Hawks Arena Naming Rights Sold to State Farm

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Copyright 2018 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution


Welcome to downtown Atlanta, Jake. Now trade in those khakis for something torch red and volt green.

The home of the Atlanta Hawks will bear a new name when it reopens this fall following one of the most expensive renovations in NBA history: State Farm Arena.

Officials from the basketball team and the insurance giant — which has a growing footprint in the Atlanta area — announced their new 20-year, $175 million naming rights deal with much pomp and circumstance on Wednesday.

That makes it one of the most expensive arena naming rights deals in professional basketball.

Hawks CEO Steve Koonin, who declined to comment on the financial part of the deal, said the relationship started with a dinner last November.

"We just had a really good conversation," Koonin said after Wednesday's ceremony at the site of the Hawks remodeled arena off Centennial Olympic Park Drive.

"That led us to saying, 'Let's explore what we can do.'"

The christening of State Farm Arena, complete with pyrotechnics and appearances by Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and Hawks players, marks the end of an era for the home of the Hawks, which has been known as Philips Arena since its inception.

The team and Philips, a consumer electronics company, signed a 20-year, $185 million deal before the arena opened in 1999. It was among the largest naming rights deals in U.S. sports at the time. But Philips largely abandoned its consumer-focused business efforts in 2013 and has transitioned to a health technology and lighting company.

Illinois-based State Farm, meanwhile, already has a significant presence in the Atlanta area.

Construction is well underway on the insurer's new regional hub in the Perimeter area, where thousands of employees are expected to work in a group of shiny glass towers being built near the Dunwoody MARTA station and Perimeter Mall. A previous fiscal impact study from Georgia Tech showed that about 2,200 of the projected 7,500 employees on the site will be new to the Atlanta area.

The first new tower is largely complete. The other two, projected to cost north of $400 million total to build, are scheduled to be completed by the end of 2022.

"We have an enormous presence in the Atlanta area," said State Farm CEO Michael Tipsord. "And we're looking forward to building on that even more going forward."

Hawks principal owner Tony Ressler said that and State Farm's commitment to involvement in the community were big factors in the decision.

"They were our No. 1 choice," Ressler said. "There should be no confusion."

The soon-to-be State Farm Arena will host around 2 million guests every year for basketball games, concerts and other events. Over the last two years, the arena has undergone multiple phases of a $192.5 million renovation, which officials have said is the second-largest renovation in NBA history.

New offerings will include the league's "third-largest center-hung scoreboard," improved sight lines and a series of unique shops and experiences like a courtside bar, an in-arena barbershop and a number of high-end restaurants. The Hawks also announced last month a shift to "fan-friendly" food pricing, a suddenly popular trend that started with Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank.

Across the street, a group tied to Ressler's brother is proposing a massive, $5 billion development in the long vacant area known as the Gulch.

"It's not about one thing," Koonin said. "It's about all of these things."

Arena renovations are expected to be completed in October, in time for the Hawks' 2018-19 season. The first ticketed event at the transformed arena will be a 25th anniversary concert for Atlanta-based record label So So Def.

That concert is scheduled for Oct. 21. The Hawks announced Wednesday, however, that an "open house" to show off the renovated venue will be held Oct. 20. It will be free and open to the public.

The Hawks' first home game at State Farm Arena will be Oct. 24.

— AJC staff writers Tim Tucker and Chris Vivlamore contributed to this article.

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August 30, 2018


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