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'Blue seats' return to Madison Square Garden's upper tier

A look inside Madison Square Garden as it

A look inside Madison Square Garden as it is being renovated in the summer and fall of 2012. Credit: Madison Square Garden

When the oldest team in the NBA takes the floor Nov. 2, it will find itself in what essentially is a new arena.

That was the goal when Madison Square Garden officials began a massive renovation -- they prefer the term "transformation" -- of the facility last year, and now it is closer than ever to coming true.

"You walk in here and you're in a brand-new building inside the iconic exterior of Madison Square Garden," Hank Ratner, the Garden's president and CEO, said Saturday during a tour for journalists.

Around him, workers were assembling hockey boards, but the Rangers' scheduled Nov. 1 home opener against the Stars is imperiled by the NHL lockout. More likely, the next event at the Garden will be Heat-Knicks on Nov. 2.

The second phase of the three-year project has focused on the upper bowl, which has been rebuilt 17 percent steeper than its predecessor, improving sight lines.

The new angle also created space under the upper bowl for an improved eighth-floor concourse and allowed for construction of 58 "Madison suites," all but four of which have been sold.

As a nod to fans who recall the Garden of the pre-early-1990s renovation, about 1,000 bright "blue seats" have been added that are the precise hue of the famously cheap and raucous upper section of old.

Next summer's work will include a new lobby and perhaps the most talked-about feature of all -- the "bridges" that will span the arena ceiling, providing additional seating from a unique vantage point.

The bill is expected to come to about $1 billion, some of that paid for by raises in Knicks and Rangers ticket prices. But Ratner said the arena, which opened in 1968, had to be updated.

"We did have a 1960s building, which often was thought of as the best arena in the world, but the amenities were 40, 50 years old," he said. "It's a difficult project, three years in the making, summer shutdowns, but you look at the result and we're happy."

Andariese leaves radio

John Andariese, who first served as a radio analyst for the Knicks in 1972, announced Friday that he will leave the team's radio team.

He will be succeeded by Brendan Brown, who worked a limited number of games last season. His father, Hubie, is a former Knicks coach.

Andariese served as MSG's Knicks television analyst from 1986-87 to 1997-98. He cited a desire to spend more time with his family, including his wife, Maureen, three daughters and four grandchildren.

In a statement released by MSG, Andariese thanked the fans, saying, "I'm pleased beyond words to have been able to share my enthusiasm and passion for Knicks basketball with them. I'll miss you all."

The Dolan family owns

controlling interest in the

Knicks, Rangers, Madison Square Garden and Cablevision.

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