The Garden, home to the Bruins and Celtics, underwent a major renovation this summer that promised to “redefine” the fan experience. I suppose that’s one way to put what actually happened: To make more money, the arena crammed in hundreds of additional seats, and fans’ knees are suffering for it.
All seats, according to Delaware North, the company that owns and operates the Garden, have been “replaced and upgraded with modern, ergonomic seating.” (Delaware North is run by Jeremy Jacobs, the owner of the Bruins, and his family.) Preseason action gave fans their first peek at what ergonomic actually meant:
Awful! With the Bruins’ home opener Saturday night came a flood of photos showing just how cramped the seats are—even in the more expensive sections:
Arena spokesperson Tricia McCorkle was incredibly disingenuous in her attempt to assure fans that they’re mostly just imagining their leg cramps and knee bruises. McCorkle insisted to the Globe that the arena’s average seat size hasn’t changed—which might matter if that had anything to do with legroom, which it doesn’t; the arena measures “seat size” by width, armrest-to-armrest.
McCorkle also chalked fans’ complaints up to the fact that the seats are now padded—they’re actually more comfortable now, you see—which, she acknowledged, “may contribute to a smaller seat feel for guests.”
Let’s be clear what’s going on here: the Garden added 500 new seats not to improve the fan experience, but to make money: tens of thousands of dollars in additional revenue for every game. It did so knowing it would make the fan experience that much worse.
The modern stadium industry, much like the airlines, walks a tightrope in balancing just how miserable and uncomfortable it can afford to make fans before they start to stay away altogether. The Garden may have crossed that line, as fans have clogged social media with their complaints, even threats of boycott. That appears to have spooked the Garden, which in a statement earlier this week, said “we recognize there are some areas of concern and have re-engaged our industry seating experts to evaluate and provide assessment.”
So if you’re a Bruins or Celtics fan who believes you deserve better than to spend an entire game in discomfort or agony, your strongest weapon here is to vote with your wallet, or, failing that, to tweet a photo of your knees.