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Philips Arena
Philips Arena

  Venue Particulars  
Address 1 Philips Dr NW
Atlanta, GA 30303
Phone (404) 878-3000
Official Website
Seating Weather
Newspaper Video
Satellite View
Thrashers Gear
  Venue Resources  
Hotels, Dining & Deals in Atlanta

  The Facility  
Opened September 1999
Atlanta Spirit, LLC
(Atlanta Spirit, LLC)
Cost of Construction $213.5 million
Arena Financing 78% Public/22% Private. $130.75 million in revenue bonds to be paid from arena revenues; $20 million from Turner Broadcasting; and $62.5 million from 3% car rental tax.
Naming Rights Phillips paid $168 million for 20 years.
Arena Architects Populous
  Other Facts  
Tenants Atlanta Hawks
(NBA) (1999-Present)
Former Tenants Atlanta Thrashers
(NHL) (1999-2011)
Georgia Force
(AFL) (2002)
Population Base 5,831,778
On Site Parking 4,345
Nearest Airport The William B Hartsfield International Airport (ATL)
Retired Numbers #99 Wayne Gretzky

Capacity 18,545
Average Ticket $43.54
Fan Cost Index (FCI) $266.64
The Team Marketing Report FCI includes: four average-price tickets; four small soft drinks; two small beers; four hot dogs; two game programs; parking; and two adult-size caps.
Luxury Suites 96 Suites
Club Seats 2,893
Basketball 18,729
  Attendance History  
Season  Total  Capacity Change
1999-00 705,379 92% 0.0%
2000-01 625,780 82.2% -11.3%

2001-02 2002-03 2003-04 2004-05
560,404 552,535 619,965 None

2005-06 2006-07 2007-08 2008-09
637,578 656,417 648,811 599,673

2009-10 2010-11 2011-12 2012-13
557,897 536,145

2004-2005 - NHL lockout

Sources: Mediaventures

Architects' Goal: Create a Downtown Neighborhood

By Maria Saporta and Henry Unger,
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
October 9, 1997.

The building of a new arena on the site of the demolished Omni will have a ripple effect on downtown, stretching several blocks away.

Unlike the Omni, this arena's grand entrance on Techwood Drive will be at street level, inviting the public inside the "Atlanta" archway.

It's just one example of how the building has been designed to fit in with the streetscape and welcome pedestrians. You could even change the name of Techwood Drive to Techwood Walk.

The street will go from five lanes of 12 feet each to four lanes of 11 feet to accommodate wider sidewalks and trees. Two crosswalks, and probably two traffic lights, will permit pedestrians to cross from the parking decks into the arena's front door. Project developers also are exploring the possibility of changing Techwood from a one-way street to two ways to make it seem more like a city street than a highway.

The design also calls for a new street southwest of the new arena -- linking Techwood with the Georgia World Congress Center. Plans call for that street to have parking meters so patrons could run in and buy a ticket without having to pay a fortune in parking fees.

Philips Arena

"We are trying to create a real city block," said Bernardo Fort Brescia, partner of Arquitectonica, one of the four architectural firms involved in the project. "We thought a new street added a whole new dimension -- creating a main square that is very much part of the city."

Across the street, the existing parking decks will have new pedestrian walkways linking Techwood with Spring Street. Eventually, that walkway could be extended if and when the city of Atlanta and the state of Georgia build the proposed multimodal train station on the next block.

The arena's new parking garage -- at the corner of Marietta and Techwood -- will be partly hidden by a festival-like retail development. It also now appears that the historic Glenn Building, which Turner Broadcasting officials once contemplated tearing down much to the consternation of preservationists, will be saved in its entirety.

"Subject to the budget, we are working very hard to preserve the Glenn Building," said Janet Marie Smith, president of Turner Sports and Entertainment Development Inc. The plan now calls for that to berenovated as office space. Its first use will be to house the arena project's construction management team.

The parking garage -- two floors underground and five floors above ground -- is being built with the necessary foundation and structural elements to build a high-rise office building for future needs of the Turner organization.

