NBA’s Second Largest Reno Ever Underway

$192-million rehab includes courtside bar, suite-style barbershop, Topgolf swing suites at Philips Arena

  • by Tim Newcomb
  • Published: July 11, 2017

Rendering of the newly renovated Philips Arena, Atlanta.

For the NBA’s second-largest arena renovation in history, the Atlanta Hawks and Philips Arena, Atlanta, plan more than a pricey update, they aim to create a litany of firsts for large-scale arenas.

As part of the $192.5-million plan to completely reimagine Philips Arena, designers from HOK have not only removed the wall of suites that has long muddied venue acoustics and opened up concourses, but have also provided three firsts: a courtside bar, a barbershop overlooking the bowl and two suites loaded with Topgolf technology.

“We are beyond excited to see construction begin on the new Philips Arena,” said Steve Koonin, Atlanta Hawks Basketball Club CEO. “Every element of the arena under the roof will be brand new and designed with Atlanta and its vibrant communities in mind.”

Thad Sheely, chief operating officer of both the Hawks and Philips Arena, told Venues Today the team and arena staff did feel an “obligation” to come up with something new. “There is so much fun and cool stuff, and we have learned from everyone (before us) and we just want to have people learn from us, too,” he said. “It is a great business in that way.”

In a big picture scenario, Sheely equates the Philips Arena remodel to buying an old home and knocking down walls to open it up. “We are really converting the building to a basketball-first building with music straight on its heels,” he said. “We are opening up the concourse and opening the bowl. Everybody wants to be involved in the space.”

Outside the seating bowl, Philips Arena will have freshly opened concourses, including a Hawk Walk series of bridges atop the concourse. Inside the bowl, gone is the infamous six-level wall of suites, allowing for new amenities throughout the building and a completely improved acoustics experience to match an effort to draw more concerts.

“We have been working really closely with the Oak View Group and brought in their rigging consultant and acoustic consultant as we try to become the stop in the southeast for major concerts,” Sheely said. “That wall of suites does have an impact on acoustics, and we think we can go from that to some of the best acoustics in the country for arena music. That is our intent.”

Those aren’t the only musically-minded changes coming to Philips Arena. The building’s current configuration spreads concert operations throughout the venue. The new design consolidates new dressing rooms, a new show office and new food and press areas near the loading dock. “When shows come here, we want them to think that we have thought of everything,” Sheely said.

The reconfiguration from the roof to the floor includes plans for a new centerhung scoreboard, the sharpest video displays of any arena at 6mm resolution, a new 250-seat master conference room loaded with touch-screen and interactive whiteboard technology, 360-degree concourse connectivity and new open food stalls and bars throughout.

By demolishing the wall of suites, designers can update the seating configuration with fresh sightlines while the traditional 20-person suites give way to flexible suites tailored to fit changing needs.

As part of the new suite experience, Philips Arena will open two Topgolf Swing Suite technology simulator lounges with views into the bowl. The suites, available to rent by the hour for groups up to 15, bring a social experience to the arena.

In true Atlanta style, rapper, actor and activist Killer Mike will open one of his signature SWAG Barbershops inside the arena, for full “shaves, washes and grooming” while viewing games. The Atlanta-based business created by an Outkast alum expands the growing brand. “I’m very happy that the front porch of the Hawks is going to be host to a SWAG shop,” Mike said. “It really is like a dream coming true because now kids are going to be coming down early just to hang out in my shop, buy a t-shirt, get a haircut and watch the game.”

The Hawks announced a partnership with Zac Brown, lead singer of the Zac Brown Band, for Zac Brown’s Social Club, a southern gourmet-style restaurant that will feature a live music stage. “Food has always been a passion of mine, from owning my own restaurant on Lake Oconee to opening the Social Club,” Brown said. “I love what food does for friends and family; it gives us all something to gather around and a centerpiece for the time we spend together.”

For those who want to eat and drink a little closer to the action, the Hawks Bar will become the NBA’s first bar adjacent to the floor. Designed in the shape of the Hawks’ iconic Pacman logo, the bar will sit feet from the court’s baseline with a distinctive perspective on the action.

Work to renovate a venue that hosts approximately 170 events and two million guests annually, started in June and should wrap during the 2018-2019 season. The Hawks will continue to play all regular season games at Philips Arena and agreed to an 18-year lease extension to remain in downtown Atlanta through 2046.

“I’m excited about the scale of it,” Sheely said. “I’m excited we are doing a lot of things that are true to Atlanta.”

  • by Tim Newcomb
  • Published: July 11, 2017