Inside and out, the mandate from Turner Broadcasting System to the architects was clear: Make the arena big and functional, as well as intimate and memorable.
Despite the seemingly contradictory orders, the team of HOK Sport and Arquitectonica was able to incorporate features to make the new home of the Atlanta Hawks and the Atlanta Thrashers unique.
Atlanta's new steel, glass and concrete arena will have a unique roof-line, as its predecessor did. But unlike the former Omni's egg-crate look, the new place will have three expansive, layered roofs that will come to life with lights at night.
Stainless steel columns supporting the roofs will spell "Atlanta" on the main, Techwood Drive side of the building and "CNN" on the International Boulevard side. Fans will walk through the 60-feet-high letters to enter the arena. and fans will walk under them as they enter.
"We were looking to design a building that was timeless," said Bernardo Fort Brescia, partner of Miami-based Arquitectonica. "We wanted a welcoming arcade that could be a symbol for Atlanta. We looked at the beauty of the word Atlanta -- its symmetry and interesting geometry. We thought it would be powerful, unique and give this arena an identity. We tried hundreds of different designs. It was a real labor of love to develop something that had a beauty on its own and in the end would say Atlanta."
Fort Brescia also said the Atlanta columns would be a "participatory or interactive sculpture. You can go and touch them."
As one of the main features of the building, the top roof and its trusses will be in full view from the seats.
The seating configuration departs from those of other modern arenas.
"It was difficult," said Joe Spear, senior vice president of HOK Sport. "What one person thinks is intimate, the other does not. We tried 16 different seating bowls before we hit on one."
All contemporary facilities have luxury suites and premium seating to enhance their revenues by millions of dollars a year. But typically, they are put around the belly of a arena. That arrangement pushes the cheaper seats, located above the suite levels, higher up in the rafters. It also robs large arenas of intimacy.
But in this arena, one quadrant of the building will house the 96 suites and their 1,400 seats, along with another 2,100 club seats offering in-seat food service, convenient parking and other amenities.
The rest of the arena will be for season-ticket holders and single-game purchasers. As a result, even the fans in the upper level's cheaper seats will be lower and closer to the action than they would be under a more conventional design. About 12,000 of the 20,000 seats are on the lower level .
Among the arena's features:
* Designed by HOK Sport and Arquitectonica, it will have steel trusses supporting three roofs that resemble cards being fanned. The trusses will spell "Atlanta" on one side and "CNN" on the other. Dramatic lighting will enhance the new landmark at night. "We wanted it to be instantly recognizable and to make a statement, at least as recognizable as the Sydney Opera House," Kasten said of the famous Australian site.
* The seating arrangement will put the average fan closer to the action. Luxury suites and premium club seats will be stacked vertically in one quarter of the seating bowl, meaning fans in the upper level will be closer by at least six rows compared with other modern arenas..
* The luxury suites will be open, enhancing the acoustics for concerts, architects said.
* Between the arena and CNN Center will be an enclosed atrium with a 400-foot-long street, retail shops and entertainment.
THE ULTIMATE SPORTS ROAD TRIP
By: Andrew Kulyk & Peter Farrell
December 3, 1999
|Philips Arena Ranking by USRT|
|Fan Support|| 1|
|Concourses/Fan Comfort|| 6|
|Bonus: CNN Center Atrium|| 4|
|Bonus: Old Omni Scoreboard|| 2|
|Total Score|| 62.5|
December 4, 1999
November 9, 2004 - Phillips Arena is the sparkling home for the NBA Atlanta Hawks and the NHL Atlanta Thrashers. When they picked
a new location for their new venue, which opened in 1999, several alternatives to the location of the old Omni were considered. But why re-invent the wheel? The best spot for the new venue was right where the old one stood. So the Omni was razed, and right in its spot the new Phillips Arena was built. We can't imagine a better spot than this!
