Five biggest arena changes that await fans at Hawks’ home opener

The Hawks will play their first game in their remade arena Wednesday night against the Dallas Mavericks. If you attend the home opener, here are five of the biggest changes you can expect to find inside State Farm Arena, formerly Philips Arena, after its $200 million-plus renovation: 

1. The high wall of suites on one side of the court has been transformed.

Previous Hawks management was excited about the innovativeness of the suite stack when the arena opened in 1999, and current management is just as excited to be rid of it. “However that got built, I’m glad it’s not here any more,” Hawks principal owner Tony Ressler said. In its place are two levels of suites (there are now 40 suites, down from 90), new upper-deck general seating and two Topgolf party spaces. 

2.  Video boards have proliferated. 

The new center-hung video board is massive, weighing 85,000 pounds and containing more than 4,500 square feet of continuous LED screen on its four sides. “It’s really, we believe, the first of its kind,” said Don Szczepaniak, CEO of Prismview, the Samsung Electronics subsidiary that manufactured and installed the board. “It’s about five times the size of the previous screen.” Large video boards also have been added to each corner of the arena. 

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3. New premium spaces. 

For those with pricey premium tickets that include access to one of the three new clubs or the Atlanta Social area, new luxuries await. One of the clubs, dubbed the Players Club, features table tops built from portions of a former Philips Arena basketball floor, a glass wall on one side that provides views into the postgame press-conference room and a short rail on the other side that allows high-five exchanges with players as they head from the locker room to the court. The Atlanta Social space replaces traditional arena seats with plush chairs, sofas and cabanas overlooking the court – a concept partly inspired by purple sofas sold in the upper deck at the Minnesota Vikings’ stadium. 

4. The 360-degree concourses invite exploration. 

The redesigned concourses connect a series of new restaurants and concession stands. New  perches provide numerous spots for standing and socializing with a view of the game. Exterior windows previously covered by walls or curtains have been exposed, bringing views of the surrounding cityscape into the concourse. “People spend a ton of money today to put glass in buildings to give you access into the city you’re a part of, and we had that (hidden),” Hawks chief operating officer Thad Sheely said. 

5. Some conversation pieces you probably haven’t seen in a basketball arena before.

A barber shop, Killer Mike’s Swag Shop, with a view of the court. Golf simulators. Cabanas in the seating bowl.  Those are among the reasons Hawks CEO Steve Koonin is fond of calling the project “renovation as innovation.”

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