"There's no program or mandate for an office tower right now," Smith said, adding that Turner, not the city, is paying for the extra structural costs for the future development.

Still, Mayor Bill Campbell believes it is only a matter of time before an office tower will be built on that site -- either by Turner or its parent, Time Warner Inc.

"The street level retail is a most exciting thing for us," Campbell said. "And we also feel confident there will be a Time Warner office building constructed there. It's cheaper to be in Atlanta than in New York City. It is a better quality of life, and because of all the infrastructure improvements, it is a better location."

The thrust of the project's entire design is to better connect the arena, Centennial Olympic Park, CNN Center and the Georgia World Congress Center with the rest of downtown.

"The whole area is going to be transformed," said Stan Kasten, the president of the Hawks and Braves and coordinator of the development plans. "You can get a lot for $70 million to make downtown comfortable, well-lit and a friendly neighborhood."

Construction costs for the public improvements around the arena are budgeted for about $72 million and are being paid by a 3 percent car-rental tax. The arena itself will cost Turner Broadcasting $141 million to build.

"It's going to be an incredible enhancement of the entire area paid for by a very small car-rental fee at the airport," Campbell said of the public improvements. "I'm particularly pleased it is going to bring a lot more people to downtown Atlanta at night."

Michael Dobbins, planning commissioner for the city of Atlanta, said the design has come a long way from his earlier discussions with the architects.

"They have worked very hard to create an environment that can fit into the grain of downtown and Centennial Olympic Park," Dobbins said.

Still unknown is how the existing CNN Center will be renovated in conjunction with the arena project.

"I'm excited because it becomes a destination spot for all of downtown," said Charlie Battle, president of the business group Central Atlanta Progress. "It can be a catalyst for redevelopment for the entire area."

That's just what Fort Brescia envisions.

"We wanted it to be a fun place to go that would fit in with the rest of the city," he said. "We saw it very much as the beginning of a neighborhood."

ATLANTA - The Associated Press - Ted Turner wants to name Atlanta's new hockey team the Thrashers, after the Georgia state bird, and that's that. You don't mess with a billionaire who just challenged rival media mogul Rupert Murdoch to a boxing match. Besides, Thrashers is a tough-sounding name even if it does come from a small bird known for its beautiful song. ''It has to go through the NHL's review process but that's the name - I just got off the phone with Ted,'' Harvey Schiller, president of Turner Sports, said on Friday. The NHL expansion committee recommended Atlanta and three other cities for franchises on Tuesday. Final approval by the Board of Governors, considered a formality, should come on June 25. Atlanta would join the league in 1999 when a new 20,000-seat arena is completed. The new team will be owned by Turner Broadcasting System and its parent company, Time Warner, the world's largest media conglomerate. Schiller said more research will be done before announcing the new club's colors.

  The Omni Coliseum The Philips Arena
Seating Capacity:
Luxury Suites: 16 96
Party/Rental Suites:
Public Restrooms:
Food Outlets:
Retail Outlets:
Opening Date: October 1972
(demolished in July 1997)
September 1999
Total Parking Spaces: 2,345 4,345
Home Teams: NBA's Atlanta Hawks
NHL's Atlanta Flames
IHL's Atlanta Knights
Atlanta Hawks
Atlanta NHL expansion team
Cost of Construction: $17 Million $213 Million including
construction, financing
and public improvements
Management Company: Turner Broadcasting/Atlanta
Coliseum, Inc.
Turner Arena Operations,
Owner: Atlanta-Fulton County
Recreation Authority
Atlanta-Fulton County
Recreation Authority

Jazzy Nest for Hawks, Thrashers
August 23, 1999
By Nadine M. Post

Philips Arena
Philips Arena
Philips Arena
Philips Arena
Philips Arena
Philips Arena
Low-lying like a nesting bird, Atlanta's Philips Arena is designed to link. The angular arena provides a public circulation corridor, open when the arena is dark. The covered "street" connects a marta light-rail station, the nearby convention center and CNN Center—the headquarters of the owner of basketball's Hawks and hockey's new franchise, The Thrashers.

