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Back in September 1999, Sir Elton John performed at Philips Arena, making the concert the first event at the then new facility. Ever since then, the likes of Justin Timberlake, Jay-Z and Drake have performed at what would be known as one of the top concert venues in the country.
However, Philips was always and will be home of the Atlanta Hawks, who have been an up-and-down team since they started playing there. The Hawks have seen their share of good and bad when it comes to wins and losses, but the one thing that has been consistent is the atmosphere of the arena.
Is Philips Arena the best place to watch an NBA game? That’s debatable. But when it comes to food, seating, access and return on investment, the Hawks make sure you leave Philips Arena happy.
The FANFARE scale is our metric device for rating each stadium experience. It covers the following:
Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
If there is a place to eat in Atlanta, it might be at Philips Arena. There are the typical concession stands that serve chicken tenders, fries, nachos and buffalo wings. But there are also a few legitimate restaurants that will make you want to come back to Philips more often.
The newest restaurant, RED, opens 90 minutes before the start of each Hawks game, and the food ranges from burgers to steak. There is also a Taco Mac for fans to enjoy a wide variety of wings and beer.
If eating inside Philips is not for you, you can always eat at the CNN Center before the game, which is right next to the arena. The restaurants that are featured in the CNN Center are Chick-fil-A, Arbys, Subway, Dantanas and Five Guys, which will open in the near future.
The good thing about Philips is that there is not a bad seat in the house. Finding the best place to sit won't be an issue, because the layout of the arena allows every fan to get a glimpse of the action.
If there is a great place to sit, it would have to be courtside. You are very close to the action and you can still see everything. Sitting in the club level is not bad, either. The thing about sitting in the club is that you won't have to walk to get something to eat or drink, because everything is there in front of you.
The pregame festivities are solid. The cheerleaders always try to get the fans involved, and the drumline is fun to watch. The PA announcer is something else, though. He is loud, energetic and can get under the opponents' skin, which is not easy to do.
There is never a dull moment near Philips Arena because it's located in the heart of downtown Atlanta. Stats, which is a sports bar, is located around the corner from Philips Arena, and it's a great place to watch any game you want while enjoying the great food they have.
If you want to take in some of the sights of the city, go to the World of Coca-Cola and the Georgia Aquarium. Both are very informative and both receive a lot of visitors every year.
The one place you have to go when it opens in 2014 in the College Football Hall of Fame, located right down the street from Philips. That will be a great place to learn about the history of a sport that is taken seriously around these parts.
The Hawks fans love their team, and they are very smart when it comes to who they want to see on the court. There is a loyal group of fans that sit in the Kia Sixth Man section, and they are a group of men and women in their 20s who always yell and never sit down.
There are no traditions or chants the fans do, and they never really get after the visiting fans. The fan support is there for the Hawks, and it has been there for a very long time.
Getting to Philips Arena is not an issue, because it's in the heart of downtown Atlanta. There are plenty of transportation options from which to choose.
The best option is MARTA, because that will take you to and from Philips Arena for $5.
Driving there is not bad, either, but be ready for heavy traffic, as well as paying at least $20 to park.
The concourse is big, the security check is a breeze and the restrooms are clean. You can't ask for better access than that.
Tickets can range from $35-$149, and you will get your money's worth, because the Hawks are a solid team that plays hard each and every night. My ticket was worth $80, and I sat near courtside. I'd say that's a really good deal.
That price includes parking and food. If you are familiar with the city, you can find cheap places to park and you will still be in walking distance of Philips. And with so many food options, finding deals on food is never an issue either.
One of the cool things about the arena is that the scoreboard from the Omni (the old Hawks arena) is located in the concourse. It shows that the organization will never forget their history.
The programs are always free and they give you all the information you need for the game.
The Hawks' gift shop, located in front of the arena, always has great deals. Normally, they have a t-shirt on sale for $10 every night.
The radio station that broadcasts the games is an FM sports talk station, and the announcer is the biggest homer in all the NBA, which always makes his calls entertaining.
