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Sports bucket list: Top 10 coolest seats in sports

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Sports bucket list: Top 10 coolest seats in sports

A general view of the Green Monster seats above the Green wall at Fenway Park, Boston.
Bob Tringali | MLB Photos | Getty Images

Madison Square Garden just unveiled a pair of bridges that CEO Hank Ratner said provide a one-of-a-kind view.

As part of $1 billion, 3-year, inside out remodeling of the "World's Most Famous Arena," MSG put 430 new seats on two "Chase Bridges" suspended from the spoked ceiling.The 233-foot long by 22-feet wide bridges run parallel to the court or ice. Their over-the-top location gives you a bird's-eye view of the New York Knicks or Rangers games 50 feet below.

"This is [the] most unique seat you can get for sports or entertainment—anywhere," Ratner said.

With the Garden unveiling its Bridge Seats, we compiled a must-see top 10 list of seats/suites that are not necessarily the most expensive, but some provide a view you've never seen before while others enable you to see and be seen—with the movers and shakers of Wall Street, Hollywood and sports.

So put them on your bucket List. Use them to entertain your best client. Or reward your best employees.

Agree with CNBC's picks? Disagree? Want to nominate some of your own? Sound off in comments below.

—By Michael McCarthy, Special to CNBC
Post 12 Nov. 2013

Michael McCarthy covers sports business for Advertising Age in New York. He's been a sportswriter for USA TODAY, Newsday, NFL and SportsBizUSA. Follow him on Twitter @MMcCarthyREV.

NY Knicks/Rangers (NBA/NHL): Chase Bridge seats

Seating at the newly renovated Madison Square Garden.
Photo: Rebecca Taylor | MSG Photos.

Price: $110 to $210

Where: Madison Square Garden, New York

When: 41 home games per regular season for each club, not counting the preseason or playoff games.

What: 430 seats on two Chase Bridges weighing 330 tons apiece.

Why: How about a view you've never seen in the 45-year history of the current Garden. The viewing angle from the front row of the Bridge seats is a much steeper—43 degrees versus 22 degrees from the front row of the upper bowl. There are two rows, with bar stool seats behind them.

How: On sale for the 2013-2014 season. Because of the novelty, they're being "snapped up quickly," Ratner said.

Inside tip: Even if you don't have seats, you can walk the bridges, which were inspired by the many suspension bridges linking New York City. You get a view of the court or ice on one side; upper bowl fans on the other.

Boston Red Sox (MLB): Green Monster seats

View from the Green Monster seats in Fenway Park, Boston.
Kayana Szymczak | The Boston Globe | Getty Images

Price: $165

Where: Fenway Park, Boston

When: 81 home regular-season games per season, not counting the preseason or playoffs.

What: 274 seats in three rows atop Fenway's famous 37-foot high, 231-foot long left-field wall.

Why: Home run heaven. Hear the "crack" as line drives bounce off the Monster. You're on top of history at MLB's oldest ballpark. Check out the foul pole that Red Sox catcher Carlton Fisk drilled a home run off of to win Game 6 of the 1975 World Series. The team's innovative design of individual stools with bar rails has been widely copied. One drawback: balls hit to the base of the wall are out of view.

How: So popular, the Red Sox hold a lottery every year. Best bet: online ticket brokers.

Inside tip: Arrive early for batting practice, when players tattoo the Monster seats with home runs. Don't reach over the wall for long balls—its four stories straight down. Be careful about calling in sick to work because you're likely to end up on TV.

US Open (tennis): Courtside box seats/luxury suites

Leonardo DiCaprio and Queen Sofia of Spain attend the men's singles final match between Novak Djokovic of Serbia and Rafael Nadal at the 2013 US Open.
Getty Images

Prices: $750 to 800 for seats; $80,000 for suites

Where: Arthur Ashe Stadium, Queens, N.Y.

When: Aug. 25 to Sept. 8, 2014

What: 90 luxury suites (seating 20 guests). Courtside box seats along baselines.

How: Celebs and corporate power players prefer either the lowest luxury suites or courtside box seats on the baselines (so they don't have to turn their heads). Suites cost $225,000 to $250,000 for the tournament. You pay for catering.

Included: Access to two private restaurants: Champions Bar & Grill and Aces. Sponsors such as American Express, Mercedes-Benz and Moet & Chandon get most of the suites. Nonsponsors buy suites for the length of the tournament.

Why: It's the grand slam of people watching. At this year's men's finals, Hollywood A-listers Sean Connery, Leonardo DiCaprio, Jessica Biel, Justin Timberlake and Kevin Spacey were in the house with Donald Trump, David Beckham, Martha Stewart, Anna Wintour and Queen Sofia of Spain.

"It's like famous people watching famous people. It's a scene," said USTA spokesman Chris Widmaier. "It's international—but it's so New York at the same time."

