Go West this summer and get ahead.

Atlanta sees a flood of new sports venue facelifts

Photo by Christian Crittenden | The Signal

Atlanta has emerged as a king in sports development. Considering the new and renovated venues that have popped up every other year, the capital of the South is excelling at bringing itself the national sports spotlight.

Atlanta’s sports scene is in an excellent space right now—several teams are presently capable of competing for a championship, and a few more will be able to in the coming years. And of course, when our teams are playing at such an elite level, they require top-notch homes.

Philips Arena, the home of the Atlanta Hawks since 1999, will have a new look this coming season. On Aug. 29, the Hawks announced a naming rights agreement with State Farm, unveiling the renovated venue as State Farm Arena. It will certainly take some time for people to get used to saying State Farm instead of Philips, but the deal will last for at least the next 20 seasons.

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“I think it speaks to the potential of Atlanta,” Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said. “We have such a significant imprint in the sports industry and as an entertainment center, to have a company like State Farm, which is very protective of its brand. To attach its name to the Hawks and to attach its name to the city of Atlanta speaks to [the] respected regard that our city has across the world quite frankly.

I’m very excited to celebrate with the Hawks and State Farm. I’m looking forward to all that will happen in and outside the arena with this partnership,” Bottoms said.

A new name isn’t the only change coming to the arena; the Hawks have sought to upgrade their home and bring a new twist to the game experience. Beginning this season, there will be two Top Golf simulators in the arena along with a lounge equipped with televisions for casual viewing of the game.

Fans will be able to get a haircut at The Swag Shop, owned by Atlanta rapper Killer Mike. The Zac Brown’s Social Club will also bring a southern food flair to the arena.

“Going to an arena all of my life, I look forward to food and beverage as an experience not as a disaster, risking my life hoping that I can survive the evening,” Hawks owner Tony Ressler said. “Our food and beverage are going to change dramatically where people will be excited to eat and drink here.”

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Renovations will also be made to lower bowl seating by adding more suites, and new electronics will seek to improve the viewer experience.

“The scoreboard and the whole digital experience is going to put us into the 21st century, that I promise,” Ressler said. “And the whole concept of having a series of boxes on one side with fancy seats and no boxes or no fancy seats on the other has been eliminated. And that somewhat offended me from the beginning, from the moment that I walked into the arena.”

The Erie Bayhawks is the Gatorade League affiliate of the Hawks. The team currently plays in Erie, Pennsylvania, which is roughly 12 hours away from Atlanta. That is set to change soon, as the team is slated to get a new facility in College Park, just 20 minutes away from State Farm Arena.

NBA teams are now trying to use their G League system as a sort of minor league, and having a team so close will give the Hawks the ability to work with developing players much more. The Hawks coaching staff will be able to work more closely with its G League roster in hopes that it will lead to those players playing a role in the Hawks’ future.

“It’s another phase, every team has a G League affiliate, we have one that’s now in Erie but its transitioning to College Park next year,” head coach Lloyd Pierce said. “Proximity helps out a ton, we can send players and coaches and our front office can go back and forth, so the better we’re aligned, the better our chances are of just growing and developing together.”

The Gateway Center will not only be home to the BayHawks, but it will also host concerts and other events. G League games will host around 3,500 people, while other events will host around 5,000. Not only will this benefit the Hawks, but it will improve College Park and its surrounding community.

Along with these renovations, Georgia Tech just renovated Bobby Dodd Stadium’s locker room. The Yellow Jackets spent 4.5 million dollars on the new additions in large part to keep up with the Jones’ in college football recruiting.

Each locker now has a 15-inch screen that will be used as a nameplate and highlight display. Additionally, there are large screen televisions, slushie machines, a hot tub and a cold tub.

Two brand new venues popped up within the past two seasons: the Mercedes-Benz Stadium and SunTrust Park. While SunTrust Park isn’t in the heart of Atlanta, it’s now home to the Braves, who are fighting for a playoff spot and may very well host a playoff game or series soon.

Mercedes-Benz Stadium is home to the Atlanta Falcons and Atlanta United FC, and both teams have recently played for championships. Atlanta United are in just their second season and have one of the best teams in the MLS. Super Bowl LIII will be played here in Atlanta in February 2019, and the Falcons are looking to become the first team to ever play in the Super Bowl at home.

Atlanta’s sports—and their accompanying cultures—are on the rise in the South. But now, for the first time, they have the venues to match.

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