Sept. 20, 2012
By Jon Cooper
The 1989 fictional baseball movie “Field of Dreams” made famous the line “If you build it he will come.”
On Wednesday evening, Georgia Tech proved if you rebuild it they will come back, as for more than two hours Tech opened the doors to its arena of dreams, McCamish Pavilion.
Men’s and women’s basketball season-ticket holders and fans flocked to the corner of 10th and Fowler to get a first look at the completely refurbished and fully functional new home for Georgia Tech hoops.
They were impressed with what they saw.
“It’s spectacular,” said David Parker, who, with wife, Lin, have owned season tickets for almost 20 years. “I didn’t realize they could change what was here so much. That’s the amazing part. They did a great job. I was here in the ’60s then came back in the ’90s for more school so it’s great to see what they’ve done.”
“Unbelievable,” said Shawn Fowler, a season-ticket holder for nearly 24 years. “I was a student here starting in ’83 so I remember the old Thriller Dome. In fact, my first year was when they named it Thriller Dome. This is tremendous. The excitement with Coach Gregory, with the new players, it’s just unbelievable atmosphere again.”
The atmosphere promises to be spectacular regardless of where one sits.
The Parkers made a bold choice, as they’ll be sitting in the new upper level.
“We actually made a conscious decision to go upper deck,” said Lin. “We liked being able to get what we thought is the whole view. We weren’t disappointed. It’s great.”
“We’re closer,” said David. “It looks like we’re on top of [the players].”
Fowler actually will be on top of the players — and the officials — choosing to keep his seats on the court. How close was a pleasant surprise.
“Every seat’s a great seat,” said Fowler, who has two seats (one for him, one for his wife). “My seats are going to be the two court-side on the end line next to the bench. I’m hoping that I don’t get a ‘T’ for [Georgia Tech] from yelling at the officials.”
Women’s Head Coach MaChelle Joseph, who probably will do her share of yelling at officials, was on hand Wednesday, along with Men’s Head Coach Brian Gregory. Both coaches addressed the fans that came out, expressing their gratitude to them.
Joseph also expressed her gratitude to Georgia Tech’s Athletic Administration and Director of Athletics Dan Radakovich.
“I give Dan Radakovich all the credit because I think this was his vision for this arena,” said Joseph. “He really transformed not only this building but the outside of the campus by making this area more accessible to people on the outside of campus, just the way we’ve opened up the arena. The front doors open up to 10th Street. It welcomes people into Tech. One of the biggest transformations for this institution is just the fact that now 10th Street is inviting people to come on campus. Before you didn’t really know what this building was. Now it’s very obvious what it is. It’s just a beautiful arena.”
The finished McCamish Pavilion was worth the sacrifices made last season by her team, which plays its first home game on Nov. 11th against Tennessee.
“Every time I’ve walked into this arena the last couple of weeks I’ve been thinking about how we spent a year away playing in Gwinnett, but how every moment was worth it to step into this arena and see just how beautiful and how fan-friendly it is,” she said. “I think the game experience at Georgia Tech has just gone to a whole other level with this facility.”
Men’s point guard Pierre Jordan agreed that there’s no place like home, especially when home looks like McCamish.
“Words can’t measure how happy I am to have a new spot to play at home in the Flats. Just being somewhere we call home,” he said. “It’s one of the best facilities in the country and we just can’t wait for the season to start.”
Jordan said the fans feel the same.
“Fan reaction’s been great. Everybody can’t wait,” he said. “They’re very excited about the season, our new year, opening up a new building, of course, with Coach Brian Gregory, we’re building up a new program. He’s always talking about rebuilding, rebuilding. Everybody’s just excited.”
The most exciting part of the arena depends on who you ask.
“The court, of course, is going to be my favorite,” said Jordan, with a laugh. “But everything around it is nice.”
“I think the jumbotron,” said Joseph. “I just think it adds so much to the experience. I have not seen the theatrical lighting yet so I’m sure that will be one of my favorites once I see it.”
The fans have their opinions. Lin Parker was drawn to the scoreboard.
“I’m going to have to concentrate on looking down as opposed to looking straight ahead,” she said. “It will take a little getting used to you won’t miss anything that’s for certain.”
David leaned toward the tradition.
“The visual clues are so great,” he said. “I see pieces of the floor downstairs, the [pictures of] heroes from when I was a kid, Roger Kaiser, [Al] Ciraldo, Bobby Cremins it’s wonderful to tie them together.”
Fowler liked everything from seating being close up to the court to the concourses being wide open.
“I think it’s tremendous because if you go out to get a drink or go to the restroom, you can see the action,” he said. “I think it’s just such an open feel for everybody. It’s a great family-friendly atmosphere. If you love basketball, kids are going to want to come to this.”
By the look of Wednesday night kids and adults already are.
According to Associate Director of Athletics – Public Relations Wayne Hogan, Georgia Tech’s season-ticket base stands at a little over 4,000, higher than last season at The Arena at Gwinnett Center and Philips Arena and approaching the total 2010-11, the final season at Alexander Memorial Coliseum.
He added that Georgia Tech will set up a sales center for season tickets beginning Monday at McCamish Pavilion.