Oct. 7, 2017
Matt Winkeljohn | The Good Word
Georgia Tech won’t play its first basketball game for nearly a month, yet there will be games in McCamish Pavilion next week and Yellow Jackets will likely be in attendance to watch when the NBA’s Atlanta Hawks take on the Memphis Grizzlies and Dallas Mavericks.
With the Hawks’ home unavailable as Philips Arena continues to undergo offseason renovations, they’re going to play their final two preseason contests in McCamish — Monday evening against Memphis and Thursday evening against Dallas.
Don’t be surprised if Georgia Tech coach Josh Pastner is in attendance.
“Obviously, they’re the A team and all the players on our current team and recruits aspire to be in the league that they’re in,” he said. “We want to have a great partnership with them.”
Tech isn’t new to hosting professional sports.
Already in this calendar year, Bobby Dodd Stadium played host to the first nine home games for the Atlanta United, as the first-year Major League Soccer team waited for the completion of opening of Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Every game was a sellout and Georgia Tech drew rave reviews.
Also, McCamish Pavilion served as the home for the WNBA’s Atlanta Dream for the entire 2017 season as the Dream was displaced by the first phase of renovations at Philips Arena. The Dream will also play in McCamish next season during the second and final phase of renovations at the downtown home of Atlanta’s NBA and WNBA teams.
The Hawks’ rental of McCamish is good for the Georgia Tech Athletic Association.
“There definitely is a little bit of bump to the bottom line here,” said associate athletic director for facilities, operations and events Derek Grice. “[But] any time we’re able to partner with the teams here in Atlanta it has an exposure element and a publicity element. There are a lot of benefits.”
The Hawks are not be new to Georgia Tech’s campus, however.
The team played its first four seasons in Alexander Memorial Coliseum, the predecessor to McCamish, from 1968-’72 while the Omni Coliseum was being built a few miles to the south.
After the Omni was demolished and Philips Arena was being built on the same site, the Hawks split their home games between AMC and the Georgia Dome from 1997-99.
After beginning this season with the home portion of their preseason schedule at McCamish and their first five regular-season games on the road, the Hawks will return to Philips for their home opener against Denver on Oct. 27.
The two preseason games in McCamish will hardly affect the Jackets, as the men’s and women’s teams practice more in the adjacent Zelnak Practice Facility than in McCamish. “That’s not even a thought,” Pastner said. “We’ll make it work.”
For the two NBA preseason games, the Grizzlies and Mavericks will use the usual visitor’s locker room in McCamish and the Hawks will use an auxiliary locker room so that Tech’s student-athletes will not be impacted.
The student body also will also be unaffected for the first of the two games, as Monday is the first day of Tech’s two-day fall break.
“We are extremely fortunate because we have Zelnak as a dedicated practice facility so the men’s and women’s teams still have access,” Grice said. “We have great relationships with the Hawks staff and Philips Arena staff working not only here, but in hosting the NCAA regional finals at Philips [next March].
“We had several walk-throughs months ago identifying the Hawks’ needs and the NBA’s needs.”
Tech is all too happy to play the role of host.
“I think it’s great that they’re playing in McCamish and maybe some different people will come to games who don’t come to our games and they’ll like the arena and want to come back for a college game or two,” Pastner said.
As Grice explained, “It opens up Georgia Tech to a different fan base — some Atlanta Hawks fans who may have never been on our campus — to see the atmosphere that can be created in McCamish, the beautiful setting that we have here in Midtown.
“Any time you can have pro teams . . . that’s big. Not only for our fans, but for Atlanta and our players and even potential students.”