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Boomtime for Atlanta sports venues

Atlanta is booming as a sports destination with a stunning new NFL stadium and baseball park already in operation, while a redeveloped NBA arena is set to open this autumn.

And the city hosted two major conferences this week, with hundreds of delegates attending the Association of Luxury Suite Directors (ALSD) annual event and the Green Sports Alliance Summit.

Delegates at the ALSD’s Design & Build Forum heard how the Philips Arena is undergoing major renovations to turn it into a fabulous new venue for the NBA’s Atlanta Hawks.

Brett Stefansson, executive vice president and general manager, Philips Arena explained how the venue is being transformed.

The arena opened back in 1999 and at the architect at the time thought it was a great idea to build what was essentially a giant wall of suites on one side of the building with premium seats down below that. It was innovative at the time, but doesn’t really fit with what today’s fans want from their experience.

Image: An artist’s impression of the renovated arena

Steffanson said the ownership team looked into knocking the venue down and building a new one, but that it made a lot more financial sense to to go through a three-phase renovation project. He said:

Phase One was a complete shut-down last summer and we did about $20 million worth of work. Phase Two was during the past season when we did another $20 million worth of work. We’re currently in Phase 3, which is $100 million worth of work and we’re currently shut down for the entire summer. We shut down in April and the building will come back over to us on October 16.

The overall project is a $200 million renovation involving gutting the entire building and building it back up. It’s a focus on technology, food & beverage and re-imaginging the fan experience.

He said the new venue would boast 2,500 premium seats divided into seven different offerings, including a swag shop where fans could get a shave, wash and groom and Zac Brown’s Social Club. He added:

We’ve also partnered with Top Golf, so we’ll be the first NBA facility to offer a Top Golf simulator experience to fans in a couple of the party suites.

The redeveloped arena will include new amenities on every level of the building, 360-degree connected concourses at all levels, improved sightlines and state-of-the-art video throughout the building.

The renovation includes removing the wall of suites on one side of the arena.

Originally constructed as a multi-purpose facility and opened in 1999, Philips Arena annually ranks among the most-programmed venues in the country, after Madison Square Garden and Barclays Center in New York City and Staples Center in Los Angeles.

Philips Arena hosts approximately 170 events per year, including most of the biggest musical acts, family shows including circus and ice shows, and Hawks home games.

SunTrust Park

The newly built 41,500 seat Suntrust Park in Atlanta, which opened in 2017, is home to the MLB’s Atlanta Braves and ALSD delegates were given a VIP tour of the venue.

Highlights included the Coors Light Chophouse, Champions Suite Level and the SunTrust Club, the most exlusive club in the ballpark, putting fans so close to the action they feel part of the game.

Around the open-air ballpark is the Battery Atlanta, a mixed-use village that includes restaurants, hotels, office space and apartments.

Image: The entrance to SunTrust Park

Mercedes-Benz Stadium

The Green Sports Alliance Summit, meanwhile, took place at the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium in downtown Atlanta, home of the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons and the MLS’s Atlanta United.

The venue is the first professional sports stadium in the US to be awarded LEED Platinum Certification for its sustainability efforts.

In and exclusive interview with PS&AM, Scott Jenkins, general manager of Mercedes-Benz Stadium, told PS&AM:

As with everything with this project we wanted to take it up a notch and raise the bar and so we set out to to get LEED certified.

Initially we knew we could get gold certified and thought it would be a reach to get to the platinum but as we got into the project more and challenged ourselvea, it became apparent that we could get to lead platinum certification. So we’re the first professional stadium to get LEED Platinum certified.

Through energy efficiency and onsite renewable energy with our 4,000 solar panels, we reduced our energy use by about 29%.

We also reduced water use by 47% and we have a storm-water management system around the property.

We have about 2 million gallons of storm-water capacity in total and it’s made up of three major components. One is a million plus gallon storm vault, then we have bio-swales that are built into the landscape to help hold storm-water and then we actually collect rainwater for the cooling towers and also to irrigate our landscaping. It reduces the potential for flooding in the neighbourhood.

Image: Scott Jenkins at Mercedes-Benz Stadium

Image: Inside Mercedes-Benz Stadium

The summit also heard how venues across the world are working to improve sustainability.

US Bank Stadium, in collaboration with the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority, SMG, Aramark, NFL, PepsiCo, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and Hennepin County, created a zero-waste legacy project for Super Bowl LII.

Melbourne Cricket Club closed the loop on organics recycling at its venue, with waste produced at the Melbourne Cricket Ground treated in-house via an organics dehydrator and then turned into a soil additive used to sustain the heritage listed Yarra Park surrounding the stadium, as well as being donated to a local community garden.

The Arizona Diamondbacks added 200 new recycling bins through a partnership with Waste Management increasing recycling tonnage by 170% (314 tons recycled).