Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Luxury 'super suite'

Madison Square Garden (seen here in March 2009) opted for the renovation a year ago. -- PHOTO: AFP

NEW YORK - A 'SUPER SUITE' that could hold 300 people and luxury suites with kitchens, full bars and fireplaces will be offered to big spenders at the new Madison Square Garden in New York, officials said on Tuesday in an update of plans to upgrade the 41-year-old arena.

The renovation of the busiest US arena will take a year longer than planned - the upper level won't be finished until the beginning of the NBA and NHL's 2012-2013 season - and will go over its US$500 million (S$750 million) budget, MSG Vice-chairman Hank Ratner said.

But, 'we're not going to be looking for anyone else to pay for it,' Mr Ratner said. The city and state have committed hundreds of millions in bonds and other incentives to the Yankees and Mets' new stadiums and a planned arena for the New Jersey Nets.

Mr Ratner said no decisions had been made on pricing, including for the 20 floor-level luxury suites and the 465 sq m supersuite.

The Garden officials showed reporters two mock-ups of a mid-level and floor-level luxury suite, which will soon be shopped to corporate sponsors. The suites behind the 23rd row at the Garden included granite-topped kitchen islands behind stadium seating; the floor-level suite featured formal dining tables, full bars and a fireplace.

The Garden abandoned plans for 19 'ledge suites' on the higher levels and combined 10 luxury suites to create the one supersuite since it introduced the plans a year ago.

Patrons will have 40 more places to buy concessions, including 'blue seat bars' at the upper levels in the new arena, officials said. The renovation won't change the exterior of the drum-shaped arena, although knocking down some walls on the inside would give patrons street views from wider concourses. The iconic, domed ceiling will be raised and the angle of every seat will be changed to give better views from the top, officials said.

Mr Ratner gave no date when construction would begin, but said 150 MSG employees were in the process of moving out to offices across the street to make way for the expansion. The renovations are planned largely during summer months, creating no schedule changes for the NBA's New York Knicks and NHL's New York Rangers, although Mr Ratner said the arena was still working on the schedule for the New York Liberty women's basketball team.

The Garden opted for the renovation a year ago after backing out of long negotiations with the state and city to sell the arena and move into a landmark post office building a block away.

The decision stalled the US$14 billion plan to renovate Pennsylvania Station and build office towers in the neighborhood, where the Garden's spot had been seen as prime real estate. Mr Ratner said the Garden hadn't reconsidered its move. 'We are renovating MSG, period,' he said. -- AP

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