Philips Arena is a great place to watch the Hawks -- or any basketball game, for that matter. There is not a bad seat in the arena, the food options are more than enough and there are always deals going on in terms of ticket sales and souvenirs. With the Braves and Falcons getting new stadiums, it looks like the Hawks are staying put at Philips for a long time. That is not a bad thing.
When they blew up the old Omni Coliseum in 1997, my young self (just awakened to the beauty of basketball and having attended my first few pro games at this place) was obligatorily sad to see it go. The interim years before we got our new digs were painful as a team that was actually playing on the pro level (not a given in our town) did not have facilities to match. During those interim years our NBA affiliate was housed between the Georgia Dome and Alexander Memorial Coliseum.
If only the Atlanta community had known what was to come in 1999: An 18,000-plus-capacity palace for both basketball and hockey. But more on the latter sport in another review; this is all about Philips Arena as the Highlight Factory, home of the Atlanta Hawks.
Everything fades with time, and such is the fate of Philips Arena. At the time that it opened in 1999, it was state-of-the-art – and in many ways, it still is. And please, dear reader, don’t get it twisted: This is still a good place to take in a basketball game.
But this stadium has had its time in the limelight, first as a young whippersnapper of a facility that, just four years into existence, hosted the NBA All-Star Game; and then, as the site of a Southern sports revival around its 10th birthday, when the Hawks actually started winning.
By now, though, the “Highlight Factory” branding is starting to wear. No matter how loudly or largely the marketing department claims that Jeff Teague is Derrick Rose’s “thorn,” it will never be true; we don’t have the on-court product to pack the place, and that’s unfortunate, because full seats are what Philips needs at this point in its life-cycle.
Rising out of the ashes of the old Omni came Philips Arena. Given the moniker "The Highlight Factory," Philips Arena was driven by the vision of former Hawks owner Ted Turner as part of his push for an NHL expansion team. The Atlanta Thrashers are gone, and the Hawks have gone through some significant turmoil, but the Highlight Factory remains a central figure in downtown Atlanta.
The Hawks were pushed through the last quarter of the century by the ownership of media mogul Ted Turner. In 1982, the Hawks acquired their quintessential player and face of the franchise, Dominique Wilkins. Wilkins quickly earned the moniker "The Human Highlight Reel," which the Highlight Factory is certainly a nod to. Well after the Human Highlight Reel's era ended, Turner would get out of the Hawks ownership group, selling to a group of executives known as Atlanta Spirit. Under Atlanta Spirit, the Hawks would be characterized by ownership in-fighting, which would lead to lawsuits, boardroom battles, and bad-feelings. The result on the team was a lack of corporate leadership, extremely poor teams on the court, and a ton of empty seats in the Philips Arena.
Eventually the dust settled, and the members of Atlanta Spirit figured it all out, with Bruce Levenson and Michael Gearon emerging with majority control of the board. The company would quickly sell the NHL team, the Atlanta Thrashers to a group from Winnipeg to become the Winnipeg Jets, playing in the MTS Centre. All Atlanta eyes became focused on the Hawks, and they answered the call, becoming a much better NBA team, and a consistent playoff participant.
Right now, a trip to the Highlight Factory gives patrons the opportunity to see some great basketball, in what could be a really great environment. It could be the center of your Atlanta destination. It could be the Highlight.
I'm going to be objective on this one as I pretty much have given up watching the NBA as a whole (too many punks and crybabies in the League) and the owners of the arena (they pretty much lowballed any investor so they can dump the Thrashers to Winnipeg).
Overall the times I've been to Philips Arena for basketball or hockey have been great experiences. The food is fine, whether you go into the game (prices are reasonable), or go to the CNN Center for a bite. Getting there, unlike its neighbor the Georgia Dome is relatively easy. There are things for the fans to get involved with by meeting former players or current ones before the game, or raffles/auctions on the concourses and the concourses before the Thrashers moved for Winnipeg were pretty neat (haven't seen it since they've gone though).
Largest complaint was the fans. They didn't show up when the teams are winning. And those who did show up, show up for the opposing teams (Lakers, Heat, Bulls, Knicks, etc.). A very thin fanbase where the fans are just not energetic at all.
Good facility, but just a rough atmosphere in general.
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