"We worked to make the building part of the city," says Bernardo Fort-Brescia, principal of the Miami-based Arquitectonica and consultant to architect of record HOK Sport. The $213-million development, with the $122-million Atlanta-Fulton County-owned arena, includes $40 million in public improvements to the surrounding area, including a rebuilt marta station and parking.

Making the arena fit into the city was no small task, considering the street grid is all viaducts over railroad tracks. The solution was to line up the street entrance with an existing elevated roadway and have a section of the main concourse, a sports-themed mini-mall, serve as a pedestrian byway to the attached CNN Center. "We are taking an otherwise mundane concourse and ratcheting it up several decibels," says Janet Marie Smith, president of developer Turner Sports & Entertainment Development, Atlanta.

Turner wanted the building to have a postcard presence, says Smith. For that, the architect designed a total 200,000-sq-ft roof with three sloping and pitching elevations, rotated at different angles to the square site. The jagged, irregular roof line has been likened to a splayed-out hand of bent playing cards or the open wings of a bird.

To make the arena even more recognizable as a city icon, Atlanta is spelled out by the structural supports for the lowest roof, a large entrance canopy.

Turner wanted something distinguishing inside the bowl as well. In a departure from the norm of having suites between lower and upper concourses, Atlanta's suites are stacked along one sideline. They are framed in concrete, much like a hotel. The configuration brings the upper concourse closer to the action—affording a more intimate feeling for fans, says Rick Martin, principal in charge for HOK Sport, Kansas City, Mo. There are also efficiencies. All the suite services, restaurants, lounges, elevators, parking, are collected on one side, and there is no need for a separate suites concourse.

Mobilization began in September 1997. Soon, the contractor discovered a mistake on the plans. Instead of being attached at the hip to CNN Center, part of the arena was in it.

The correction was made, but then part of the marta station was in the way. Further, the intention had been to use many of the predecessor Omni Arena foundations. The slight rotation away from CNN Center meant fewer line-ups. Worse, when driving piles, the contractor came upon lots of obstructions, even a concrete vault, and soil was contaminated.

It cost $4 million instead of $1 million to clean up the site. "Once we got out of the ground, we left a lot of sins behind," says Len Moser, arena manager for program manager Barton Malow Co., Southfield, Mich.

Superstructure foundations took a year instead of four months, says Robert Evans, project superintendent for the local construction manager, Atlanta Arena Constructors (AAC), a joint venture of Beers Construction Co., Holder Construction Co., H.J. Russell & Co. and C.D. Moody Construction Co. By resequencing other work, the foundation snags only delayed the concrete superstructure 60 days and are not delaying the coming Sept. 2 opening, says AAC To make up for lost time, AAC also used flying table forms on the six-story suites building.

Tragedy hit last fall when two ironworkers were killed installing precast panels. Federal safety officials later issued two citations to the steel erector.

Work on the roof was not simple. "Lots of skewed, untypical connections was the norm on this job," says Paul J. Gordon, vice president of engineering with steel subcontractor Qualico Steel Co. Inc., Webb, Ala. The middle roof, sloping and curving in a skewed line, was more difficult to detail than the main upper roof. The architects "couldn't have made it harder," he says.

The other difficult item was the double, 272-ft-long, 47-ft-deep tied-arch transfer truss, designed to cut the main span from 330 to 220 ft. The erector began by setting up and guying three, 117-ft-tall falsework towers at quarter points along the truss length, as the engineer had indicated on the drawings. To avoid having to put in a shoring tower foundation, the slab was reinforced to take the loads of the tower, says Grady Lockhart, supervisor for Williams Erection Co., Smyrna, Ga.

The double top-chord truss was set on shoring towers in nearly three equal lengths. Then the tension ties and compression arches were assembled in the air, through the shoring towers. After completion, the towers were jacked down and removed. The procedure went as planned but "erection was difficult," says the erector, because the assembly had to be kept level to a certain tolerance and the truss bears on a double column on each end that is on a bearing that moves.

