McCamish Pavilion – Atlanta Dream
Photos by Lloyd Brown, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.43
Hank McCamish Pavilion
965 Fowler St
Atlanta, GA 30332
Year Opened: 1956
The Dream is Still Alive in Atlanta
Atlanta continues to be a city where dreams are made, as its sports community continues to thrive. Two new stadiums have been built in the last two years, and Philips Arena is undergoing a massive renovation. The Atlanta United soccer franchise draws more than 72,000 per game and the Super Bowl heads to the city for the 2019 game. As the name of Atlanta’s WNBA entry attests, the dream is also alive for the women of Atlanta. The team is the only Atlanta professional sports franchise totally owned by women.
The team has relocated to Georgia Tech’s McCamish Pavilion arena for the 2016-2018 seasons as their permanent home, Philips Arena, undergoes a $143 million renovation. The Dream will return to Phillips Arena following the 2018 season.
McCamish Pavilion was renovated in 2012 and has received excellent reviews for its state of the art design and technology. The capacity of the arena is 8,600 and it features two tiered levels of seats with 6,935 lower level seats and 1,665 balcony level seats. The facility is high tech in a number of ways. It features a lighting system which spotlights the playing court while dimming the lighting in the seating areas, providing a theatre-like effect focus on the game. The McCamish Pavilion also has a 360-degree ribbon board encircling the arena and an enhanced scoreboard with HD graphics.
Food & Beverage 3
McCamish Pavilion has six concession stands, with four located on the lower concourse and two located on the balcony level. The facility has an open concourse with more than 50 TV’s, so you will not miss any game action while getting your food and beverages. In addition to the six generic concession stands, the arena also features a Sonny’s BBQ stand and a Smash Burger outlet.
A quick review of the menu and prices you can expect at a Dream game: hot dogs ($6), sausages ($7), pretzels ($5), popcorn ($5), peanuts ($5), and nachos ($7). Sonny’s BBQ sandwiches are $7 and Smash Burgers are $8.
All beverages are Coca-Cola products (the World HQ is just three blocks from the arena) and sodas are $4, bottled water is $4 and frozen lemonade is $5. Alcoholic beverages may only be purchased and consumed within the private Callaway Club in the arena. This is due to the arena belonging to the Georgia University System.
The Georgia Tech basketball arena long ago adopted the moniker of “The Thrillerdome” after two magical Final Four runs, when the team won several games in buzzer-beater fashion. It is a name that has stuck with the McCamish Pavilion. The Dream is doing its best to carry the Thrillerdome aura into the WNBA with its up-tempo brand of basketball. The move to a smaller arena has only increased the intimidation factor as nearly every game is a full house. Also, the acoustics of the facility is designed to hold in the noise and the Dream fans, the Shooting Stars cheer squad, team mascot Star and longtime PA announcer Vince “The Voice” Bailey are doing their best to drive up the energy level during an offensive run or a good defensive stand. The dramatic lighting now used at the McCamish Pavilion makes it clear that the action on the court is the star here. It truly feels more like a professional arena than a college arena.
There are really three distinct neighborhoods surrounding the McCamish Pavilion. It is located at the very north end of the Georgia Tech campus. Basically, its neighbors in this regard are athletic facilities, including the Byers Tennis Complex, the Georgia Tech football practice facility and Russ Chandler Stadium, home of the Yellow Jacket baseball program.
Across the downtown, Connector is the Midtown neighborhood. The Georgia Tech campus has expanded into this area in recent years, but it is primarily an area filled with trendy restaurants such as South City Kitchen, Ecco, and STK Atlanta. One longtime Tech favorite is the Varsity, the world’s largest drive-in. Though not the healthiest food in the world, presidents, world leaders and sports icons have stopped in to enjoy its greasy fare.
The last neighborhood bordering the arena is the West Atlanta / Atlantic Station area. Atlantic Station has transformed a former brownfield site into a very successful mixed use development filled with parks, apartments, movie theatres and even Atlanta’s only IKEA store. Adjoining Atlantic Station is the West Atlanta neighborhood, a former industrial corridor that is very popular with millennials. It includes a number of Atlanta’s hottest restaurants, such as Miller Union, JCT. Kitchen and Bar and the West Egg Café.
The Dream has established a very loyal following over their first decade in the WNBA. You will notice a very high percentage of the crowds at the games are women. Obviously, this is due in part to it being a women’s basketball team. The Dream goes way beyond that in focusing its marketing and community involvement efforts on women of achievement and women’s issues. Each game honors women and women’s organizations that are improving their community. The team is also very involved in such issues as breast cancer awareness and treatment, LGBTQ rights and encouraging the inclusion of more girls’ sports teams in the schools.
As a result of these efforts, the community has become the “sixth woman” for the team. They bring an energy and enthusiasm to the arena that picks up the team during a tough game and also makes it hard for the opposition to concentrate due to the volume of cheers coming from the stands.
McCamish Pavilion is located conveniently right off Interstates I-75/I-85 (also known to locals at the Downtown Connector) as they pass through the center of Atlanta. You would take either the 14th Street or North Avenue exits to reach the arena. The parking directly adjacent to the arena on campus is reserved for season ticket holders, but there are a number of commercial lots located on the east side of the Downtown Connector within an easy walking distance of the McCamish Pavilion. A second less costly alternative to getting to a game is the MARTA rapid rail system to the Midtown MARTA station, then walk four short blocks up 10th Street to McCamish Pavilion.
Entry into the McCamish Pavilion is through one of three main portals, with a very good flow and adequate ticket takers. Once inside you will find the concourses to be very wide, so you should not encounter any gridlock. The concessions are built into the sides of the building so they do not cause any congestion. The number of restrooms is more than adequate. You will find the seating at McCamish to be quite comfortable as it features chair backs with wider than normal space.
Return on Investment 3
Dream basketball tickets are sold at prices ranging from $36 for end zone seats to $60 for sideline seats. Parking close to McCamish runs $10-$15, but by using MARTA to the game you can bring that cost down to $5 per person roundtrip. Concessions at McCamish Pavilion are reasonably priced. Atlanta is a convention city, so downtown area hotels can run in excess of $250/per night. It is a good idea to stay in a suburban location hotel and then take MARTA or drive into the game.
A majority of Atlanta’s main tourist attractions are less than three miles from McCamish Pavilion. The following are located in a cluster around Centennial Olympic Park: the College Football Hall of Fame, the World of Coca-Cola, the Georgia Aquarium, the Center for Civil and Human Rights and CNN Center. Simply go three stations past the Midtown MARTA station and get off at the Peachtree Center Station, then walk two blocks west.
This marks the second time that a Georgia Tech basketball arena has substituted for another team’s home court. In 2008, a tornado struck the Georgia Dome during the SEC Men’s Basketball Tournament. This forced the tournament to be moved to the then Alexander Memorial Coliseum for the remainder of the tournament. Ironically that tournament was won by a huge underdog….. the University of Georgia Bulldogs….. Georgia Tech’s most bitter athletic rival.
The Atlanta Dream team name was inspired by one of its best-known citizens. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was an Atlanta native and a civil rights icon. His “I have a dream” speech is one of defining moments in the civil rights movement.
While most people would think a temporary relocation would adversely affect a team, the move to McCamish Pavilion has been a positive one for the Atlanta Dream. Its more intimate setting, the dramatic lighting of the playing floor, and a Midtown location that is in the backyard of its most ardent fans have added up to a very successful move.