The billion dollar makeover of Madison Square Garden
Three years, 2.6 million man hours of work and a billion dollars later, New York's Madison Square Garden reopens for business Friday night following a top-to-bottom makeover.
The iconic arena, which opened 45 years ago and remained open during its renovation, will host a preseason NBA game between the Knicks and the Charlotte Hornets at 7:30 p.m.
"It's a state of the art, one of a kind of arena," Hank Ratner, CEO and president of the Madison Square Garden Company, told CNBC's "Squawk Box" on Wednesday. "It's the measure by which every other arena looks at."
The Garden, named recently by Rolling Stone Magazine as the "coolest arena in the country," hosts more than 400 events per year, with over 4 million fans attending.
The transformation, which began in 2011, was funded entirely by the Madison Square Garden Company with the hope of enhancing the fan experience. "There is nothing like being here live," said Ratner. "When you are here at the game seeing how fast the athletes are going, the crunch against the boards, the slam dunk, it's really something special."
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The unveiling comes a year after the opening of the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, which lured the Nets and the Islanders from arenas in New Jersey and Long Island, respectively.
Improved Wi-Fi, dozens of LED HD TV screens and new, first class food offerings are among the features installed to lure fans into the Garden in a day and age where many people opt to watch games from the comforts of home.
It's an experience Ratner believes is not comparable. "Live is really different than anything else. It's DVR-proof; it's really the future and will always remain."
Other key features of the transformed arena include a new multimedia display scoreboard known as "GardenVision," which consists of 24 HD LED displays that are curved to mirror the circular design of the arena. They are capable of showing one large image all the way around the board.
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The biggest and most visual change to the arena are the new Chase Bridges meant to give fans one of the most unique seats in any sports arena. The two bridges, inspired by New York City's many bridges, weigh 662 tons and are suspended from ceiling by 50 steel tube hangers. They will provide additional seating for 430 people for both sporting events and concerts.
"We have 26 different price points for seats for Knicks and Rangers games. We wanted to make sure we had something for everybody," said Ratner.
—By CNBC's Jessica Golden. Follow her on @JGolden5.