Next, two falsework towers were installed on the longer side of the roof's trapezoidal plan, to erect the 43-ft-deep proscenium truss, a 12.5-ft-deep top chord truss with a 5-ft-deep bottom chord truss, with intermediate members. The first interior main span, a 12-5-ft-deep shallow truss went up along with the 200-ft-long proscenium, plus infill framing. Shoring towers were then removed and set up for the proscenium truss opposite, where the procedure was repeated.

The next erection sequence involved the remaining six interior 220-ft-long main-span trusses and their bridging trusses. "We worked one bay at a time till the middle," says Lockhart. "Every truss is set to a different camber. The two in the center support the scoreboard," he adds.

Concurrently, Williams erected the low roofs with separate crews.

Gordon says one of the problems with the high roof was that the engineer provided differential deflection criteria after detailing had commenced. "We had to adjust all our connections for a theoretical slope," he says, adding that it would have been easier to have the information earlier.

Last-minute changes were the norm throughout the fast-tracked project, says those involved. It was a tone set by Turner, they concur, in an attempt to provide a better arena. "The client's philosophy is that we can make changes until 12 o'clock," says one member of the construction team. "If the paint's not dry, we can wash it off and paint a different color," he adds. All have their fingers crossed that the paint will be dry by the impending opening on September 2, 1999.

September 9, 1999
Copyright 1999 MediaVentures

Philips Arena
Turner Broadcasting System has decided to limit to ten the number of sponsors in the new Philips Arena which opens this fall. The venue will be the home of the NHL Thrashers and NBA Hawks. The companies signed up for the program include Coca-Cola, Delta Air Lines, Home Depot, Powertel, United Parcel Service, AnheuserBusch, Bank of America, MediaOne and WebMD, an online medical information provider. Prices were not disclosed, but were estimated at $2.3 million a year, including broadcast advertising.

Signage in the arena will be coordinated and will feature only one sponsor at a time. During Hawks games, a sponsor will get 30 seconds of exposure before the signs change. During Thrasher games the time increases to 45 seconds. The sponsorships do not preclude the teams from selling a limited amount of other advertising that will only appear on dasher boards or table banners.

The agreements also give some sponsors unique promotion abilities. Delta will offer a 20-seat, two-level lounge that overlooks the court. Six of the seats will be motorized with electric footrests, adjustable head rests, personal lighting and video screens. The seats are identical to those in the airline's new BusinessElite overseas flights. Delta will offer the seats to selected clients and a lucky few fans who will be chosen at random in the arena.

Powertel will have retail space in the arena and will offer special telephones bearing team logos. Bank of America will sponsor a club for suite and club seat holders.

September 23, 1999
Copyright 1999 MediaVentures

Fans got their first chance to see the new Philips Arena in action last weekend during an exhibition game between the expansion Atlanta Thrashers and the New Jersey Devils. The official grand opening is today. The opening won generally strong praise, especially from those in the venue's luxury suites. The arena features a new wrinkle in arena design with the 90 suites stacked vertically in five levels in the center of the bowl.

Workers are still putting the final touches on the venue. The Thrasher's Nest club is still being completed as is the Philips Experience, a promotional area for the electronics company that paid $168 million over 20 years for naming rights to the venue. Suites lease for $135,000 to $225,000 and hold 12 to 20 persons each. There are 2,893 club seats selling for $8,000 to $9,000. The arena is also the home of the NBA Hawks.

Philips Arena

By: Andrew Kulyk & Peter Farrell

Philips Arena Ranking by USRT
Architecture 6.5
Concessions 8
Scoreboard 8
Ushers 7
Fan Support 3
Location 7
Banners/History 1
Entertainment 8
Concourses/Fan Comfort 6
Bonus: CNN Center Atrium 4
Bonus: Old Omni Scoreboard 2
Bonus: Real Time Noisemeter 2
Total Score 62.5
December 3, 1999
December 4, 1999
November 9, 2004
- Philips Arena is the sparkling home for the NBA Atlanta Hawks and the NHL Atlanta Thrashers. When they picked a new location for their new venue, which opened in 1999, several alternatives to the location of the old Omni were considered. But why re-invent the wheel? The best spot for the new venue was right where the old one stood. So the Omni was razed, and right in its spot the new Philips Arena was built. We can't imagine a better spot than this!

