Sept. 18, 2012
By Jon Cooper
Georgia Tech basketball fans are due for quite a show this season — and that’s before the game even starts.
The brand new McCamish Pavilion is the reason why.
Tuesday afternoon, Athletic Director Dan Radakovich led a tour through the new home of Georgia Tech basketball, giving local media just a small taste of what promises to be a magnificent fan experience.
“You know I’ve watched a lot of the do-it-yourself shows and those kinds of things and I think I had a pretty good idea of what things were going to look like. But now when we see it all in total, it’s really blowing me away,” said Radakovich. “The things that we’ve done from a sight and sound and a lighting standpoint have been real positives as it relates to creating a great basketball environment here in the building. That’s what we set out to do and I think we’ve accomplished it.
“Our contractors and our architects have done just a phenomenal job bringing it to this position,” he added. “Once we get it filled with people it’s really going to come to life and that’s really when you’re going to get a sense that, ‘Yes, this was done correctly.'”
Everything has been done correctly with McCamish Pavilion, from the unique SSP roofing to the expanded and open concourse, giving fans a view of the court at all times.
“When you walk around the concourse in a game configuration, you’re going to continue to feel connected to the game,” said Radakovich. “As you go around, you will continue to feel connected to the game, not only visually as you look down on the floor but audibly as well.”
Fans taking their seats will get the feeling of being a part of the action, as the new near-7,000-seat lower bowl puts them right on top of the court.
In an unprecedented move, the first four rows on the floor opposite the benches will be reserved for students, adding to the homecourt advantage.
“It will be very much like what you see on TV games in Kansas, Duke, Indiana,” said Radakovich. “It was consciously done that way to make sure that TV cameras will have that vantage point.”
“I think one of the things that’s unique for us is the students have some of the best seats in the place, which is important,” said men’s basketball head coach Brian Gregory, who also was on hand. “One of the things you can see is Dan has just done a tremendous job of having the vision of what a top-notch college basketball arena would be like, especially given the landscape of Atlanta. I think it’s turned out wonderfully.”
The Pavilion also has a unique upper deck, with a breath-taking view of the court and superb sight lines, as the back row of the upper level is on the same vertical plain as the lower bowl.
Regardless of where fans are seated, the view is magnificent. Fans can’t help but be drawn to the court, with McCamish’s theatrical lighting, found only in two professional arenas anywhere in the U.S. — the Staples Center in Los Angeles and Madison Square Garden in New York. Then there is the giant high-definition scoreboard that hangs above the court.
McCamish features not only an open concourse, but a wider one, as the new building was extended by 25 feet, part of the 30,000 square-foot extension of the arena area.
The fan experience will begin from the second fans enter the building, regardless of which entrance they choose. The main entrance will feature a tribute to the Georgia Tech Basketball tradition, with framed pictures of past greats, set off and illuminated with LED lighting.
On the west entrance, off Fowler Street, the primary student entrance, fans will walk through the Alexander Memorial Courtyard, which memorializes legendary coach William Alexander.
The east entrance is the VIP entrance, which leads directly to the Callaway Club.
Everything but the baskets are in place in the new building, which hosts its first men’s game on Nov. 9 and first women’s game two days later.
For Gregory, it wasn’t his first look at the arena, as he admitted sneaking several peaks over the last few months, even taking his team in there. But he is still impressed by the finished product and believes future recruits will be as well.
He got a kick out of the scoreboard, which read Georgia Tech 101, Georgia 100.
“When I saw that score I said, ‘It may take us TWO games to get to 101,'” he kidded. “I think that’s one neat aspect of this building, how many Georgia Tech alumni worked on this facility. Not only did they do a great job but I think they put a little bit of their heart in everything they did here as well, which makes it even more special.
“Every day we challenge our guys to give a first-class effort in the classroom as young men and as players,” he added. “It’s our job to surround them in a first-class environment. The Zelnak Center gives them that on a daily basis, with our practice facility and our weight room. Our academic facilities give them that as a student athlete.”
Guard Tyaunna Marshall, a junior on the women’s team, admitted that she is jazzed about being part of the first team to run through the tunnel and onto the court and said she’s already gotten positive vibes from her fellow students looking ahead to the season.
“I know all over campus, people are already telling me they’re excited to come to our first game and games throughout the season,” she said. “Our support system will be great. I really think our fans this year will be amazing.”
She expects the opener against Tennessee to start the ball rolling.
“I really think this will help us out a lot re-gaining fans and gaining student fans,” she said. “That’s a great game to open up with, it will be full of excitement, full of joy, emotion. I think the fans seeing that and recognize how we feel in a game, they’ll come back and support us throughout the season.”
Fans coming back will not only experience superb basketball but can experience the joy of finding something new every time they visit. Radakovich said that the arena is about the fans.
“There are a lot little things here that we think are going to be really, really positive for us,” said Radakovich. “But remember, the building hasn’t been brought to life yet. We haven’t had people in here and that’s what’s going to make this building. It’s pretty now and it’s functional and we know everything works. What we need here now are people to come and really give it life because that’s what’s going to separate it from others.”
Fans wishing to see McCamish Pavilion can visit the facility on football Saturdays, starting this week, with the arena opening three hours prior to kick off and closing one hour prior to kickoff.