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Have TD Garden’s seats gotten smaller? It’s a tight question for fans

A worker cleaned a newly renovated section of TD Garden last month. Officials say average seat size hasn’t changed. Lane Turner/Globe Staff/Globe Staff

From the moment he took his seat ahead of a Bruins’ preseason game at TD Garden last month, Joe Russo knew something was amiss.

An avid fan, the 25-year-old Brighton resident has sat through plenty of games, but this time something felt . . . different. He shifted in his seat. He shifted again. He tried — unsuccessfully — to get comfortable.

“I couldn’t exactly put my finger on it,” said Russo, who stands 5 feet 9 inches tall “on a good day.” “And then my buddy next to me goes, ‘These seats are way tighter, don’t you think?’ ”

As the 3-1 Bruins return to TD Garden for Saturday night’s home opener against the New Jersey Devils — the team’s first regular season game in the venue since last year’s Stanley Cup Finals — a normally joyous occasion has been overshadowed by a roiling controversy concerning fans and their fannies.


The replacement earlier this year of seats throughout the arena — as well as the addition of 500 new spots — has left many fuming over the suddenly cramped quarters. In recent days, countless fans have voiced their seat-size-related frustrations, filling social media with complaints about discomfort and nonexistent legroom and, in some cases, threatening to boycott the Garden altogether.

“I expect it when I fly on Spirit Airlines,” said Dan Rosa of Lexington, a clinical psychologist and Bruins season-ticket holder for more than 25 years. “I don’t expect it when I go to the Garden.”

In a statement this week, TD Garden president Amy Latimer said venue officials were aware of the backlash and would be addressing the issue — though she offered little in the way of specifics.

“We are evaluating the situation with our seating installation and architect partners and we are implementing both immediate and phased-approach solutions,” Latimer said. “We will make this right for our guests.”


When TD Garden officials first unveiled the $100 million “Legendary Transformation” renovation project last year, it was billed as a move that would “redefine” the fan experience “for generations to come.”

Among the changes touted by officials were the construction of a communal party deck, concourse expansion, and increased parking.

“All seating in the arena bowl . . . has been replaced and upgraded with modern, ergonomic seating,” Garden officials added in a September update on the project.

In the upper deck, commonly known as the balcony, renovations began last spring. Since then, both lower-level and club seats have also been replaced.

In an e-mail to the Globe, Garden spokeswoman Tricia McCorkle said that while some seats did change in size, the arena’s average seat size — the measurement from mid-armrest to mid-armrest — remains 19.1 inches, the same as last season. What’s more, the loge and balcony sections have increased by less than 20 seats total, she said; the rest is part of new seating areas on the eighth and ninth floors.

Unlike last year, however, all of the new seats feature cushioning on the seat and back, as well as a new armrest design and increased seat-back height that McCorkle said “may contribute to a smaller seat feel for guests.”

Seats throughout the arena were replaced this year — leading to a social media backlash.Lane Turner/Globe Staff/Globe Staff

Still, fans have painted a grim picture.

During Game 7 of last season’s Stanley Cup Finals, Rosa said, a man in his row in Section 317 of the balcony was forced to stand for half the game next to his aisle seat, too uncomfortable to sit for long stretches. Some fans have taken to sitting atop their seats instead of in them, in an effort to create a few more inches of space.


“It doesn’t give anybody a good taste in their mouth,” said Michele Michaud Kinchla of Canton, who, along with her husband, has been a Bruins season-ticket holder for five years.

The Garden’s addition of seating goes against the recent trend in stadium and arena renovations, said Rafi Kohan, author of “The Arena: Inside the Tailgating, Ticket-Scalping, Mascot-Racing, Dubiously Funded, and Possibly Haunted Monuments of American Sport.”

As professional sports franchises find themselves competing increasingly with other forms of entertainment for fan interest, many are “acknowledging the reality of how hard it is to get fans through the door,” he said.

Even in large markets such as Boston, Kohan said, where additional seating is likely to be supported by demand, there is a limit to how tight fans are willing to go.

“Is that extra profit worth however many people are going to be super [angry] and whatever the consequences of that anger is?” he asked. “We’re pretty resilient as sports fans, and we take a lot of crap. But I think eventually there is a breaking point.”

Indeed, already there have been signs of trouble.

A handful of longtime Bruins fans who spoke to the Globe said they were considering discontinuing their season tickets — citing both the discomfort of the new seats and feelings of betrayal on the part of arena and team officials.


“I just don’t get why they’d do that to loyal season-ticket holders that have been there for years,” said Matt Cahill, a Bruins regular for the past 10 years.

With both the Bruins and Celtics seasons soon to be underway, it’s not entirely clear how the Garden — controlled by Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs — plans to deal with the complaints, which are so far coming largely from hockey fans.

According to McCorkle, the Garden spokeswoman, the arena has already begun altering the angle of some seats in the most affected areas in an effort to improve legroom — though some disgruntled fans have called for a return to the old seats or pricing more consistent with the less-than-roomy accommodations.

“You’re spending more money, but you’re getting a smaller seat,” said Lisa Davis, a former Bruins season-ticket holder from Maine.

In the meantime, fans have been left to experiment with more outside-the-seat solutions to making their game-day experience a little more comfortable.

The good news for Rosa, as he prepares for another season in the balcony?

“I lost 30 pounds since the end of last season.”

Dugan Arnett can be reached at dugan.arnett@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @duganarnett.