Getting to the Venue
The arena is situated on the east side of downtown, right next to the landmark Georgia Dome and the huge Georgia Convention Center. Directional signage throughout the downtown streets are abundant, and coming in to downtown from any of the arterials, I-75, I-85 or I-20 will also direct you to the venue. Another easy way to get here is via the MARTA rail line. Exit W1 is steps from the building's front door. Cost for parking in the ramp is $15, though cheaper lots can be found for as little as $5. Free on street parking is pretty scarce and far away so plan to pay.

Outside the Venue
Other well known Atlanta landmarks such as the CNN World Center and Centennial Park are right next to the arena. In fact, the CNN Center is connected right to the arena, and the breathtaking 20 story atrium houses a good number of restaurants, shops and fast food eateries, so this makes for a good pre game destination. One of the most unique characteristics of the exterior facade is for the word ATLANTA which is inscribed in huge letters in the pillars of the front lobby.  A video board and lighted marquee sits on a wall of the parking garage a block away .

Once inside the arena take a walk around the concourses with plenty of merchandise and concession stands. There were a couple of things that caught our eye here, one was an old four-sided scoreboard without a video board. Later we were to find out that this was the old main scoreboard at the Omni and as we saw during the game it is still fully functional and still used to keep time and score and other vital stats of the game going on in progress. The other thing we noticed was the wall of television monitors(roughly 100?) as we went up the escalator to the upper level showing various sports events from around the nation. You could catch the action on those screens from many vantage points in the upper and lower concourses. And at the top of the escalator is where the arena has an interactive game experience area with hoops for kids, video games and so on.

The major merchandise store is located near the CNN Center entrance of the venue.

Another major feature of the lower concourse is a colorful area named "HawkWalk", simply it is the prime area of the venue to find concessions, merchandise and the like.

Seating Bowl
Philips Arena
Inside the arena bowl you will find the usual two level seating area with suites and the like. However this building diverges in a major way from other arenas when it comes to club seats and suite locations. Instead of the traditional, suites and club seats between the upper and lower seating areas this arena has all club seats consisting of the entire lower seating level on one sideline of the arena and there are four level of suites atop overlooking these club seats. Truly unique and something we have not seen before or since.

There is a four sided Phillips videoboard in the center of the building along with dot matrix boards above the seating area at each end zone supplying statistics and out of town scores. LED ribbon boards run around the circumference of the balcony and are complemented by companion boards at the base of the center scoreboard.

Banners/Retired Numbers
The Hawks have three retired numbers for Bob Pettit (from the club's days in St. Louis), Lou Hudson, and Dominique Wilkins. They also have banners commemorating their division titles won while in Atlanta.

The Thrashers have two banners: one for their inaugural season of 1999-2000, and one for their fifth season in 2003-04. What??? No banners for the second, third , and fourth seasons? This reeks of those "thank you for participating" certificates that kids get after playing in Little League and has absolutely no place wasting air in an arena's rafters!!!

Did you know???? The Hawks franchise began play in the mid 40's as the Buffalo Bisons.

Slam Dunks, Assists, Fouls

Extra Point(s) - The Thrashers and Hawks both had pretty wretched teams that season yet both teams were victorious. The Thrashers with a one goal win over the then-division leading Panthers, and Hawks hanging on to a narrow win over the Pistons as Detroit's last gasp FG attempt for the W bricked off the backboard.

Foul - on our return visit in 2004 , we attended the Hawks opening night, and the Hawks put on an astounding display of  why they've been an NBA lottery regular. They tied a franchise low for points in a half on their way to being routed by the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Slam Dunk - During the Thrashers game they brought out a real decibel counter to show how loud the fans were, a refreshing change from all of those useless "Fan-O-Meter" graphics on too many Jumbotrons across the US.

