Arena tour: Hawks nest
Atlanta Hawks COO Thad Sheely navigated his way through construction and concessions workers as they did last-minute work hanging signs, securing fixtures, stocking bars and revving up pizza ovens before State Farm Arena opened for its first NBA game on Oct. 24 after a $192.5 million makeover.
But the sprint to the finish for the renovation actually started in April after the Hawks’ season ended and the arena shut down for a second consecutive summer. “We were spending $1 million a day,” Sheely said. “There were 800 construction workers here every day. It was one of those just monumental undertakings.”
State Farm Arena debuted with a wider 360-degree main lower concourse, new food and beverage areas, more standing room areas for fans, and a more diverse inventory of premium space.
Sheely said a major structural and cultural shift propelled the renovation.
State Farm Arena slide show
“The real sort of key move to unlock the potential of this building came with knocking down the suite wall,” Sheely said. “That meant the main concourse stopped and if you were from anywhere else in the building you had to turn around.”
The building opened as Philips Arena in 1999 with an unconventional layout of having all of its suites and premium seating on one side. The four-level premium wall restricted the concourse and had other drawbacks.
“Artists hated it because they looked up and saw these suites and acoustically it was not great,” Sheely said. “For fans, if you are sitting on this side of the building and looking across, those are all the haves, super premium folks, and if you are not it’s just weird.”
By the numbers
Renovation cost: $192.5M
Seating capacity: 16,600
Club seats: 1,500
The west-side demolition of the suite wall (which happened in the summer of 2017 at the start of the renovation) required architecture firm HOK and contractors to design and build a 175-foot-long steel truss to support the new main concourse and seating sections.
Ryan Gedney, vice president and senior design principal with HOK, said the demise of the suite wall set the overall tone for the project. “The venue became very open and democratic,” Gedney said. “The wall of suites was very haves and have not. It was really impactful just to see the suite level being torn down.”
Restrooms were relocated and rebuilt along the outer concourse. Team offices and storage rooms were moved to create larger and wider spaces for fans to circumvent the building. “We added 100,000 square feet of fan-facing space. We made this building bigger without expanding the square footage,” Sheely said.
The makeover reduced the number of suites at State Farm Arena from 99 to 40. But the arena now offers a greater variety of premium spaces and options. The team declined to give pricing for most of its premium areas.
State Farm Arena
City of Atlanta, Atlanta Fulton County Recreation Authority
Atlanta Hawks, Atlanta Dream
Turner Construction, AECOM Hunt, SG Contracting, Bryson Constructors
Legends, H.J. Russell
Prismview / Samsung Electronics
Other major sponsors
Kia Motors, Verizon, Budweiser, Chick-fil-A, Coca-Cola/Sprite
Zac Brown’s Social Club, Killer Mike’s SWAG Shop, Topgolf Swing Suite, Giovanni Di Palma’s Little Italia
Atlanta Social is a new 18,000-square-foot premium space with tables, couches, cabanas and lounge seating along with all-inclusive food, beer and wine. It was created on the second level by building walkways between the arena bowl and an area that was previously the Philips Experience fan interaction area.
The Hawks have sold out a number of their all-inclusive premium products including the Courtside Club, Veranda Suites on the second level, and cabanas and tables in the Atlanta Social area. Other offerings in Atlanta Social are still available, as well as a new Chef’s Club supper club area.
The Courtside Club, which actually made its debut last year, is an attention getter with its bold, court-level location. It features all-inclusive food and drinks (including alcohol) and access to the behind-the-basket Hawk Bar, which is designed in the shape of the Hawks logo.
A non-inclusive but less expensive Players Club — which has bar counters made from old Hawks courts — has also sold out. Fans get access to a 9,800-square-foot area that gives them a view of postgame press conferences and players entering the court from the locker rooms. The area used to be a locker room for the old NHL Thrashers. Seats for the club are $160 per person per game.
Branded areas include a Topgolf Swing Suite where guests can practice their golf swing in front a video display. One food area is branded for country music group the Zac Brown Band while another is branded for Atlanta restaurateur Giovanni Di Palma. Killer Mike’s Swag Shop, a partnership with the Atlanta rapper, features a barber shop with four chairs where fans can watch the game and get a haircut.
The Hawks are still renovating 288 seats for an area called the Legends Club that sits behind the basket in the lower bowl, opposite the Courtside Club. It will debut later this season and feature loge boxes and tables seating between four and eight people with all-inclusive food, beer and wine.
To pump up the entertainment level in the seating bowl, the Hawks went big and bold with a 4,447-square-foot, center video board from Samsung-owned Prismview. Gedney said HOK had talked to the Hawks about not having a center-hung scoreboard and instead focusing display boards in the corners. But Hawks President Steve Koonin said a center board is essential and expected by basketball fans.
“We know that every building in college, pro and even at some high schools there is going to be a center-hung scoreboard that is going to be your go-to,” Koonin said.
Don Szczepaniak, president and CEO of Prismview, said the board at State Farm Arena is among the three largest in the NBA. The arena’s old board was 960 square feet and Prismview reused parts of it in the corners of the arena, leading to 10 times more video displays overall.
Koonin said the aim is to make the arena the most video-centric in the NBA. “When you see it all together, this is a 21st century building.”