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  • Lloyd Brown

State Farm Arena – Atlanta Hawks

State Farm Arena FANFARE Score: 4.43

State Farm Arena 100 Techwood Dr. NW Atlanta, GA 30303

Atlanta Hawks website

State Farm Arena website

Year Opened: 1999

Capacity: 18,118


Atlanta’s Extreme Makeover

The 2018 season marks the 50th Anniversary of the Hawks move to Atlanta from St. Louis. While the team has several retro events planned to salute their past…. this year is all about the future. The clearest evidence of that is the $200 million renovation of the team’s home court, the newly renamed State Farm Arena. The only elements retained from its former existence as Philips Arena are external… the iconic steel support beams spelling out “ATLANTA,” and the statue honoring Dominique Wilkens, arguably the greatest Hawks player ever.

While the arena’s transformation is complete, the Hawks team is in a rebuilding mode. The roster is primarily recent draft choices and free agents, mixed in with a few veterans (Vince Carter, Jeremy Lin and Kent Bazemore) to provide guidance to a very young team. The new coach is Lloyd Pierce, a longtime NBA assistant coach, who is known for his skills in developing young players with his former teams.

Food & Beverage 5

The concessions area has been totally overhauled during the renovation, not only in a physical sense, but also in its approach to serving the fans. The arena has adopted the very popular Fans First concessions policy pioneered by its next-door neighbor, Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Prices for the most popular fan favorite food items have been reduced dramatically. Samples of the prices include $1 chips; $2 candy, pretzels and bottled water: $3 hot dogs, nachos and fries: $4 pizzas, popcorn and sodas and $5 domestic beers. The arena has also adopted the efficiencies used at Mercedes-Benz to keep the lines moving. These include a 71% increase in points of sale over Philips Arena, 40% more beer taps, items are sold in even dollar amounts to reduce time required to make change and drinks are provided at self-service stations away from the counters. All concession stations also look out over the seating bowl via the open concept concourse.

The layout of concession areas has also gone through an extreme makeover. A food hall concept has been employed, featuring some of Atlanta’s favorite restaurants. These include J.R. Crickets (wings), Cracklin’ B’s Barbeque, Old Lady Gang (soul food) and Rita’s Italian Ice. A separate area called Westside Little Italia Atlanta features a district of Italian based concessions (Antico Pizza, Gio’s Chicken Italiano, Caffe’ Antico and Bar Amalfi).

One last addition is the arena’s first sit-down dining option that is open to all fans. Zac Brown of the Zac Brown Band has opened the Zac Brown Social Club, featuring a southern gourmet menu.

Atmosphere 4

Anyone walking into State Farm Arena expecting to see the same place they saw just a year ago is in for a big shock. The arena is very much the home of the Hawks, but it has taken on a whole new attitude and atmosphere. Gone are the wall of suites that once consumed half of the seating of the arena. Taking its place are additional seating for the everyday fan, along with some new game day experiences. The demolition of the wall of suites allows the concourse to run 360 degrees around the seating bowl for the first time since the building opened in 1999. The concourse also has been opened up to allow the fans to see the action from the moment they step into the building. The basketball capacity of the arena has been reduced to 17,500, with the extra space being set aside to provide more amenities and a better fan experience.

The concourse is now laid out in seven distinct “neighborhoods.” They include the Front Porch, which provides a panoramic view of the arena and new scoreboard, along with Killer Mike’s SWAG Shop, a barbershop where you can kick back, talk sports and enjoy the game while getting a haircut. The next three neighborhoods are all about the food. The Hawk Walk Market provides a food hall filled with a variety of food vendors from Atlanta’s best restaurants on the concourse level, while the 200 level is home to A-Town Eats, with additional vendors and the Atlanta Brew Pub. The third foodie area is the Fan Zone, an area that stretches from one baseline to the other in the upper deck which provides a chef driven menu. Two additional neighborhoods of interest are the Courtside Club, which features a bar just feet from the playing area on the floor and the Players Club, a private club located just behind the players bench. It is built underneath the seating bowl and provides club members with views into the players entry tunnel and the post game interview area.

The technological improvements in the arena are stunning. Replacing the old scoreboard is the first continuous 360-degree video board in the NBA. In addition, video boards have been added in each of the four corners of the facility, assuring every fan a clear view of replays and other important information about the team and upcoming events. As Atlanta’s primary indoor concert venue, the sound system is crystal clear and state of the art.

The team’s goal is to make State Farm Arena a more open and friendlier environment for its fans, whether they are there for a Hawks game, a concert or some other special event.

