NEW YORK — Madison Square Garden, the world's most famous arena, is going dark for the summer — and top acts like Sade, Britney Spears and Taylor Swift are having to perform on the outskirts of the Big Apple as the renowned venue prepares for a long-term makeover.
MSG will spend the next three summers reconstructing its arena. That's good news for New Jersey venues like the Prudential Center and IZOD Center, which are experiencing an increase in high-profile performers as a result. Even Long Island's Nassau Coliseum is getting a small boost.
"MSG is the busiest arena and has been the busiest arena that I've seen in the States ... and anytime you take out that supply, especially if you have an increase in demand, it's going benefit the Prudential Center, and certainly we expect that to be the case," said Jeff Vanderbeek, who owns the Prudential Center in Newark.
It's a busy summer for top musical acts: Backstreet Boys and New Kids on the Block are on the road together, the cast of "American Idol" and "Glee" are performing live and hitmakers like Katy Perry and Rihanna — accompanied by Cee Lo Green — have tours.
"This summer as far as I can tell, with or without MSG being shut down, it's going to be a busy summer with more acts wanting to play in arenas," Vanderbeek continued.
"2009 was a fairly light concert year," said Jim Minish, executive vice president of facilities at the IZOD Center. "There weren't that many bands out or bands couldn't sell arenas. There seems to be a lot more acts this year that are able to play arena venues."
Prudential is located about 10 miles outside of New York. Vanderbeek, who also owns hockey's New Jersey Devils, says he knew that the building would be busy this summer with the growing popularity of his venue, which is also housing this week's NBA draft, typically held at MSG.
IZOD, located in East Rutherford, N.J., is also getting a boost thanks to MSG's construction.
"We normally do a good number of concerts at IZOD Center, but I would say this year is probably a handful more that we've gotten from now through October," said Minish.
Both Vanderbeek and Minish say that commuting to New Jersey from New York is a breeze, though most ticketholders aren't initially convinced.
"People are shocked at how easy it is," Vanderbeek said.
MSG — which has billed their reconstruction as the "Transformation" — plans to upgrade its entrance, seating, lighting, sound and video; it will also add more bathrooms, suites, lockers, food options and "a new star dressing room."
A representative for MSG said the venue has been in touch with artists and promoters about its construction schedule; the venue will resume its concerts in October.
Gary Bongiovanni, the president and editor-in-chief of concert trade magazine Pollstar, said sports is a priority for MSG, and avoiding construction during the basketball and hockey seasons — when ticketholders have purchased season passes — is why construction is happening during the summer months.
Bongiovanni also said that MSG is a venue known to charge artists a hefty price to play there, and that performing in New Jersey could mean a larger profit for artists.
"It is known as a very expensive building to play ... which in general is true in most New York venues," he said.
MSG's concerts can house up to 20,000 people; IZOD matches that, while Prudential can hold up to 19,500 and for Nassau about 18,000 seats.
This year marks a unique time for some artists and MSG: Sade, who hasn't been on the road since 2001, is back after releasing a platinum-selling album last year. But fans won't get a chance to see the soul band play at one of the world's most famed arenas. The growing popularity of Fox TV show "Glee" has helped the cast land larger tour stops compared to its concert stint last year, and they have performed in other arenas, but can't do so in New York City.
"We would have performed at Madison Square Garden," said "Glee's" Cory Monteith.. "We sold out the Staples' Center twice in a day, which is about the same size and (MSG is) under construction, so I'm sure that's why we didn't go."
Venues like Prudential and IZOD are having some acts at their venues for the first time, and more importantly, the venues see it as an opportunity to get artists coming back. Vanderbeek says that's the case with Swift, who performed at Prudential twice last year and will perform there four times next month.
"She loved the building," Vanderbeek said. "So I think it's a testimony to New Jersey, to the building and certainly to Taylor Swift."
Mesfin Fekadu can be reached at http://twitter.com/musicmesfin
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