You Won't Recognize The Joint

March 10, 2012

By Matt Winkeljohn
Sting Daily

It’s still a mess, especially down on what will be the floor, but you can, in a tour now of what will become McCamish Pavilion, see . . . WOW!

A media tour Saturday morning revealed a couple things above all others: first, even though the footprint of what was Alexander Memorial Coliseum will remain largely (but not entirely) the same, you’d never know once inside that the address is the same.

The roof has been retained, although it is not aluminum for solar-reflective/energy efficiency reasons, but beyond that nothing has been retained other than the huge steel structures that support the lid.

Nothing.

They’ve blown out the walls, and opened the place way up.

It feels like a much, much bigger space.

The concourse that you’ve read and/or heard about affording a court view for 270 degrees, is visible and easy to wrap your mind around. It just all seems so much bigger now.

“Probably the most difficult part of a renovation project is that you can’t get [fans] in [to get a feel for what’s coming],” said athletic director Dan Radakovich. “It’s difficult to get our fan base to see just how different this facility will be than Alexander Memorial Coliseum.”

There may be a fan tour opportunity in September, or early October.

Even though the place feels much bigger, and even though the floor is now dirt (they’ve torn up the concrete pad that was beneath everything in order to run conduit beneath the floor to support all the electronic bells and whistles that are coming), it’s clear the place will be intimate.

There will be student seating at court’s edge in addition to some primo seating for VIP Jacket fans.

Beyond that, the seats that previously were tucked way back and away from the floor are gone. Those areas are now going to be part of the expanded concourse. But the project has included hanging a bunch of new steel from the existing super-structure steel — the spider-like spines of the building — and dropping seats in that new work.

Bottom line: those news seats will hang over what might be translated into existing seats (although they’ll all be new, too). Even the fans in the “nosebleed seats” will be stacked on top of the action.

It’s going to be amazing.

“It’s going to be intimate,” said men’s head coach Brian Gregory. “Home court advantage is all about the fans and what they experience. They’re right on top of you. You know they’re there. Now, it’s our job to play well and play an exciting brand of basketball.”

Indeed; that’s another matter.

The fan experience is going to be very, very different.

“Not only will the electronics be different, the scoreboard, the sound system, the theatrical lighting, the LED screens all the way around the upper deck . . . it’s going to be a totally different view of Georgia Georgia Tech basketball than our fans are used to,” Radakovich said.

As for that lighting, think Madison Square Garden, or the Staples Center in L.A. — arenas where the lighting makes the crowd seem invisible when you watch on television.

There’s a lot more coming, too, including a huge upgrade from the suite seat system of the past to a new club.

Hold your breath; when you see the finished product, you’re going to need to exhale hard. The difference will be immense.

Comments to stingdaily@gmail.com.

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