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Fans appreciate open feel of Hawks’ new home

From the outside, the Atlanta Hawks’ arena may look about the same. 

But inside is a completely different story. Just ask BJ Woods of Powder Springs.

“You walk in here and it feels brand new,” said a smiling Woods. “It’s open. It’s spacious. It’s fresh.”

Woods, his wife, Marleny, and their son Austin, who is 20, visited State Farm Arena during the open house on Saturday, among the first to arrive to check out the Hawks’ new home. 

“We toured it all, and everything is so aesthetically pleasing from the re-purposed wood to the new furniture, and it’s so beautiful,” said Woods.

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Meanwhile, his wife was also thrilled to see a new, wide variety of dining options including Atlanta’s own Little Italy with Antico Pizza. Other options nearby included lemon chicken with potato wedges, and a gelato shop.

BJ Woods, his wife, Marleny, and their son Austin, who is 20, do some shopping before game. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM

The Hawks organization unveiled its renovated and renamed home — formerly Philips Arena, now State Farm Arena — to the fans for their first game in their remade arena Wednesday night against the Dallas Mavericks

The game event marks the arena’s grand (re)opening after being closed for the past six months for the last and largest phase of its $200 million extreme makeover. 

The overarching result is a more connected, more open, more exciting place to be. 

The six-story stack of suites on one side of the court has been replaced with two levels of reimagined suites, new upper-deck seating and party space featuring a Topgolf simulator. On the other side of the court, substantial structural work allowed the creation of a unique premium space called Atlanta Social, which is outfitted with plush chairs, couches and cabanas. 

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Bright red T-shirts that read, “Tomorrow Starts Today” rested in each chair Wednesday night. Fans also received wristbands that lit up when the Hawks scored. 

“Very impressive,” said Kevin Slocum of Decatur, who echoing a common sentiment, added, “it has a more open feel. It’s more communal.”

Slocum, a long-time season-ticket holder, arrived well ahead of time, with his father, Louis Slocum, who lives in Dacula. They enjoyed a burger and beer before the game.

“Fans in Atlanta are picky,” he said. “They want a good product on the floor or something very entertaining to do. They want a cool place to go, a place with a club like atmosphere.”

Meanwhile, Slocum, said he’s a true fan through good times and bad.

“We are in rebuild,” he said. “Even though they will lose a lot of games, they will be exciting to watch, and we will be watching.” 

The transformation of Philips Arena into State Farm Arena completes the construction boom that has permeated Atlanta sports in recent years. Last year, the Braves opened SunTrust Park, while the Falcons and Atlanta United opened Mercedes-Benz Stadium. 

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All around the arena, video boards have multiplied, with large new screens in each corner and a massive new center-hung board above the court. Three new premium clubs have been built, as well as new restaurants, new concession stands and even a barber shop (Killer Mike’s Swag Shop). Open perches along the reconfigured 360-degree concourses provide ample spots for standing and socializing with a view of the game. 

As with the new Braves and Falcons stadiums, the Hawks arena features a wealth of premium spaces designed to appeal to well-heeled fans (and often businesses) and increase team revenue. The number of suites was reduced from 90 to 40 because the Hawks previously had more than they could sell. But the number of premium seats, defined as those with amenities attached, stayed roughly the same at 3,800. 

The center-hung board, weighing 85,000 pounds and measuring 4,500 square feet of screens, is the third largest in the NBA. The four-sided board includes continuous screens of approximately 43 feet wide by 28 feet high facing each sideline and 38 feet wide by 28 feet high facing each baseline. 

October 24, 2018 Atlanta - Atlanta Hawks dance team members perform outside State Farm Arena before the home opener against the Dallas Mavericks in an NBA basketball game on Tuesday, October 20, 2018. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM (HYOSUB SHIN / AJC)

Meanwhile, the Woods family, sitting in Section 111, put on their matching red T-shirts waiting for them in their seats, and settled in for the game. BJ Woods, a long-time Hawks fan, said he felt like the openness of the arena would help amplify the fan watching experience.

Son Austin, however was eager for the game to get started.

“The amenities are nice, but what I am most interested in? What’s happening on the court.”

— Tim Tucker contributed to this article. 

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