYC boroughs, but extending around the world.
Tied to the building's mystique and com-fort of history is the dart-board-pattern ceiling, which was determined early in the design process to be one the arena's not-to-be-transformed iconic elements. The ceiling is a recognizable signature in countless photographs from the "Defining Moments", such as "The Fight of the Century" between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier, held at the Garden in 1971.
"[The ceiling] is very special to the Garden," explains Murray Beynon, Partner at Brisbin Brook Beynon and the lead architect for the Transformation. "The interior design that we created was quite an accomplishment knowing how iconic and important that ceiling is."
"The premium seating market has not decreased at all. It has just changed very significantly and is continuing to change.” – Murray Beynon, Lead Architect of the MSG Transformation
AN INDUSTRY-WIDE TREND?
The Garden structure is quite unique, as it's a suspension system, similar conceptually to suspension bridges. So despite being built in the mid-1960s, its bones make it possible to accept major loads (see the 330-ton bridges). But Beynon believes the bridge concept is applicable to many other buildings and can be done in a cost-effective way. The bridges introduce a new form of revenue, which is always of interest to the world of sports and entertainment. They represent an alternative to harder-to-sell upper-level seating, a more glamorous product compared to traditional nosebleeds that can competitively oppose the living room sofa. They are dynamic and introduce a new reason for fans to attend the venue. "[The bridges] generate the vibe and excitement necessary to keep [MSG] at the forefront of the entertainment industry," Beynon continues.
MORE THAT YOU CAN'T GET AT HOME
FOOD AND BEVERAGE
We live in a world where change is ever increasing in speed, so developing a renovation plan that brings teams up to date and implements infrastructure to enable them to remain up to date is vital. Part of keeping current is continually adding excitement and social interaction, the hallmarks of a memorable fan experience that you can't get at home.
One of the keys to achieving this type of experience is tying it to things that are recognizable. Consider the food and beverage at Madison Square Garden. As part of the Trans-formation, MSG went to some of the best chefs and restaurateurs in New York City, and now features restaurant products from Jeremy Mar-shall, Jean-Georges Vongerichten, Phil Suarez, Andrew Carmellini, Luke Ostrom, and Drew Nieporent. There were menu items created exclusively for MSG patrons that can't be found in any of these chef's restaurants throughout New York City.
In addition to bringing in these food products, MSG has also transformed the number and location of its concession stands to engage the guest into the food and beverage experience. Customer interviews and focus groups revealed there existed a feeling that with so many concessions, fans had a tendency to disengage. Then there is the traditional concession stand design: basically a hole in the wall with a large counter separating the vendor from the customer.
For the first time, virtually every concession is out in the concourses of Madison Square Garden, where the concession interior design feels like part of the concourse interior design. "The server and the guest are now one," Beynon explains. "Guests feel much more engaged. Con-cessions are much more approachable now."
To further compete with the in-home viewing experience and its 100-inch, high-definition televisions, the design team got creative, not just with size but with shape, with the center-hung video board. Instead of rectangular boards, a Daktronics board with curved screens was installed.
From a design point of view, the curved screens fit with the oval seating bowl. And "you can do visual tricks that you could never get at home," explains Beynon.
The resurgence of construction projects across all segments of the venue marketplace is still very much tied to premium seating. "The premium seating market has not decreased at all," notes Beynon. "It has just changed very significantly and is continuing to change."
At MSG, change to its suite and premium seat options were an important financial consideration, so sales executives could justify higher prices compared to pre-Transformation premium options. The contractually obligated income tied to premium seating, as well as sponsorship of premium seating areas, will significantly help erase the Transformation's debt service.
Starting with the suite inventory closest to the action, there are 20 new bunker-style suites on the Event Level, which directly link to the seating bowl. Three of these suites have eight seats; another three have ten seats; six have 12 seats; and the remaining eight have 13 seats.
Up two levels sits the Madison Suite Level, home to 58 new 12-seat suites. Suite products on both the Event Level and Madison Level come with all Knicks, Rangers, and concert events.
Rounding out the suite menu are 18 Signature Suites on the east side of the ninth floor, between the Madison Level and the Bridge Level.
The manner with which the private suites sit in the lower bowl is another signature feature of the Transformation. "Suite holders are sit-ting right in the bowl," explains Beynon. "They aren't tucked under the ceiling above. So those patrons who are paying the most amount of money feel very much a part of the action and the excitement of the bowl itself."
The premium makeover continues all the way up to MSG's upper level where 71 outdated, unappealing skyboxes are gone. Alongside the aforementioned Chase Bridge seats on this level is the EIGHTEEN/76 Balcony, branded by Anheuser-Busch, which is flanked by unique hospitality spaces, dedicated to groups.
EIGHTEEN/76 Balcony seats have tabletops and in-seat beverage service, while the six-group hospitality lounges come furnished with 28 fixed seats and 14 bar stools. TRANSFORMATION COMPLETE Madison Square Garden is an icon of American sports and entertainment with a past treasured by many, not just by New Yorkers. And now through the Transformation, MSG will have an extraordinary future to match. Whether a fan is sitting in a suite down on the Event Level or up in a seat on the Chase Bridges, the experience is sure to be remarkable. As Jim Dolan summarizes, "We believe we've succeeded in making this a truly unforgettable place for everyone, ensuring the Garden's future is as bright as its celebrated past."
So after three years of construction and a price tag approaching $1 billion, the project that was first put on the drawing board in 2004 has reached its finish line. The Transformation is complete. Time to celebrate. — Jared Frank