ATLANTA -- The Atlanta Hawks are using a high-tech virtual tour to give current and potential season ticket holders a glimpse of their renovated arena.
With Philips Arena currently undergoing major renovations, the Hawks recently launched "The Preview," an interactive tour of the transformed arena in downtown Atlanta located between Mercedes-Benz Stadium and Centennial Olympic Park. The tour was opened about a month ago while the arena is currently in the final phase of its $192.5 million renovation.
Hawks CEO Steve Koonin said there is no other experience like the preview center in the NBA.
Thousands of potential suite and seat buyers have already taken the tour held in a 2,500-square-foot space, which is located on CNN Center property. The tour is promoting the revamped arena on several large 70-inch screens as a premiere entertainment venue for basketball games, concerts and events.
Ticket holders in the suites, cabanas or verandas don't just use them for Hawks games, the tickets are good for all events at Philips Arena -- with food and beverages all included. But the Hawks home games are the primary hook.
"It's going to be a social place unlike anywhere else in the NBA," Koonin said. "All of our research told us that people don't want to sit down in a chair eating a hot dog out of aluminum foil and watch a game. They want a great night out. ... Think Vegas pool meets sporting event."
"The Preview" offers a before-and-after look at the various amenities from the 360-degree concourse, rapper Killer Mike's barber shop, Zac Brown's BBQ restaurant, fantasy golf area, club lounge and premium seating areas with couches and cabanas. The tour, which the Hawks dub as somewhat of a "Disney ride," also provides a look at the new state-of-the-art video board system, which is three times larger than the current one.
The Hawks will continue to operate it once the arena renovations are complete, they have three-year lease for the space.
Koonin said team officials know they have much work to do.
Despite the Hawks' on-the-court struggles this past season, the franchise hopes to claim some victory off it. The team went 24-58 and missed the playoffs for the first time in 10 seasons.
Koonin said they are taking a new business approach to enhance the fan experience beyond any game or event. The courtside club featuring the Hawks Bar in the premium seating area several rows behind the basketball goal was a part of the arena's phase one transformation.
"I love that they're not letting it sit around," said Atlanta-based attorney Randy Kessler, who has been a Hawks season-ticket holder since the arena opened in 1999. He hasn't been on "The Preview" tour, but he's seen images of the new arena.
"I love that they are not just thinking of on-the-court experience, but off it," Kessler added. "You should feel special once you walk in, and I did. I thought last year's improvements were good. Even though the team was terrible, the experience was still great. I'm looking forward to seeing what's next."
Koonin said the Hawks realize with their recent on-court performance they have to continue to work in order to win over fans.
He said the team spent millions of dollars to build the preview center and partnered with a Seattle-based design firm Hornall Anderson to create the virtual tour.
Philips Area is expected to reopen in October, but Koonin said the team will keep the tour going on for the next couple years. The arena might be one of the smallest-capacity NBA venues with 17,600 seats.
Sales centers are not unique to the NBA and several teams with new arenas have given fans an insight to what they can expect in the new facilities, including Sacramento, Milwaukee and Golden State.
Koonin said Hawks officials visited other arena preview centers including Sacramento and the NFL stadium in Minnesota. He said there is no other experience like "The Preview" in the NBA, but the Hawks are still missing one thing -- championships.
Golden State "has one thing that's very powerful that I wish we had: A bunch of recent Larry O'Brien trophies and rings," he said. "We have to work a little harder."