Inside tip: The USTA holds back eight to 10 of the 90 luxury suites and "sells them on a one-off basis," Widmaier said. If available, you may be able to rent a suite for the men's or women's finals. The price: $80,0000.

Brooklyn Nets (NBA): Vault suites

Brooklyn Nets Vault Suites at Barclays Center.
Photo: Melanie Fidler

Price: Rentals for $5,000 to $25,000 per event.

Where: Barclays Center, Brooklyn, N.Y.

When: 41 regular-season home games per season, not counting the preseason or playoffs.

What: 11 exclusive Vault suites inspired by the rapper Jay-Z.

Why: The Vault suites have become an exclusive nightspot in the new hipster capital of Brooklyn. The roughly 300-square-foot suites open on to a private 2,400-square-foot club space featuring an Armand de Brignac Champagne bar. That's where celebs such as Magic Johnson and New York Jets quarterback Geno Smith hang out.

The cross between a nightclub and luxury suite makes it an "incredible networking environment," said Barclays Center CEO Brett Yormark. "If you're a company that wants to impress, putting a potential customer into a really great environment like this creates value in your relationship."

Included: Eight seats in first 10 rows of the lower bowl; personal concierge; VIP entrance. Every long-term suite holder also gets access to the Barclays Center Business Alliance networking group.

How: Since opening last year, Barclays has sold nine Vault suites for $650,000 a year under three, five, seven and 10-year lease deals. But Barclays offers limited nightly rentals on two suites for $5,000 to $25,000 depending on the Nets opponent or concert, Yormark said.

Inside tip: Best time to make the scene is at halftime rather than pre or post game. That's when DJs spin tunes and a Who's Who of beautiful people sip champagne.

LA Lakers/NY Knicks (NBA): Courtside seats

Jack Nicholson court side at L.A. Lakers game (L) and Spike Lee court side at Madison Square Gardens.
Getty Images

Price: Lakers ($2,800)/Knicks ($3,700).

Where: Staples Center, Los Angeles/Madison Square Garden, New York

When: 41 home games per regular season, not counting the preseason or playoffs.

What: Lakers: 124 courtside seats/Knicks: 145 courtside seats.

Why: Arguably the most famous seats in sports. Where else can you rub elbows with Jack Nicholson and Spike Lee? Nothing comes closer, or more intimate, than NBA floor seats where LeBron James can come flying into your lap. Like everything else, "beachfront property is the most expensive," noted Lakers spokesman John Black.

How: There's the rub. Sold out to power players such as DreamWorks' Jeffrey Katzenberg. Go through ticket brokers. Price varies depending on opponent. Figure $10,000 to $15,000 a pop to watch Kobe Bryant's Lakers host "King James" and his NBA champion Miami Heat this Christmas Day.

Inside tip: Don't be fooled. Many floor seats on the twin celebrity rows are owned by companies that give them to celebs. Businessman Steven Jackson is the Lakers' biggest floor seat holder with eight tickets per game. So working your Rolodex might be best chance to high-five Kobe or Carmelo Anthony.


Seattle Seahawks (NFL): Sideline seats

Seattle Seahawks Field Seats
Source: Seattle Seahawks

Price: Online auction with minimum bid of $1,000.

Where: CenturyLink Field, Seattle

When: Started Oct. 13. The 9-1 Super Bowl contenders have four regular season home games left.

What: 12 lounge chairs and tables in the northeast corner, near players, coaches and cheerleaders.

Why: The "Seahawks Sideline Experience" gets you as up close and personal as you can get to the NFL without getting hit.

Included: Field access; complimentary food, beverages and parking; and personal wait staff. "It's like a suite experience but you're literally on the field," said Seahawks spokeswoman Suzanne Lavender.

How: Bid at the Seahawks' auction site. Minimum offer: $1,000 per seat.

Inside Tip: If you like the other kind of football, Major League Soccer's Seattle Sounders offer a sideline dinner for four alongside the pitch for a more reasonable price: $1,000 to $1,400. Deal includes: food and beverages; wait staff; private entrance; and an on-field photo.

Waste Management (PGA): Corporate skyboxes, 16th hole

Price: Between $43,000 and $50,000 for the tournament.

Where: TPC Scottsdale, Phoenix

When: Waste Management Phoenix Open, Jan. 30 to Feb. 2, 2014.

What: 192 corporate skyboxes ringing the 16th hole, including 20 new ones next year.

Why: Closest thing to a rowdy frat party on the staid PGA Tour. The unassuming 162-yard, par 3 doesn't look like much. But ever since a young Tiger Woods scored a hole in one here in 1999, the 16th's party-hearty atmosphere has grown, said the tournament's chairman, Tom King.

There are so many skyboxes, the hole looks like a racetrack. The 16th is where the madcap tradition of caddies racing each other to the green began (with many of the well-oiled 20,000 spectators betting on the results). Sorry folks: The PGA banned caddie races for 2014.