Neighborhood 5

Just as the “neighborhood” inside the arena has changed greatly, so has the neighborhood outside the area. The Georgia Dome was imploded and replaced by a park/green space area known as the Home Depot Backyard, which serves as tailgate central for the Atlanta Falcons as well as community events. The Mercedes-Benz Stadium is now in its second year of wowing fans with its futuristic design and technology. Big changes are also planned for the area immediately in front of the State Farm Arena. A live/work/play development is in the planning stages and would fill the space that formerly housed an industrial area.

Not everything in the neighborhood has changed. The arena still has a gate that provides direct entry into the CNN Center, with its very popular studio tours and restaurant complex. Just another block over is Centennial Olympic Park, home to several of Atlanta’s top attractions, including the World of Coca-Cola, the Georgia Aquarium, the Center for Human and Civil Rights and the College Football Hall of Fame. Two restaurants to check out within walking distance of State Farm Arena are STATS and Taco Mac. There are a wide variety of hotels to choose from, as the Atlanta’s convention center is located next door to the arena. Like the ads say…”like a good neighbor, State Farm Arena is there.”

Fans 3

The Hawks are the first to admit that the team is currently in a rebuilding mode. This has been tough on the fans who saw the team go deep into the playoffs just three seasons ago. The team has decided to follow the blueprint of several other NBA teams who went through similar circumstances and now are regulars in the playoffs as a result.

Attendance has been down for the last few seasons, but the renovation of the arena has brought new interest and energy to the franchise. The mix of some well-known veterans with some young players with great potential has fans coming back to check the team out. Despite Atlanta’s reputation as a “bad sports town,” the locals have proven very loyal in their support of the local professional teams through thick and thin. They have seen the Falcons and the Braves rebuild and return to the playoffs and look forward to the same thing happening with the Hawks.

The new amenities at State Farm Arena have created a buzz in the local sports community similar to the openings of SunTrust Park and Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

Access 4

Getting to State Farm Arena can be a headache due to Atlanta’s well-known traffic issues. The WAZE app is an excellent way to determine what route will work the best from your location and help you avoid any construction areas or accidents. There is plenty of parking near the arena, but your easiest and most cost-efficient way of getting to the game is by riding the MARTA light rail system. The MARTA rail system has a station (Dome / GWCC / Philips Arena / CNN ) on its east/west line that will deliver you within feet of the arena. MARTA charges a flat fee, no matter how far you travel on the system and is a great bargain, as you avoid parking charges and traffic hassles.

Once inside the arena, you will find a totally open concourse looking out over the seating bowl and the basketball court. For the first time ever, the concourse goes 360 degrees around the arena, as the wall of suites/private access area no longer exists. The seating bowl also provides much broader aisles than in its previous incarnation. The concession stands and other amenities are more accessible throughout the facility.

Return on Investment 5

The Fan Friendly concessions program featured by State Farm Arena is definitely a trend setter in the sports venue community. Ticket prices are very reasonably priced, and the seating configuration is a great improvement over Philips Arena. The availability of public transportation just feet from the arena entrance brings transportation costs down to $5 a person round trip, saving you time and money getting to the arena

Extras 4

The arena name change is a result of the expiration of a title sponsor agreement with Philips Electronics. Philips is no longer involved in the direct consumer sales market and decided not to renew for this reason. State Farm has an extremely large presence in Atlanta with more than 6,000 employees in the area.

State Farm Arena still salutes the Hawks heritage by hanging banners from the rafters for the Hawks players whose numbers have been retired. These players include Lou Hudson, Pete Maravich, Dominique Wilkins, Dikimbe Mutumbo and former owner Ted Turner.

The various “neighborhoods” within State Farm Arena have food court-type seating areas adjacent to the food vendors sites. These open seating areas have an open view of the court below and allows you to enjoy your food without having to balance it in your lap.

The $200 million price tag on the arena renovation is the second most expensive in NBA history. The most expensive renovation was Madison Square Garden, home of the New York Knicks. That renovation cost $1 billion and took three years to complete.

Many people wonder why there is a barber shop in an arena. SWAG shops are much more than a place to get a haircut. It is about the experience… hanging out with friends, talking sports, enjoying the music and just relaxing. Killer Mike’s also offers a terrific view of the action on the court… just don’t jump up out of the barber chair after a great play while you are getting a shave… you might lose an ear!

Final Thoughts

The Atlanta Hawks and State Farm Arena are the latest venue to join in Atlanta’s flurry of new stadium/arena construction. While the exterior of the original structure still stands, the interior has been gutted and rebuilt into a state-of-the-art sports facility for the 21st century. Visitors to the former Philips Arena will be amazed and thrilled by the transformation.

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