The Atlanta Hawks may be staying put in their longtime home at Philips Arena, but that doesn’t mean the facility won’t be changing.
Over the next 18 months, Philips, which is also home to the Atlanta Dream women’s basketball team, will undergo a top to bottom gutting that officials say will make the almost 20-year-old facility feel like it was built yesterday.
At Wednesday afternoon’s press conference announcing the plans, Mayor Kasim Reed said the renovations are laying the groundwork for redevelopment that will touch the nearby Gulch and other parts of downtown. The Hawks, the city and CIM Group are collaborating on an “entertainment district” near Philips that could cost more than $1 billion. CIM is headed by Richard Ressler, who is the brother of Tony Ressler, majority owner of the Hawks.
“Ladies and gentlemen, this announcement is big today, it’s bold today,” Reed said. “But I want to let you know we are just getting started.”
New features at Philips will include a scoreboard that is more than three times the size of the one that currently hangs over center court, a courtside bar almost close enough for patrons to shoot a three-pointer, and a conference center big enough to help Philips compete as a small convention facility.
Gone will be the six levels of suites that blanket the west side of the interior. They’ll be replaced by general seating and smaller suites in an attempt to open up views of the facility and increase interaction among fans.
“We looked at our customers, and they are young millennials who occupy a digital world and want a social experience,” said Steve Koonin, CEO of the Atlanta Hawks Basketball Club. “With this renovation, we are trying to anticipate their future needs.”
The renovation, which will be completed during the 2018-2019 season around the Hawks 50th anniversary, will cost about $192.5 million. Much of that — $142.5 million — will come from combination of funds from Atlanta car rental taxes, proceeds from the sale of Turner Field and bond issuances. The Hawks will invest $50 million.
To help differentiate Philips from the pack, Atlanta rapper Killer Mike will open his Swag Shop barber franchise in the building, the only sports facility to have the burgeoning chain. Dallas-based Topgolf will bring its news Swing Suite simulator to arena for golf fans in need of a fix before a game or after a concert.
And musician Zac Brown will open a Philip’s location of his southern gourmet southern-style restaurant Zac Brown’s Social Club, complete with live music.
“Philips is a perfect complement to Topgolf because we’re really about sports entertainment,” said Ron Powers, president of Topgolf Swing Suites. “Topgolf is popular with those who are avid golfers as well as those who aren’t. We’ve found Swing Suite is really popular among millennials who may have a short attention span but have high engagement with technology.”
Killer Mike, whose real name is Michael Render, said he was thrilled that Philips reached out to him and asked if he wanted to be a part of the arena update. Hoping to make a big splash and increase awareness of his business, he tried unsuccessfully to open a location of Swag at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.
Opening at Philips provides the perfect venue and brings to life the dreams of a native son of Atlanta who grew up cheering for the Hawks, he said.
“As a kid, barbershops were where I picked up how to be a guy, how to be cool,” he said. “But we’re taking them to the next level, where blue collar men can come in and be pampered with a cut, a shave and a (hair) wash.
“This is a big deal for me because I get to do this for a team that I’ve always been a fan of,” he said.
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