Getting to the Venue
The arena is situated on the east side of downtown, right next to the landmark Georgia Dome and the huge Georgia Convention Center. Directional signage throughout the downtown streets are abundant, and coming in to downtown from any of the arterials, I-75, I-85 or I-20 will also direct you to the venue. Another easy way to get here is via the MARTA rail line. Exit W1 is steps from the building's front door. Cost for parking in the ramp is $15, though cheaper lots can be found for as little as $5. Free on street parking is pretty scarce and far away so plan to pay.
Outside the Venue
Other well known Atlanta landmarks such as the CNN World Center and Centennial Park are right next to the arena. In fact, the CNN Center is connected right to the arena, and the breathtaking 20 story atrium houses a good number of restaurants, shops and fast food eateries, so this makes for a good pre game destination. One of the most unique characteristics of the exterior facade is for the word ATLANTA which is inscribed in huge letters in the pillars of the front lobby. A video board and lighted marquee sits on a wall of the parking garage a block away .
Once inside the arena take a walk around the concourses with plenty of merchandise and concession stands. There were a couple of things that caught our eye here, one was an old four-sided scoreboard without a video board. Later we were to find out that this was the old main scoreboard at the Omni and as we saw during the game it is still fully functional and still used to keep time and score and other vital stats of the game going on in progress. The other thing we noticed was the wall of television monitors(roughly 100?) as we went up the escalator to the upper level showing various sports events from around the nation. You could catch the action on those screens from many vantage points in the upper and lower concourses. And at the top of the escalator is where the arena has an interactive game experience area with hoops for kids, video games and so on.
The major merchandise store is located near the CNN Center entrance of the venue.
Another major feature of the lower concourse is a colorful area named "HawkWalk", simply it is the prime area of the venue to find concessions, merchandise and the like.
Inside the arena bowl you will find the usual two level seating area with suites and the like. However this building diverges in a major way from other arenas when it comes to club seats and suite locations. Instead of the traditional, suites and club seats between the upper and lower seating areas this arena has all club seats consisting of the entire lower seating level on one sideline of the arena and there are four level of suites atop overlooking these club seats. Truly unique and something we have not seen before or since.
There is a four sided Phillips videoboard in the center of the building along with dot matrix boards above the seating area at each end zone supplying statistics and out of town scores. LED ribbon boards run around the circumference of the balcony and are complemented by companion boards at the base of the center scoreboard.
The Hawks have three retired numbers for Bob Pettit (from the club's days in St. Louis), Lou Hudson, and Dominique Wilkins. They also have banners commemorating their division titles won while in Atlanta.
The Thrashers have two banners: one for their inaugural season of 1999-2000, and one for their fifth season in 2003-04. What??? No banners for the second, third , and fourth seasons? This reeks of those "thank you for participating" certificates that kids get after playing in Little League and has absolutely no place wasting air in an arena's rafters!!!
Did you know???? The Hawks franchise began play in the mid 40's as the Buffalo Bisons.
Slam Dunks, Assists, Fouls
Extra Point(s) - The Thrashers and Hawks both had pretty wretched teams that season yet both teams were victorious. The Thrashers with a one goal win over the then-division leading Panthers, and Hawks hanging on to a narrow win over the Pistons as Detroit's last gasp FG attempt for the W bricked off the backboard.
Foul - on our return visit in 2004 , we attended the Hawks opening night, and the Hawks put on an astounding display of why they've been an NBA lottery regular. They tied a franchise low for points in a half on their way to being routed by the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Slam Dunk - During the Thrashers game they brought out a real decibel counter to show how loud the fans were, a refreshing change from all of those useless "Fan-O-Meter" graphics on too many Jumbotrons across the US.
Extra Point - The big game in town that weekend in 1999 wasn't the Hawks,Thrashers, or Falcons but the SEC Championship at the Georgia Dome Saturday Night as Alabama pummeled Florida for the right to go to the Sugar Bowl. I can still remember us failing miserably at kicking field goals at the SEC Experience as well as all of those Gators fans on I-75 making the trek up with us to Atlanta.
Special thanks to Scott Riley, who put us up at his home in the 'burbs for a few days during our first visit, saving us a bundle on hotel expenses. That alone qualified him for induction into our Hall of Fame.