Extra Point - The big game in town that weekend in 1999 wasn't the Hawks,Thrashers, or Falcons but the SEC Championship at the Georgia Dome Saturday Night as Alabama pummeled Florida for the right to go to the Sugar Bowl. I can still remember us failing miserably at kicking field goals at the SEC Experience as well as all of those Gators fans on I-75 making the trek up with us to Atlanta.

Special thanks to Scott Riley, who put us up at his home in the 'burbs for a few days during our first visit, saving us a bundle on hotel expenses. That alone qualified him for induction into our Hall of Fame.

We like arenas in bustling downtown locations, and this one certainly fits the bill. Better yet, the Georgia Dome and the massive convention center complex are also nearby, creating all sorts of urban synergies. Two elements make this venue unique and striking... first of all, the connection the building has with the CNN Center next door. The dramatic atrium almost serves as the venue's main lobby, and lots of shopping and eating options here for before the game. Second, the "Hawk Walk" concourse is so festive and colorful, it really sets the tone for this building. Too bad the teams that play here are mired in such muck.  For Philips Arena is a great venue in a vibrant and exciting city, and earns a top mark on our list.

December 11, 2008
Copyright 2008 MediaVentures

A jury ruled that Turner Broadcasting System owes Texas businessman David McDavid $281 million for a breach of contract when it negotiated with - and eventually sold - the Hawks, Thrashers and Philips Arena operating rights to another bidder. The decision does not mean McDavid now owns the teams. They remain in the hands of the Atlanta Spirit, an eight-member group of investors. An appeal by Atlanta-based Turner Broadcasting, which is owned by Time Warner, is possible. McDavid signed a letter of intent with Turner to buy the teams and arena rights in April 2003. The letter, granting exclusive negotiations, expired 45 days later, but the parties continued to talk. Turner announced in September of that year it was selling the teams to the Spirit. The investors included the son and son-in-law of Ted Turner, founder of the Atlanta-based media company. McDavid sued the company for $450 million in Fulton County Superior Court, accusing executives of four misdeeds. They included breaking an oral contract to sell the teams and arena rights as well as sharing his confidential financial information with the Spirit. In the unanimous verdict, the jury said Turner owes McDavid $281 million for disregarding a verbal deal and $35 million for essentially breaking a promise. The two amounts cannot be added together because of complicated legal reasons, so McDavid's side said it will pick the larger one. The jury ruled against McDavid on the two other counts. It said Turner Broadcasting did not share confidential information and did not commit fraud. (Atlanta Journal Constitution)

June 4, 2009
Copyright 2009 MediaVentures

A $4 million upgrade to Philips Arena this summer will result in a new audio system and improvements to the venue's luxury suites.

March 3, 2011
Copyright 2011 MediaVentures

Atlanta, Ga. - Several people familiar with the situation have told the Atlanta Journal Constitution that two investment groups are exploring taking over the contract to manage Philips Arena and buying the Hawks and Thrashers.

The newspaper said a deal is not close in either case because the proper paperwork has not been filed to begin serious negotiations. Typically non-disclosure agreements must be signed between buyer and seller. However, at least one group has met with the officials from the NBA and the NHL.

The group that recently met with league officials, including the NHL, has a main investor who is connected to other parties, some of whom are from Atlanta. That group is interested in purchasing the three properties, plus it has a "development element" to the deal, possibly involving the area around Philips Arena, the newspaper said.

Several groups have expressed a singular interest in buying the Thrashers and moving them to another city. The Journal Constitution cities Winnipeg, Quebec and Hamilton as possible destinations.

Earlier, Atlanta Spirit co-owner Michael Gearon Jr. told The Journal-Constitution there was a sense of urgency to find a buyer or additional investors to keep the Thrashers in Atlanta. The franchise has lost $130 million over the past five years, according to court documents.

Stephen Rollins, an Atlanta native and filmmaker who has publicly stated a desire for his investment group to purchase the Thrashers, is not among the two groups of potential buyers, the newspaper said. Rollins' group is said to be interested but has not made a formal bid.

