MSG’s notorious ‘Blue Seats’ return Friday as NY Knicks take on LeBron James

Sometimes they do things in sports so stupid, they make you shake your head. Sometimes they do things so logical and overdue you can only ask: what took you so long?

Madison Square Garden is smartly bringing back its fabled “Blue Seats” to the upper seating bowl of the World’s Most Famous Arena when the New York Knicks take on LeBron James and the NBA champions Miami Heat Friday night.

The denizens of MSG’s old blue seats were the arena equivalent of the Bleacher Bums at the Chicago Cubs’ Wrigley Field, the Dog Pound of the Cleveland Browns or the Bleacher Creatures of the New York Yankees’ old and new Yankees Stadium.

They were the most loyal fans for the Knicks and New York Rangers, the loudest, the most raucous. Sometimes they got out of hand with the vulgar chants they directed at rival players and teams.

Their whistling “Potvin Sucks!” chant aimed at Dennis Potvin of the rival New York Islanders is still a signature at Rangers home games — even though Islanders captain retired in 1988. It’s now a way for fans to have fun, show unity or express their frustration.

If they weren’t going after the rival players, the Blue Seaters liked to make fun of the Beautiful People and Wall Streeters in the Garden’s Red, or most expensive seats, many of whom only showed up at playoff time.

They made the Garden a hostile, difficult place for teams to play in. As a phenomenon created by and for fans, the Blue Seats provided the kind of grass roots PR money can’t buy.

(Photo: Remodeled Madison Square Garden will feature wider concourses. Photos courtesy of MSG)

The old blue seats disappeared when the Garden foolishly got rid of its old Red-Yellow-Green-Blue seating configuration. Many Blue Seaters remained loyal. But it wasn’t the same.

Now under Phase II of the Garden’s 3-year, $850 million, inside-out transformation, MSG president Hank Ratner is bringing the Blue Seats back Friday night. He said the Garden conferred with New York natives (and former Blue Seaters) such as director Spike Lee and sportscaster Al Trautwig of the MSG Network and NBC Sports get the color just right.

During research, fans asked MSG and over: when are you bringing back the Blue Seats? Ratner’s nicknamed them “Barry’s Blues” for Brooklyn native turned longtime Garden PR director Barry Watkins, who fought for years to bring them back.

“This is simply paying tribute to our past. Something we heard from our fans. There was a longing for nostalgia for the Blue Seats by the people who grew up here, people who sat in these seats,” Ratner says. “This is the only section really where the seats are different from the rest of the bowl. They were brought back to pay tribute to the people who’ve been going to the Garden forever and continue to come.”

Meanwhile, Lexus has signed on as sponsor of the Garden’s new Madison Suite Level. That’s another savvy move. The new luxury suites will be filled with a Who’s Who’s of high rollers and Fortune 500 customers. Located only 23 rows up, they’ll be the best seats in the house outside of the 20 Event Level luxury suites that opened near the playing surface last year. Tissot Watches and Kia Motors are also on board as MSG sponsors.

The remodeled Garden will thankfully feature wider concourses and better bathrooms than the dingy hallways of the old building that dated to 1967. There will also be a “Madison Club” for the high rollers from the Madison Suites. But the Garden will only be new from the inside out. MSG is keeping the circular exterior and finished, spoked ceiling that’s always made the arena a favorite of singers and entertainers.

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