There are 29 arenas serving as home to the NBA’s 30 teams (what with the Lakers and Clippers cohabitating). Approximately two-thirds of them (19) are the same age or older than Philips Arena, the latest Atlanta complex in the crosshairs of change. So, no, the 16-year-old building is not outdated by any relative measure.
It is a vibrant place, consistently ranked among the top five busiest arenas in the U.S. by Pollstar Magazine. So, no, it is not a decrepit venue, hemorrhaging money.
The home of the NBA champion Golden State Warriors, Oracle Arena, is the oldest in the league (built in 1966, given a $120 million reno in 1997). So, no, new construction is not a necessary component to winning.
Still, you just knew it was coming, this push for major changes in the Hawks play place. Even before new ownership took over the team – bringing with it the imperative to build its own temple. Before a 60-win season gave the Hawks added clout. As soon as construction began on new buildings for the Falcons and Braves, you had to know that the Hawks were going to get in line and ask, “When’s it going to be our turn?”
The expiration date on our sporting palaces keeps shrinking. Now we can’t even get to the second decade before there are serious rumblings about the inadequacy of some of our grandest projects. Might as well just keep the construction crews on retainer, constantly working on the next big building, so teams can regularly rotate in and out. Pretty soon, it will be like leasing a car – you get that new owner feeling every couple of years.
By any rational observation, Philips Arena is just fine as it is. But these are not rational times, not with Mad New Construction Disease sweeping the land.
Surely the Hawks won’t, like the Braves, pick up and move out of the city center and nearer the suburbs.
Not after all they went through last year with the old owner getting put through the wringer by his too-many-black-fans stance.
Not after CEO Steve Koonin doubled down on the Hawks urban connection. It was Koonin who was so passionate about building a hip, downtown vibe. It was Koonin who uttered the term “Alpharetta Unicorn,” putting to myth the idea that the Hawks fan base was centered anywhere but inside the Perimeter.
So, perhaps, the best we can hope for is a facelift on the current building. Soak the visitors and the tax payers for a couple hundred million, slap on a new coat of paint, and move on into the great competitive unknown.
Even that is a preposterous notion, as is performing plastic surgery on any other 16-year-old. However, if doing nothing is not an option, as new owner Tony Ressler asserts, then it is the least noxious option.