We like arenas in bustling downtown locations, and this one certainly fits the bill. Better yet, the Georgia Dome and the massive convention center complex are also nearby, creating all sorts of urban synergies. Two elements make this venue unique and striking... first of all, the connection the building has with the CNN Center next door. The dramatic atrium almost serves as the venue's main lobby, and lots of shopping and eating options here for before the game. Second, the "Hawk Walk" concourse is so festive and colorful, it really sets the tone for this building. Too bad the teams that play here are mired in such muck. For Phillips Arena is a great venue in a vibrant and exciting city, and earns a top mark on our list.
December 11, 2008
Copyright 2008 MediaVentures
A jury ruled that Turner Broadcasting System owes Texas businessman David McDavid $281
million for a breach of contract when it negotiated with - and eventually sold - the Hawks,
Thrashers and Philips Arena operating rights to another bidder. The decision does not mean
McDavid now owns the teams. They remain in the hands of the Atlanta Spirit, an eight-member
group of investors. An appeal by Atlanta-based Turner Broadcasting, which is owned by Time
Warner, is possible. McDavid signed a letter of intent with Turner to buy the teams and arena
rights in April 2003. The letter, granting exclusive negotiations, expired 45 days later, but the
parties continued to talk. Turner announced in September of that year it was selling the teams to
the Spirit. The investors included the son and son-in-law of Ted Turner, founder of the
Atlanta-based media company. McDavid sued the company for $450 million in Fulton County
Superior Court, accusing executives of four misdeeds. They included breaking an oral contract to
sell the teams and arena rights as well as sharing his confidential financial information with the Spirit. In the unanimous verdict, the jury said Turner owes McDavid $281 million for disregarding a verbal deal and $35 million for essentially breaking a promise. The two amounts cannot be added together because of complicated legal reasons, so McDavid's side said it will pick the larger one. The jury ruled against McDavid on the two other counts. It said Turner Broadcasting did not share confidential information and did not commit fraud. (Atlanta Journal Constitution)
PHILIPS, AMERICAN AIRLINES ARENAS GO GREEN
April 9, 2009
Copyright 2009 MediaVentures
Philips Arena in Atlanta, Ga. and the American Airlines Arena in Miami are the first arenas in
the U.S. that hosts an NHL or NBA team to meet federal environmental operating standards for
Rutherford Seydel, one of the co-owners of the Hawks and Thrashers, said at a press conference
that the owners agreed to meet the standards with action such as installing new carpet with
recycled material, compact-fluorescent lamps and more recycling. Water conservation measures
have cut water usage by 2 million gallons over the past 11 months.
Building officials didn't say what the work cost, but they hope it will eventually be revenue neutral.
In Miami, the costs of the certification were low because the nearly 10-year-old building
already included many of the electricity - and water-saving features to earn Leadership in Energy
and Environmental Design or LEED certification, such as underground parking that produces less
heat than above-ground asphalt lots.
They also believe that energy- and water-conserving systems cut costs 10-15 percent a year,
trimming about $500,000 off utility bills that now top $3 million a year.
The actions also helped the Miami arena sign Waste Management on as a sponsor. The firm
will work with the arena to improve and expand recycling programs.
June 4, 2009
Copyright 2009 MediaVentures
A $4 million upgrade to Philips Arena this summer will result in a new audio system and
improvements to the venue's luxury suites.
PHILIPS ARENA WON'T BE COLLATERAL IN SALE OF HAWKS
February 3, 2011
Copyright 2011 MediaVentures
Atlanta, Ga. - The Atlanta Journal Constitution says the Atlanta Hawks franchise is no longer
tied to Philips Arena as collateral in case its owners default on long term bond payments - making it easier for the owners to tap into NBA's credit facility and for the team to be sold - according to a bond refinancing document from the City of Atlanta and Fulton County Recreation Authority.
Documents show the owners, a group known as the Atlanta Spirit, refinanced the remaining $124.5 million of debt remaining on the arena in August 2010, just before the 2010-2011 NBA season.
The refinancing pledges operator revenues up to the maximum annual lease payment as collateral for the bonds instead, the documents show.
