ATLANTA — The Alexander Memorial Coliseum will soon be no more.
Beginning in the fall of 2012, the home of Georgia Tech’s men’s and women’s basketball teams will be known as the Hank McCamish Pavilion, the product of a $45 million renovation and replacement project to the building that has been home to ACC champions and Final Four-contending teams.
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“We’re incredibly excited about this opportunity to reshape the home of Georgia Tech basketball,” athletics director Dan Radakovich said Tuesday afternoon during a news conference. “Certainly, thanks to the McCamish family for their gift to allow us to get to this point, and thank you to the (Georgia) Board of Regents for allowing us to get to this point, as well.”
Last week, the Board of Regents approved plans for the renovation project, and gave Georgia Tech permission to move ahead with its plans. Construction will begin spring 2011, with fall 2012 as the targeted move-in date for the teams. The Board also approved plans for an $8 million indoor football facility on the current practice field plot. It will be paid for by a similar donation.
“It’s very exciting to see the plans develop and see the work being done, and I look forward to seeing our new arena built,” Yellow Jackets men’s head coach Paul Hewitt said of the McCamish Pavilion in a news release.
The original Coliseum cost $1.6 million when it was dedicated in 1956.
Radakovich said the Institute is in talks with Philips Arena and the Gwinnett Arena as venues to house their teams during the 2011-12 season while the replacement is being completed.
“Certainly for our fans and our students, playing in Philips would be a great opportunity,” Radakovich said, adding that playing in Gwinnett would allow the school to perhaps expand its fan base there.
Long nicknamed “The Thrillerdome” for its storied legacy of being the arena where last-second shots and high-flying acrobatics amazed crowds during championship runs, the changes are coming, in large part, to keep up with the times.
With an estimated — and most importantly, currently unfunded — cost of $15-18 million over the next seven to 10 years to keep the current building running efficiently and as up-to-date as possible, it only made sense to move forward with a new design that will offset those costs and provide fans a more modern, aesthetically pleasing place to watch basketball, Radakovich said.
“Hopefully it will continue to be the Thrillerdome. The dome is staying in place. That’s one of the pieces of architect that will remain,” Radakovich said.
In addition to fixes around the outside of the building, where more greenery and park-style space is expected to be added, the arena will feature three entrances, including one main one at the corner of Fowler and 10th Streets. With a massive staircase, the entrance will be highlighted by several glass door panels through which fans can enter.
There also will be an entrance on the back of the building next to the current parking lot that is adjacent to the recently-built Zelnack practice facility and another off Fowler where students can enter.
The parking lot entrance will be designed for members of the club seating only—an 800-seat total area on the side opposite the team benches where club members can enjoy the game. There will be two club seating areas, Radakovich said. One will seat 500 seats, and another will seat 300, while other spectators can cross through the club through a single main concourse.
Also inside the arena, the court will remain the same, while the current concourse walls will be knocked down so as to give spectators more opportunities to see the floor while walking to restrooms or concession areas.
“That’s so that you’ll know you’re in a basketball facility and you’ll be able to get some orientation,” Radakovich said.
An upper deck also will be added, seating approximately 1,800 of the believed 8,900 that the new facility will hold.
While the arena’s name will change, there will still be a “William Alexander Courtyard” outside of it, named after the former Georgia Tech football coach for whom the basketball arena is currently named. In the courtyard will be a bust of Alexander and a series of plaques outlining accomplishments and historic moments that occurred inside the former Coliseum.
Finally, the Board of Regents also approved plans for Georgia Tech’s indoor football practice facility, which received a donation earlier this season from John F. Brock, III, the CEO of Coca Cola and a Georgia Tech alumnus.
“We’re really looking forward to this,” Radakovich said. “It is a huge plus to our football program, and it’s something (head football) Coach (Paul) Johnson talked about since he arrived. We’re happy to fill that need.”