The Atlanta Spirit has been trying to sell the Thrashers for six years, according to a Jan. 21 lawsuit filed in Fulton County Superior Court against Atlanta law firm King & Spalding.

The group sued the firm for $200 million, citing a "fatally flawed" and "botched" contract written to buyout former partner Steve Belkin for preventing any Thrashers sale during the nearly five years prior to the suit was being settled in December.

Before the current litigation, the Atlanta Spirit stated publicly it had looked for investors for the past two years for the Thrashers, Hawks or both franchises. Ownership reported more than $130 million in operating losses since 2005, according to the lawsuit. The Thrashers' value has dropped by more than $50 million, the document said.

May 19, 2011
Copyright 2011 MediaVentures

Atlanta, Ga. - The Atlanta Spirit is in negotiations with True North Sports and Entertainment on the sale of the Thrashers which would result in relocation to Winnipeg, according to a person familiar with the NHL's sale process who talked with the Atlanta Journal Constitution.

The Winnipeg Free Press says the deal hinges heavily on help from the Manitoba provincial government for help in managing the existing debt on the MTS Centre arena owned by True North.

A source told the Free Press that request from True North is being studied by the province and in all likelihood will be accepted. The value of the request - and if it involves a low or no-interest loan - is not known.

"The building is a public asset," said a source explaining to the newspaper why the province is interested in an arrangement that involves aid to the MTS Centre. "It will never move."

Back in Atlanta, more changes are possible for the Philips Arena. The Journal Constitution says the Spirit is also in talks to sell the NBA Hawks and operating rights to the arena.

Two people familiar with the situation, both of whom asked not to be identified because of the ongoing talks, told Journal Constitution that the Spirit and outgoing San Diego Padres owner John Moores are in an exclusive negotiating period regarding the Hawks and the Philips Arena operating rights. Both people said a deal is not close and that it's far from assured one will get done.

The exclusive negotiating period means the owners agreed not to pursue the sale of the Hawks to any other prospective purchaser for a prescribed period of time. It is not known when Moores' exclusivity expires.

The Journal Constitution said that having provided exclusive negotiating rights on the Hawks, the Spirit apparently is not in position to package the basketball and hockey teams to a single buyer. While refusing to publicly discuss specific potential purchasers, the Spirit repeatedly has said that no buyer has demonstrated serious interest and the requisite financial ability to make a deal for both franchises together.

Unlike the Thrashers, the Hawks are in no danger of leaving Atlanta. The agreement with the city and Fulton County on the bonds that funded the construction of Philips Arena stipulates that the Hawks "have agreed to play all of [their] regular season and playoff NBA home games" in the arena "for as long as the [bonds] are outstanding." There is not a similar stipulation regarding the Thrashers. The bonds are scheduled to be paid off in 2028.

The Journal-Constitution cited a person familiar with the Thrashers' situation, who said a meeting was held between team officials and a prospective buyer interested in keeping the team in Atlanta. However the talks have not progressed and time is of the essence.

Tom Glavine, the Braves' pitching great who has expressed interest in helping keep the Thrashers in Atlanta, said he was not part of group that met with team officials.

NHL owners do not have to get league approval to identify potential buyers and work out an agreement to sell their franchise. However they would have to get permission to negotiate with a party interested in relocation. Once an agreement in principle has been reached, the league's Board of Governors would be asked to judge the acceptability of the new ownership, the newspaper said.

The Winnipeg Free Press reported that the NHL is working on two schedule drafts, one with Atlanta and one with Winnipeg. Last season, the NHL released its upcoming schedule on June 22. Should a deal be completed in time for next season it might be too late for conference re-alignment.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, speaking on NHL Live radio last week, said the situation regarding franchise relocation comes down to ownership.

"It's the reason we ended up leaving Quebec City and Winnipeg," Bettman said. "Those teams moved when nobody wanted to own the club there anymore. If you get to that position, where somebody is not prepared to own the club anymore and you can't find a new perspective purchaser, then you are really between a rock and a hard place.