When Philips was built, then-owner Turner Broadcasting System pledged the Hawks franchise as collateral in case it defaulted on its obligation to make the annual bond payments.
The original principal on the bonds was $130 million.
The Spirit bought the Hawks, Thrashers and arena operating rights from Turner Broadcasting in 2004.
The owners have consistently said that neither team is for sale and that they only are looking for additional investors for the hockey franchise, the newspaper reported.
A lawsuit filed by the Spirit on Jan. 14 said they have been trying to sell the Thrashers since 2005 but were hampered by a lawsuit that stemmed from a "fatally flawed" contract.
TWO GROUPS INTERESTED IN PHILIPS ARENA, TEAMS
March 3, 2011
Copyright 2011 MediaVentures
Atlanta, Ga. - Several people familiar with the situation have told the Atlanta Journal
Constitution that two investment groups are exploring taking over the contract to manage Philips Arena and buying the Hawks and Thrashers.
The newspaper said a deal is not close in either case because the proper paperwork has not been filed to begin serious negotiations. Typically non-disclosure agreements must be signed between buyer and seller. However, at least one group has met with the officials from the NBA and the NHL.
The group that recently met with league officials, including the NHL, has a main investor who is connected to other parties, some of whom are from Atlanta. That group is interested in purchasing the three properties, plus it has a "development element" to the deal, possibly involving the area around Philips Arena, the newspaper said.
Several groups have expressed a singular interest in buying the Thrashers and moving them to another city. The Journal Constitution cities Winnipeg, Quebec and Hamilton as possible destinations.
Earlier, Atlanta Spirit co-owner Michael Gearon Jr. told The Journal-Constitution there was a sense of urgency to find a buyer or additional investors to keep the Thrashers in Atlanta. The franchise has lost $130 million over the past five years, according to court documents.
Stephen Rollins, an Atlanta native and filmmaker who has publicly stated a desire for his investment group to purchase the Thrashers, is not among the two groups of potential buyers, the newspaper said. Rollins' group is said to be interested but has not made a formal bid.
The Atlanta Spirit has been trying to sell the Thrashers for six years, according to a Jan. 21 lawsuit filed in Fulton County Superior Court against Atlanta law firm King & Spalding.
The group sued the firm for $200 million, citing a "fatally flawed" and "botched" contract written to buyout former partner Steve Belkin for preventing any Thrashers sale during the nearly five years prior to the suit was being settled in December.
Before the current litigation, the Atlanta Spirit stated publicly it had looked for investors for the past two years for the Thrashers, Hawks or both franchises. Ownership reported more than $130 million in operating losses since 2005, according to the lawsuit. The Thrashers' value has dropped by more than $50 million, the document said.
HAWKS GET NEW OWNER, PLEDGE TO REMAIN IN ATLANTA
August 11, 2011
Copyright 2011 MediaVentures
Atlanta, Ga. - Los Angeles businessman Alex Meruelo has reached an agreement to buy a
majority ownership stake in the Atlanta Hawks and operating rights to Philips Arena, he told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Meruelo said he and the Hawks' current owner, the Atlanta Spirit Group, have a signed agreement. The deal is subject to the approval of the NBA Board of Governors - a complicated process that the newspaper said could take months.
Meruelo, 48, is the founder and chairman of The Meruelo Group, a holding company that owns businesses ranging from pizza restaurants and construction firms to a casino and a TV station.
If the Hawks deal is approved and closes, Meruelo Ð a New York-born, California- raised son of Cuban immigrants - said he would become the first Hispanic primary owner of an NBA franchise.
Meruelo said some members of the Spirit group will maintain minority ownership positions but that he will own more than 50 percent and control ownership decisions. He would not be more specific about the size of his stake and would not divulge the price he has agreed to pay for it.
The Atlanta Spirit Group - initially led by Steve Belkin of Boston, Levenson and Ed Peskowitz of Washington and Michael Gearon Jr. of Atlanta - bought the Hawks, Thrashers and Philips Arena rights from Time Warner in 2004. The newspaper said the group soon became mired in a bitter internal fight that pitted Belkin against his partners. A five-year legal battle finally ended in December when the estranged Belkin was bought out by his partners.
