Personally, I was thrilled when the Big Ten announced its plans to begin hosting Super Saturday at Madison Square Garden for the 2015-16 basketball and hockey seasons. Not only was my favorite conference coming to play in my local city, but my cute, cuddly Nittany Lions would be featured in the first ever two-sport spectacle in the Big Ten’s new favorite city.
Jim Delany’s newfound love of New York City isn’t great for everyone. For most fans out there, when a game moves to the east coast, that means that it’s much more difficult to attend. However, events like Super Saturday and the upcoming Big Ten Men’s Basketball Tournament are a real treat for fans and alumni who live far away from the league’s Midwestern headquarters.
Location, location, location
Plus, for those willing to make the schlep, there’s a lot of stuff to do in New York. And I know from experience that the cold weather doesn’t keep tourists away. Besides, winter in the city that never sleeps probably feels more like spring to a Minnesota or Wisconsin fan.
Unlike other New York venues like MetLife Stadium, Yankee Stadium, and Shea Stadium, MSG is right in the middle of Manhattan and surrounded by more food and entertainment options than you can shake a stick at. That makes it the perfect venue to host big events like Super Saturday and the Big Ten Tournament that feature a few hours of downtime in between sessions. Instead of heading back to the hotel, fans can hit up their local alumni bar or enjoy Rockefeller Center when it’s not completely jammed for the holidays.
Inside the Garden
The location of the Garden is certainly the biggest draw for the Big Ten, but the interior is appealing in its own right. Fans who have watched the old Big East Tournament in years past know about the mystique of the arena and how well-suited it is for big games. What you don’t get from television is how the building feels both historic and contemporary at the same time.
Thanks to recent renovations, the seating, concourses, and scoreboards have been updated so that it doesn’t feel like you’re watching a game in an old gym. However, MSG’s famous flat ceiling and the outstanding event presentation stand as a reminder that you’re in a special arena.
From living in the New York area for most of my life, I’m biased towards the Garden, and I haven’t been able to compare it to state-of-the-art arenas from across the country. Just from being in a few other arenas, though, I’m confident that MSG’s mix of location, coziness, and modernity makes it one of the best places to watch a basketball or hockey game.
Is this going to be a thing now?
Does that mean that the Big Ten should have more big events outside of Indianapolis, Chicago, and other conventional Midwestern hubs? Now that the conference’s footprint is so wide, it’s a good idea to spread the wealth a little bit so that fans from all over can get in on the fun.
At the same time, that’s no excuse to move the Big Ten Tournament up a week or start playing league games in December. Bending over backwards to squeeze a few games into Madison Square Garden makes the Big Ten look a little desperate for attention. The conference might have been better off waiting for the Big East’s deal to expire or checking on the availability of the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
Philadelphia is another interesting option that easy for alumni from New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Maryland to get to, but that city lacks a premier downtown venue. Either way, with the Tournament returning to the Midwest for four years, there shouldn’t have been a big rush to get into Manhattan. Waiting a little while or going for an alternative east coast option would have been more graceful.
Some fans might say that it’s all about the money, but it’s hard to imagine the Big Ten profiting on an arrangement that keeps the Big Ten Tournament off of ESPN and CBS. That might be the biggest reason for the conference to think twice about coming to Madison Square Garden again, but Super Saturday remains a great way to break up the routine in the middle of the basketball and hockey seasons while at the same time allowing east coast alumni a chance to relive the college days.