Oct. 26, 2012
Jon Cooper, Sting Daily –
The year 1956 was a momentous one for Georgia Tech Basketball. That season Alexander Memorial Coliseum opened its doors as the Yellow Jackets’ basketball home.
Over the next 54 years, AMC would earn the nickname “Thrillerdome” and renown for enthusiastic crowds and ear-splitting volume which made it a difficult place for opposing teams to play.
While the building received the occasional facelift, by 2010 it became clear that it also had fallen way behind the times — too far behind for a simple renovation.
Time had come for a new building and a new start.
Thanks to a generous lead gift from the family of Hank McCamish, Georgia Tech’s Athletic Administration went ahead with plans for a new, $50 million state-of-the art building.
“We have tremendous alumni and very philanthropic alumni for our program as you can see with the various namings that we’ve been able to put on our buildings,” said director of athletics Dan Radakovich. “They recognize that in today’s intercollegiate athletic environment you need to create good venues for your student-athletes to be able to compete in. We’re going to make sure that they have great academic help, we are going to make sure that they get great coaching and we now need to make sure that they can compete in great venues so that they can maximize both their athletic and academic opportunities.”
On May 5, 2011, ground was broken and a little more than a year later, McCamish Pavilion is reality.
Georgia Tech men’s and women’s basketball are only a couple of weeks from ushering in a new era in a brand new, on-campus home.
“The old Alexander Memorial Coliseum was built back in ’55, so its usefulness in terms of structure had long expired,” said Georgia Tech senior associate director of athletics Paul Griffin. “It was a great place to play, had a great environment, the people enjoyed it to some degree, but it also was not code-compliant, it was not convenient to customers in terms of seating, certainly the sound system was inaudible. There were no modern-day video systems, so to speak. I think those are some things that people will quickly realize when they come into McCamish Pavilion.”
McCamish is a breath-taking structure complete with every modern convenience, from an open concourse, so fans never miss a call on the court, to reliable wi-fi so fans never miss a call on their cell phone.
Yet, despite all that’s new, McCamish remains true to old-school Yellow Jackets Basketball.
“We wanted to make sure that we kept the tradition of the building but modernized it. That was very important,” said Radakovich. “There’s a lot of great architecture and a lot of great tradition here. Why throw that away? What we needed to do was bring it up to 21st Century standards and keep it in a place where we can continue to build off of it.”
There are a lot of elements of new McCamish Pavilion that have been carried over from the old Thrillerdome. Some were obvious, like the dome, itself, which, along with the original frame structure were kept intact. Some were a little more subtle, like the old AMC floor, which was cut up and used decoratively throughout, on the walls of the concourse as well as the wall of the Callaway Club.
“I think a nice touch has been how they kept the tradition of the floors and how they’ve built up the walls in different parts of the arena with the old floor,” said women’s basketball head coach McChelle Joseph.
Then there was the all-important addressing the needs of the fans.
“There’s a lot new, updated and modified,” said Griffin. “I think it’s going to be far more accommodating to our fans and create an even better competitive environment for our players. What it will look and sound like is what a building in this decade should.
“Today’s state-of-the-art is tomorrow’s outdated facility,” he added, with a laugh. “But we’re proud that what we have now is going to be really effective in terms of a home-court advantage, of fan entertainment, an arena that looks great on television, an arena that really serves our teams well.”
Griffin made it a point to recognize Radakovich and his commitment and vision.
“I think the most important thing that people will probably miss or not notice is the depth of commitment that Dan Radakovich has made, by this investment as well as other investments made in Georgia Tech basketball, men and women,” he said. “The easiest thing for Dan to do was to just sit tight, stand pat and accept what we have and not go out and make the bold investment that he made. I think that’s something that gets lost in the process with the lights and the sound and everything else.”
“Our athletic administration and in particular, Dan Radakovich, had a great vision when it came to this place,” agreed men’s basketball head coach Brian Gregory.
Gregory also gave credit to the multitude of alumni.
“I think one neat aspect of this building is how many Georgia Tech alumni worked on this facility,” he said. “Not only did they do a great job but I think they put a little bit of their heart into everything they did here as well, which makes it even more special.”
In the coming days, Sting Daily will take a closer look at some of the amenities that will make McCamish Pavilion special — to the fans, to the players, and to Georgia Tech.