The AJC’s Top 50: Nos. 16-20

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The AJC’s Top 50: Nos. 16-20

The landscape of Atlanta sports changed in 2017.

Literally.

Stadiums were raised, razed and renovated.

There were many more significant moments in sports involving the city, it’s teams and people connected to our region.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution compiled and ranked a list of the 50 biggest moments in Atlanta sports for the year. Over 10 days, we will reveal the list in ascending order, five at a time, until it culminates with the biggest and most defining moment on Dec. 26.

Today: 16-20.

20. Georgia Tech makes NIT final

The Georgia Tech men’s basketball team hoped for a storybook finish to a season that began with the dimmest of expectations with a first-year coach leading a team that had lost its four most productive players. Still, Tech advanced to the championship game of the NIT before dropping an 88-56 decision to TCU at Madison Square Garden on March 30. Tadric Jackson led Tech with 19 points. Tech was a No. 6 seed and defeated No. 3 Indiana, No. 7 Belmont, No. 5 Mississippi and No. 8 CSU Bakersfield en route to the title game.

19. Philips Arena begins major renovation

Phase One of a $192.5 million makeover to Philips Arena began June 21 – two days after the Atlanta City Council officially approved the project. The construction on the 18-year-old building is to be done in two phases. The first was completed in October, in time for the Hawks’ 2017-18 season, and included renovation of about 10,000 square feet of premium club spaces and the demolition of about 100,000 square feet of interior space. Public money will pay for $142.5 million of the total bill. Hawks principal owner Tony Ressler desires a renovation of the arena and the surrounding area as a centerpiece of downtown.

18. Kyle Shanahan out/Steve Sarkisian in

Just after helping the Falcons to NFL offensive records, offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan left to take over as head coach of the 49ers on Feb. 6. Much maligned the previous season, the Falcons led the league with 540 points, set franchise records for total yards per game (415.8) and yards per play (6.7) and had the MVP in quarterback Matt Ryan. Enter Steve Sarkisian. In a surprise move, the Falcons hired Sarkisian to take over the offense on Feb. 7 after the former head coach at Washington and USC was offensive coordinator at Alabama.

17. Atlanta United sets MLS attendance records

Atlanta United set both the MLS season, single game and playoff attendance records in its inaugural season. In fact, it set the single-game record twice. Atlanta United had 71,874 fans at Mercedes-Benz Stadium for a game against Toronto FC on Oct. 22. The team first broke the 22-year old league single-game record when 70,245 fans were present for a game against Orlando City on Sept. 16. Against Toronto FC, Atlanta United finished the regular season with an announced 819,404 tickets sold, easily surpassing the season record of 752,199 set by the Seattle Sounders in 2015. The team had an announced 67,221 tickets sold for its playoff loss to Columbus, breaking the previous league playoff record of 61,316 set in 2002.

16. Hawks hire GM Travis Schlenk

The Hawks hired Travis Schlenk as general manager and head of basketball operations on May 26 and he was officially introduced on June 2. Schlenk took over the Hawks after president of basketball operations Mike Budenholzer returned to just his role as head coach and general manager Wes Wilcox became a special advisor to ownership. Schlenk had spent the previous 12 seasons in the front office of the Warriors. Schlenk quickly began the task of rebuilding the Hawks’ roster around a core of young players and future draft picks.

The list so far:

16. Hawks hire GM Travis Schlenk

17. Atlanta United sets MLS attendance record

18. Kyle Shanahan out/Steve Sarkisian in

19. Philips Arena begins major renovation

20. Georgia Tech makes NIT final

21. Georgia reaches No. 1 in College Football Playoff rankings

22. Atlanta United gets first win

23. Mercedes-Benz Stadium roof problems

24. Hawks trade Dwight Howard

25. Atlanta United play first game

26. Braves finally find deal for new spring training home

27. Georgia Tech fails to make bowl game

28. Braves pick up 2018 option on Brian Snitker

29. Hawks blow up roster in youth movement

30. Freddie Freeman breaks wrist after MVP-caliber start

31. Hawks eliminated from playoffs by Wizards

32. Devonta Freeman signs big contract

33. Falcons’ PSL sales become issue

34. Brian McCann wins World Series with Astros

35. Falcons draft Takk McKinley

36. Hawks draft John Collins

37. Deshaun Watson leads Clemson to national championship

38. Tour Championship double winners

39. Sergio Garcia wins Masters

40. Brad Keselowski wins Atlanta NASCAR race

41. Hawks open practice facility

42. Ascension of Brave’ Ronald Acuna

43. Kennesaw football wins conference, goes to playoffs

44. Georgia State takes over Turner Field

45. John Isner wins fourth BB&T title

46. Georgia Swarm win National Lacrosse League title

47. Matt Stafford gets NFL-record contract

48. Braves release of Bartolo Colon

49. Rams hire Dunwoody’s Sean McVay

50. Warrick Dunn in Falcons Ring of Honor

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