New Marquee at MSG: Massive LED Installation Planned for World’s Most Famous Arena

As Madison Square Garden moves through the second year of its “Transformation,” a bold new plan to renovate its exterior facade is drawing concern from local residents, notwithstanding its underlying energy-efficient technology.

Madison Square Garden – which dates from 1968 – is in the middle of some significant interior renovations, but that’s not all that could continue transforming the appearance of the World’s Most Famous Arena: MSG is in the process of trying to secure approvals from the city for four enormous exterior LED installations that would cover each of the tower escalators (currently visible from the surrounding streets) and dramatically transform the iconic structure’s facade on each of its four exposures. Indeed, Garden officials are in the process of asking the city to waive existing zoning rules and allow them to install four 77-foot LED display panels (nearly double the size of the permitted 40-foot signs that cover the towers today). The signs would display information about upcoming Garden events, sponsorships, and, of course, advertisements.

“We want to create a pedestrian-friendly experience, enhance presence as an iconic destination, and bring excitement of the interior into the exterior of the area,” said Sidney Nielson, an urban designer, during the Garden’s presentation to Community Board Five’s Land Use Committee, according to Other LED-powered signage is included as part of the Garden’s overall plan to spruce up the arena’s environs. Directly across the street from the Farley Post Office, the Eighth Avenue marquee (pictured) would be replaced with an 18-foot-tall by 230-foot wide LED media wall, wrapping all the way around the arena’s north and south facades. New benches, plaza lighting, and 8-foot-signs on pylons at either side of the Eighth Avenue entrance to Penn Station would round out the project.

Although Community Board 5 has voiced some concerns (“it isn’t Times Square,” CB 5 Land Use Committee Chair Raju Mann told, “I don’t see how it will fit into the surrounding neighborhood, with residential neighborhoods nearby and a landmarked building across the street”) the plan has already passed the City Planning Commission. It’s currently winding its way through the ULURP process and will be presented to the City Council for approval within the next few months. The Council will hear any concerns and objections from the Community Board as part of that application.

After spearheading the effort to turn back the West Side Stadium at Hudson Yards, the Garden is taking the increased competition for bookings from New York City’s new sporting and special event venues seriously. From the Barclays Center in Brooklyn to Red Bull Arena and Prudential Center in New Jersey, MSG is spending well over a billion dollars to transform itself a 21st-century facility with the same types of amenities – like lower-level luxury suites, open concourses, and premier seating – as other modern venues. Putting aside its 1980s-era sweetheart property tax exemption, it’s a good thing for the city that renovation efforts will include advanced building technologies that can both save energy and improve the ambience around what remains one of Manhattan’s grittiest addresses.

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