How: The $43,000 Skybox for the tournament comes with 34 admission badges, plus, food, booze, programs, etc. The $50,000 skybox comes with 40 badges a day, plus food, booze, programs etc. Skybox holders include: Coors Light, GoDaddy and the tournament's sponsor, Waste Management. Corporate sponsors get them for the entire week of the tournament. The waiting list is two years long; 40 companies deep.

Inside Tip: Buy a $30 general admission ticket and sprint through the tunnel to the open-seating area next to the tee box. That's where Phil Mickelson fans, or "Phil's Crew," talk smack to golfers about their girlfriends, their education, you name it. "It's like entering a gladiator's arena," said King. "It's unbelievable what these kids come up with."

Dallas Cowboys (NFL) luxury suites

Dallas Cowboys field level suites.
Photo: Blake Marvin | HKS courtesy Dallas Cowboys.

Price: Rent for $20,000 to $35,000 per game.

Where: AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas

When: The 5-5 Cowboys have three regular-season home games left.

What: The Cowboys offer more than 300 luxury suites across five levels, said team spokesman Brett Daniels. The catch? You have to pay $100,000 to $500,000 annually, under 20-year lease deals. But America's Team offers so many suites that there's always some available for rental.

Our picks: The "Field Level" suites (a few feet from the players, coaches and cheerleaders) and "Hall of Fame" suites 20 rows up where owner Jerry Jones keeps his box.

Why: Sunk 6 inches below the field, Field Suites give you a sideline pass experience. But they're not as exclusive, or expensive, as the "Hall of Fame" suites. That's where the heavy hitters hang on the same level as Jones. "With the Hall of Fames suites, you have a great view of Dez Bryant running into the end zone for a touchdown. If you have a Field Level suite in that end zone, he's running right up to your suite, high-fiving you on the sideline, then running back out and spiking the ball," said Daniels.

Keep an eye out for famous Cowboys fans such as LeBron James, President George W. Bush and country singer Kenny Chesney. Included: complimentary parking and VIP entrances.

How: Corporate sponsors such as AT&T, Ford and Bank of America own many of the suites.

Insider's Tip: Don't want to commit to a 20-year lease? Rent unused boxes per game from the Suite Experience Group—the equivalent of StubHub for luxury boxes. Figure around $20,000 for a Field Level suite; $30,000 to $35,000 for Hall of Fame box, says Suite Experience President Scott Spencer. It's nothing for Las Vegas casinos to fly their biggest whales on a Gulfstream jet to Dallas for the day and entertain them in a Hall of Fame box. "Being in a suite at Cowboys Stadium is seen as the place to watch the game," Spencer said. "Jerry World is synonymous with luxury suites."

NASCAR: Monster Bridge

Monster Bridge Seats at Dover Motorsports.
Image source: Dover Motorsports, Inc.

Price: $2,500 and up

Where: Dover International Raceway, Dover, Del.

When: Two race weekends in the spring and fall.

What: 56 seats; 29 feet over the track. Includes: Open bar; appetizers; access to in-car video/driver communications.

Why: NASCAR spectators typically get a side view. Instead, you see the cars coming straight at you as they enter Turn 3 of the Monster Mile. The bridge rumbles as drivers like Dale Earnhardt Jr. roar beneath your feet at 160 mph. The effect is a "Jurassic Park"-like 3-D experience, says Dover spokesman Gary Camp. "When 43 cars come under that thing to start a race, it's pretty neat."

How: Not for sale. Dover gives them to contest winners and celebs such as ex-wrestlers Hulk Hogan and Ric Flair. But business is business. If you call the track directly, the seats can be had for around $2,500, Camp says.

Inside Tip: Check for signatures of winning drivers on seats. Jimmie Johnson, who's won eight times here in his No. 48 car, signed seat 48.

Minnesota Wild/Boston Bruins (NHL): Elite seats

Choice seats between the hockey benches at a Minnesota Wild's game against the Philadelphia Flyers.
Photo: Bruce Kluckhon | Minnesota Wild

Price: Wild: Four seats starting at $3,200 for whole game. Bruins: Four seats starting at $1,400 for one period.

Where: Xcel Energy Center, Saint Paul, Minn./TD Garden, Boston

When: Each NHL club plays 41 homes games per regular season.

What: The Wild call them "Elite Seats." The Bruins call them "Bench Seats." They're same thing. Both NHL clubs have turned the old glassed-in, photographer pit in between player benches into four-seat boxes.

Why: Seats are directly between the benches of the home and visiting teams. You have the same vantage point of NBC Sports "Inside the Glass" analyst Pierre McGuire. You can hear the players and coaches. When the curses start flying between teams, you're right in the middle.

How: Not available for every game. Prices vary depending on opponent.

Inside tip: Visit the restroom beforehand. These seats sometimes require you to remain inside the glass box for an entire period since you enter and exit through the player benches.

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