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Philips Arena (map it)
100 Techwood Dr NW
Atlanta, GA 30303
Year Opened: 1999
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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.
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".
The food selection at Philips Arena is ridiculous. To get the full compliment of food, you would have to be a season ticket holder. You can get just about any type of food that you can imagine at a professional sports arena. There is BBQ, southern food, Asian food, diner food, all to go with what you would expect to get at any arena. Prices are about what you would expect. They are, of course, prices closer to a sit-down restaurant, rather than a fast-food restaurant.
Some unique items you might consider include the Thai Chili Burger, Chicken and Waffles, Mandarin Chicken at the Wok Stop, or a Wetzel Dog. If you are interested in more of a bar style atmosphere, try Gentleman Jack which features Jack Daniel's products. You will of course find a variety of beers. They won't overwhelm you. Also, being Atlanta, Coca-Cola products have the soda monopoly in the Highlight Factory.
The Highlight Factory is a great facility, with a couple of hiccups. Some items blow you away ... and others make you scratch your head. It is still not as good as it could be, but it seems to have a very solid base.
Outside of the Philips Arena, you can't help but notice the pillars that spell Atlanta on the Centennial Olympic Park Drive side. It gives the arena some sense of individuality. Many of the parking garages around the arena feature big red arrows that point you in the direction to the Highlight Factory.
Once entering Philips Arena, you are overwhelmed by the Hawk Walk. The main concourse features all of the best food options, the team merchandise store, and decor featuring great moments in Hawks history, and Hawks players. With the Thrashers having departed Atlanta, the Hawks control all of the ambiance, not having to share it with anyone.
If you have to go upstairs to your seat, the second floor may be the stop you want to make. The Philips Experience is the interactive zone, which features interactive games for kids young and old. It is well stocked with the young gameday staff that tends to run promotions. It is quite a popular destination.
Inside the seating bowl, there are a couple of odd parts. First of all, it must be noted that a lot of the lower bowl seats are empty. It begs the question if the price points are correct for Hawks games. Similar to Detroit's Ford Field, one side of the upper level of the arena are the luxury boxes. The lower bowl features the 6th man section, which is a group of young fans that seem to treat the game more like a college game than a pro game. They stand and cheer and chant through the entire game.
The upper bowl is a bit of an issue. There are probably 20 to 30 rows of seats in the upper bowl. The entry to the seating area in the upper bowl is at the very top of the section. If you have decent seats in the upper bowl, you have to travel down a ton of rows to find your seats.
Above the floor the Hawks feature banners from their retired numbers which include Bob Pettit, Lou Hudson, former owner Ted Turner, and the Human Highlight Reel himself, Dominique Wilkins. Other banners include a banner for jazz/blues band Widespread Panic and their 17 sold-out shows, and a banner crowing their environmental status as the first LEED certified arena. They also feature the 4 banners for division championships.
The gameday production is quite strong. The PA announcer Ryan Cameron is quite entertaining. The Hawks drumline play at the beginning of the game on the court, and play throughout the game in their spot courtside. The mascots Harry the Hawk and SkyHawk are very entertaining and add to the production of the game. The organist adds to the game, and plays flat when the opponent scores.
One final note on the atmosphere. A few years ago, the Hawks changed their color scheme, adding blue to the court and uniforms. It is time for the Hawks to walk away from the blue and bring back the color scheme from their heyday. Time to retire the blue, and focus on the red and yellow. Make the Highlight Factory look more like the Human Highlight Reel.
Downtown Atlanta is a fantastic place to be. There are a plethora of options to do and eat. The World of Coca-Cola, Georgia Aquarium, Imagine It Children's Museum and Centennial Olympic Park should all be on your list. A tour of the CNN Center is a great idea before the game, and right after you can hang around and find some food. The CNN Center features a massive food court, perfect for groups that can't agree on what to eat.
You can also find a Taco Mac built right into the Philips Arena. Downtown Atlanta also features some more upscale, sit-down type places. I was surprised to find the seafood quite good and I would recommend either McCormick & Schmicks or Legal Seafood.
Atlanta is known as a fairly fickle and apathetic sports market. The ownership dispute and years of extremely poor teams took a toll on the attendance at Hawks games. The Hawks are currently averaging just over 14,000 fans per game. This is under 80 % capacity, and is in the bottom quarter of the NBA. It is evident when watching a Hawks game on television that there are attendance problems, and price-point problems, as it looks like the bottom third of the arena is empty. The fans that do show up at the Highlight Factory are fairly quiet. They get excited and loud at all of the expected times, but would not be considered overly excited or hardcore.
Located on Cenntennial Olympic Park Drive, Philips Arena is just west of I-75/I-85 and just north of I-20. Getting to the arena is pretty easy. It is even easier if you make a day of it, and park early. There are plenty of parking lots around the arena, which also service the downtown tourist attractions and the Georgia Dome. Gameday parking is not too bad, and could be found for $10 within a few steps of the arena. Public transit is also pretty solid in Atlanta, and patrons could consider taking the MARTA.
Once inside the Philips Arena, the concourses are fairly easy to travel through, and the washroom facilities are more than adequate.
A trip to the Highlight Factory to see the Hawks could be the highlight of your trip to Atlanta. Tickets are pretty affordable. The majority of the upper level tickets are approximately $25. Of course lower bowl tickets are more expensive, and from the view of the crowds, probably too expensive. Concession prices are to be expected and the price for parking is decent. The production of the game is good and you will have a good time at the game. Some better fan support would make the experience even better.
An extra mark for all of the awesome things to do in and around the Highlight Factory in downtown Atlanta.
An extra mark for the nickname the Highlight Factory, which is very original.
An extra mark for 45 years of Hawk basketball in Atlanta.
The Highlight Factory is a great place to see some NBA action. Slowly, but surely, it is coming back to what it once was in popularity. It seems that the Hawks are just one major player away from taking the next step to become truly elite, and THE place to be in Atlanta. When that happens, this factory may just be one of the highlights of the entire NBA.
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.
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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