SBJ/20090202/This Week's News

Philips suites to get bench audio

Ten-year-old Philips Arena will undergo a $4 million renovation of its luxury suites this summer, and with it will come a new, inside-access amenity: Fans in the suites will be able to hear the audio from the players’ benches.

Philips Arena President Bob Williams said that the coaches of the NBA Hawks and NHL Thrashers will wear microphones and that additional microphones will be placed on the team benches. The audio will operate on a delay, and Atlanta Spirit, parent company for the teams and arena, will hire someone to delete any offensive, profane or inappropriate remarks.

The visual changes planned for the
Atlanta arena’s suites include more
TVs and bookcase-like spaces in the
walls, but the big difference will be
audio available from microphones
worn by the Hawks’ and Thrashers’
coaches and placed near the bench.

Williams said the teams’ general managers, the Hawks’ Rick Sund and Thrashers’ Don Waddell, have  signed off.

In addition to microphones, Atlanta Spirit plans to add cameras so suite holders can follow the audio with coordinated video.

“People are always looking for unique experiences, and we want to give them that,” Williams said.

The cameras and microphones will also be used for concerts, with suite holders receiving exclusive audio and video of performers. Williams noted that the arena has had a camera in the Thrashers’ locker room for years, showing players’ video during intermissions on broadcasts.

Spirit officials said NBA and NHL approval for such a move was not required. Tracy White, senior vice president of broadcast and corporate partnerships for Atlanta Spirit, said that, quite the opposite, league officials were excited about the move, as they always look for the next “best practice” for all clubs.

Williams said Atlanta Spirit would not pass on the cost of the project to customers, but he declined to reveal pricing details.

The arena plans to renovate the 92 suites over the summer. The plan is for three model suites to be ready by Feb. 15.

Architecture firm The Johnson Studio, which normally does restaurant design, was hired for the job. The design concept includes a fake wall with bookcase-like spaces. The planned upgrade also calls for three high-definition TVs over the current two in the suites, and more refrigerators.

John Manasso writes for the Atlanta Business Chronicle, an affiliated publication.

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