"We know that the current ownership of the Thrashers has been trying for a long period of time to try and sell the franchise and they haven't been able to do it. ... If they can't find local ownership, then we might all have to deal with that. But I know they have tried very hard and I assume that they continue to try very hard."

The NHL would be returning to Winnipeg after 15 years. True North is led by Winnipeg businessman Mark Chipman and billionaire David Thomson and owns Winnipeg's arena, the MTS Centre, and the American Hockey League team that currently plays there, the Manitoba Moose.

The newspaper said the purchase price for an NHL franchise to relocate to Winnipeg has been reported to be as much as $170 million. The NHL would receive a relocation fee from the sale.

The Atlanta Spirit has been looking for a buyer or investors for the Thrashers for several years, although the group has only had clear ownership since December after officially buying out partner Steve Belkin. Co-owner Michael Gearon Jr. told the newspaper in February that there was a "sense of urgency" to find a solution for the financially struggling franchise and that relocation was a possibility. The Atlanta Spirit has reported in court documents losses of $130 million over the course of their ownership with annual losses estimated at $20 million.

June 2, 2011
Copyright 2011 MediaVentures

Winnipeg, Manitoba - True North Sports & Entertainment, led by Winnipeg's Mark Chipman and backed by Canadian billionaire David Thomson, has completed its purchase of the Atlanta Thrashers from Atlanta Spirit LLC, according to the Winnipeg Sun.

"If we didn't get this done today, there was a good chance it wasn't getting done," NHL commissioner Gary Bettman told the newspaper. "We were really out of time. It is nice to be back in Winnipeg after all these years."

Manitoba hockey fans, who have been without an NHL team since the Jets left for Phoenix in 1996, flocked by the thousands to downtown Winnipeg to celebrate what was first reported as a done deal May 19. Local schools halted classes to let their students watch the news conference on television, and the University of Manitoba interrupted its spring convocation to announce the NHL was back, the newspaper said.

Because of the late announcement, the yet-to-be-named squad will play in the NHL's Southeast Division next season with the Washington Capitals, Tampa Bay Lightning, Carolina Hurricanes and Florida Panthers before moving to the Western Conference for the 2012-13 campaign.

True North will attempt to sell 13,000 season tickets, requiring commitments of between three and five years and at an average price of $82 per game, before the NHL board of governors meets June 21 to approve the deal. A successful season-ticket drive isn't necessary to get board approval, the Sun said.

Specific seat selection will not occur during the initial drive. Fans will only be committing to the number of seats and the price category. Seat selection will occur after the successful completion of the drive to 13,000.

Package prices, per game, range from $39 to $129 a total of $1,755 to $5,805 per season, the Winnipeg Free Press reported. The newspaper said 1,870 season tickets were sold in the first 312 hours they were on sale.

The reported purchase price was C$170 million, including a C$60 million relocation fee for the NHL.

Thomson, who has a net worth of C$23 billion, said civic and national pride is why he agreed to get involved with Chipman in the pursuit of a franchise.

"I am committed to this community as I am to this country," he said. "It's about time."

One of the new owners' first jobs will be to bring the MTS Centre up to NHL standards, as per a facility-standards agreement with the league.

There Winnipeg Free Press said there are currently 46 luxury suites at the building, that number will be increased to 55. The price for a suite is expected to triple and top out at $197,000 a year.

The press box renovations will be completed this summer. As well, adjustments have to be made to the media workroom, visitors' dressing room and some seating changes necessary in order to meet NHL telecast requirements. Capacity will remain at 15,000.

"All the rumors about lifting the roof and putting in 2,500 seats in order to get to 18,000... those are unequivocally false," True North director of hockey operations Scott Brown told the Free Press. "There are no plans to do anything like that in the future to this building."

Added Chipman: "We think this building is perfect. We thought it was the right size for the NHL when we built it. We had those conversations with the league before we built it. We studied the average paid attendance in the league and we thought if we could get 15,000 paid attendees in this building regularly it will work. I believe it will be (full) every night and for many years to come."

True North will continue to own an AHL affiliate and is attempting to relocate it to another Canadian city in time for the 2011-12 season with St. John's, