Seeing Is Believing

Oct. 13, 2011

By Jon Cooper
Sting Daily

Tuesday afternoon was a day to start believing in the future at Georgia Tech.

It was a day to see the promise of the immediate future for both men’s and women’s basketball and to imagine and anticipate with excitement where both programs are going next year.

On Tuesday morning women’s head coach MaChelle Joseph fielded questions from reporters following football coach Paul Johnson’s press conference. Later that day, it was first-year men’s coach Brian Gregory’s turn to talk to the media during his team’s media day at Zelnak Center. A brief session with the players followed.

Both Joseph, who has coached Tech to five straight 20-win seasons, and won a school-record 24 games in ’10-11, and Gregory, who orchestrated five 20-win seasons at Dayton, including his last four years there, expressed the kind of optimism and excitement that comes with the opening of practice.

They also committed a taboo as far as coaches go — they took the liberty of looking ahead. That look to the future, specifically to next season, had nothing to do with personnel or postseason potential. If anything it was to potential personnel drawn to Tech by the McCamish Pavilion, where both teams will be playing their home games beginning with the 2012-13 season.

“We are able to show [potential recruits] the proposals in terms of what the arena is going to look like,” said Gregory. “The one thing, too, in terms of our recruiting, in particular of our next two classes, the class of 2012 will be the first class that gets to play in the McCamish Pavilion. They will be that first group that runs out of the tunnel. I want guys that are excited about being part of that first group.

“Then that second recruiting class, those two classes that make up the seven scholarships that we’ll sign during that time, will be the ones that act as kind of the cornerstone for the new direction of the program. Those classes together are the ones in the new arena that will create the new vision and the future of our program. That’s exciting and I want guys who are excited about that.”

“It’s a very exciting time in our program,” said Joseph. “We’re obviously a little disjointed because we’ll be playing all of our games out in Gwinnett this season and don’t really have a home court. But we’re excited about the changes and the new facility that we’re going to have here in 2013. Obviously, it’s not ideal, but we understand that change is progress, and to get the kind of facility that we’re going to have in a year, we’re going to have to sacrifice something.”

The Institute isn’t sacrificing anything in making McCamish Pavilion fresh and state-of-the-art, while preserving the history and personality that made Alexander Memorial Coliseum unique.

During Tuesday afternoon’s tour, Whiting-Turner’s Trevor Pitt, the project manager and a Georgia Tech alumnus, couldn’t hide his enthusiasm over the aspects of the project that will make taking in games at McCamish a special experience.

Obviously, the vision required some imagination, as all that was actually in place was the dome of “Thrillerdome,” and the steal beams that held it in place. As per popular demand, the dome has a place in the new facility. The beams will be highlighted in the new facility and be painted a dark grey, — the official color is Benjamin Moore’s “Cheating Heart.” (As far as preserving Tech’s tradition and history you gotta be sure Hank would have done it this way).

The new structure will be a big step forward from Alexander Memorial Coliseum, built in 1955 for approximately $2 million on land that for much of the early 1900s had been used by the city of Atlanta as a landfill.

The Pavilion will cost in the neighborhood of $40- to $45 million, with the lead gift provided by the McCamish family. Tearing down AMC was considered but the revamping actually was more cost-effective, as tearing down and starting over would have cost an estimated $65- to $70 million.

Everyone from players and coaches to fans will get their money’s worth from the new facility.

Players get brand-new facilities at court level that will include meeting rooms just off the floor that they can use at halftime, eliminating inconvenient and time-consuming trips back to the locker room.

The new arena will hold approximately 8,600 fans — 6,800 in the lower seating bowl, 1,800 in the upper deck. They will be guaranteed easier access to the stadium — for example, students will have their own entrance that leads right into the student section — more convenient amenities, and a better view of the game.

Thanks to a Whiting-Turner’s Point-Cloud surveying, sight lines are improved and the main and upper-deck concourses have been opened up, so fans visiting concession stands will no longer have their view of the action interrupted.

There will be a 30,000-pound center-hung scoreboard hanging from the dome, as well as an LED scoreboard on the facing of the upper deck, and McCamish also will feature a state-of-the art sound system.

A unique aspect, good for the fans as well as for TV, will be theatrical lighting, which will darken the lower seating bowl, while highlighting the court. McCamish Pavilion will be only the third arena in the United States to use theatrical lighting, joining New York’s Madison Square Garden and the Staples Center in Los Angeles.

While the opening of the 2011-12 season is only about five weeks away, it’s hard to blame fans and even Gregory and Joseph — to the extent they did — for looking ahead to 2012-13.

Never has the cry of “Wait ’til next year” sounded so good.

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