How Do You Get A City To Care About Its NBA Team? The Hawks Have A Few Ideas

For the past two years, the city of Atlanta has acted as an experimental lab for unconventional moves by major professional sports franchises. The Braves uprooted from their beloved home in downtown to a smaller, ritzier ballpark in the suburbs. The Falcons are a month away from opening their behemoth new stadium in the heart of the city, complete with the NFL’s cheapest concessions and an ambitious plan to the be the most energy efficient football stadium in America.

Now the Atlanta Hawks are here to add their contribution to the ever changing nature of Atlanta sports, with further details on the overhaul of their home over the next two years.

Philips Arena, the current home of the Hawks, has all the simple necessities an NBA team could ask for: great location, plenty of luxury suites, and a playoff contending team. But these days, simple necessities don’t cut it. The Hawks ranked 26th out of 30 in team attendance last year, and with a roster on the verge of a rebuild, something needed to be done.

So how do you get a city to care about its NBA team? If you’re the Hawks, it’s all about unashamedly embracing everything that makes your city unique. And not many cities are more unique than Atlanta. So when the Hawks put together a press conference last week to announce what their new arena will look like, there was one announcement that stood out. Killer Mike’s SWAG Shop, a fully operational barber shop and social destination inside the arena with a full view of the court, run by the Atlanta music icon himself.

Also revealed were plans for a food joint operated by country music star Zac Brown, and a partnership with Top Golf to create one-of-a-kind luxury suites that carry its next-gen simulator. And if that wasn’t enough, the Hawks will also introduce the NBA’s first courtside bar and club located directly behind one of the baskets.

The fan reaction to these announced changes was immediate, with many people saying different versions of the same thing: “This is the most Atlanta thing ever.” And for the Hawks, there couldn’t be a higher compliment.

The city of Atlanta is in the midst of a cultural renaissance that has seen it become the setting of some of the most talked about tv shows and movies, and a home for many of the country’s most talented artists. The goal for the Atlanta Hawks is just to connect the first part of their name with the last and become inseparable from the city they play. It’s a full-fledged strategy that goes beyond just the can’t-miss amenities.

When current Hawks CEO Steve Koonin took over the role in 2014, he noticed a problem with his arena. A huge section of the stadium was blocked off from the average fan and only accessible to club members and those in luxury suites. For Koonin, this set up wasn’t representative of the city he knew. So, the Philips Arena renovations will include a complete gutting of the current concourse in favor of a more open walkway with 360-degree connectivity. The Hawks say the inspiration for this was the ultra-popular Atlanta Beltine, an outdoor walking trail through the city that has been key to revitalizing sections of downtown.

Of course, it’s impossible to know how the new amenities in Philips Arena will change fans’ attitude towards the team, but it certainly has people talking. And in the Lavar Ball era of the NBA, that’s never a bad thing.

“Every element of the arena under the roof will be brand new and designed with Atlanta and its vibrant communities in mind,” says Koonin. With the success of everything else set in Atlanta recently, there’s once again reason to be excited about basketball in the city.

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