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Volume 20 No. 41
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Club seats sub for suites at Georgia Tech arena

Georgia Tech’s arena reopened as McCamish Pavilion last week after a $50 million retrofit that brings fans much closer to the action.

The arena, formerly Alexander Memorial Coliseum, was renamed after Henry McCamish Jr., the donor who gave $15 million to help finance the renovation.

The new seating bowl hugs the floor at the refurbished and renamed home of the Yellow Jackets.
The centerpiece of the project, the 500-seat Callaway Club, is part of a reconfigured seating bowl that hugs the court compared with the facility’s original circular seat pattern. Fixed seating is now 8,600, down from the initial setup of 9,191 seats, school officials said; that includes a new balcony that holds about 1,700 seats.

The arena’s 12 suites were eliminated to help clear space to build three center sections of club seats on the arena’s east side, opposite the team benches.

The suites were added about the time the arena was converted into a boxing venue for the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, said Brad Clark, Populous’ principal designer for the project. It was one of three additions over the years to the 56-year-old building.

The most recent refurb posed the challenge of redoing the bowl by rotating the direction of the floor in part to build the club. “The school decided the suites were not the product they wanted to continue with, and we went ahead with a sideline club section,” Clark said.

Keeping the 14-person suites did not make fiscal sense, said Kyle Shields, director of premium sales for the Georgia Tech Athletic Association. A half-dozen of them were producing consistent revenue, but the remaining units were tied to up-front deals that gave those donors a “suite for life” without having to make yearly payments, Shields said. Eighty percent of the old suite holders bought new club seats and new courtside seats, he said.

The Callaway Club, named for a charitable foundation started by early 20th century philanthropist Fuller Callaway Sr., has cushioned, theater-style seats with cup holders, and those premium patrons have access to a private lounge behind the seats. Tech has sold about 450 club seats, Shields said. The cost is $2,000 a seat per year, covering the price of season tickets, food and drink, and an annual donation. No alcohol is served in the arena. At this point, unsold club seats will be used in part for single-game sales to attract more buyers, Shields said.

Tech had no problem marketing an improved courtside seat. The 48 seats, 40 distributed along the east side and four along each baseline, were priced at $5,000 a seat per season and sold out in about an hour, Shields said.

“We had courtside seats before but not nearly this close to the floor,” he said. Those premium seat holders also get club access.

In addition to the premium seat upgrades, one of the best features of the renovation is the open view from the concourse to the court, which was achieved by removing a concourse wall, Shields said. Theatrical lighting is another nice touch, he said.