The Spirit this summer sold the Thrashers to a Canadian group that moved the team to Winnipeg.
Although the Spirit also had been actively seeking a buyer or investors for the Hawks for more than a year, the efforts were accelerated after the Thrashers transaction was completed.
The Journal Constitution said he agreed to the deal despite a labor dispute that has the NBA in a lockout and the 2011-12 season in doubt. Per instructions from the NBA, he would not comment on the lockout or any plans he might have for the Hawks if approved as owner.
PHILIPS ARENA DEAL, HAWKS SALE, FALLS THROUGH
November 10, 2011
Copyright 2011 MediaVentures
Atlanta, Ga. - An agreement for operating rights to Philips Arena and the sale of the Hawks
between Los Angeles businessman Alex Meruelo and Atlanta Spirit Group was mutually terminated after Meruelo would not meet economic conditions placed on the deal by the NBA.
The Atlanta Journal Constitution said termination of the agreement means Atlanta Spirit - a group led by Bruce Levenson, Ed Peskowitz and Michael Gearon Jr. - will remain the Hawks' owner. In fact, the group says it now plans to take the for-sale sign off the franchise and continue to own it indefinitely. The deal included management rights to Philips Arena.
"The Atlanta Hawks are no longer for sale," Levenson said in a statement. "We're excited to remain as owners of the Hawks and are committed to building on our string of four straight playoff appearances."
Meruelo announced Aug. 8 what he called a "definitive" agreement to buy a majority stake in the team, subject to approval by the NBA Board of Governors. The approval process bogged down in the past month because the league required additional funding from Meruelo that was not contemplated in his original deal.
The NBA's stance was similar to the one the league took when Atlanta Spirit bought the Hawks, as well as the Thrashers, from Time Warner in 2004. At that time, the NBA and the NHL approved the transaction only after several Spirit partners agreed to make personal financial guarantees of about $90 million to ensure liquidity to fund the money-losing teams' operations going forward.
The NBA and other leagues often require such financial guarantees - in the form of cash, a letter of credit from a bank or additional equity investments by partners - before approving ownership changes. That is particularly the case in deals that involve a money-losing franchise and deals that otherwise require relatively little up-front cash from the buyer at closing.
Meruelo and Atlanta Spirit declined to answer questions from the Journal Constitution about the specifics of the sale's collapse, citing a confidentiality provision in their agreement to terminate the deal.
Nine days earlier, with the deal clearly in jeopardy, Meruelo said he had "more than ample resources" to operate the Hawks "in a first-class manner" and that he was committed to completing the purchase. However, no progress was made toward NBA approval in the following week, leading to the signing of an agreement to abandon the deal.
Atlanta Spirit's subsequent statement that it is taking the Hawks off the market constitutes a change in course for the ownership group, which in June sold the Thrashers - now the Winnipeg Jets - and also had long sought a buyer or major investor for the Hawks.
The value of Meruelo's original deal to buy the team was estimated by sports-business experts in August at $300 million-plus Ð an amount based largely on the debt he was to assume or pay off.
Based on prior reports or court records, those debts included the approximately $120 million the Hawks borrowed last year from the NBA's league-wide credit facility and the $40 million-plus owed to Turner Broadcasting/Time Warner, which financed part of its 2004 sale of the Hawks and Thrashers to Atlanta Spirit.
The debt to the NBA credit facility would transfer with the franchise to a new owner, while the debt to Turner/Time Warner, backed by Levenson and Peskowitz, likely would have to be paid off or renegotiated by a new owner.
Also, the Hawks remain responsible for debt payments on bonds that paid for the construction of Philips Arena. The $124 million left on those bonds was refinanced in August 2010, with the Spirit pledging Hawks and arena revenues, up to the maximum annual lease payment, as collateral.
In addition, the $300 million-plus price included the value of the minority stake that, under terms of the August agreement, was to be retained by Atlanta Spirit.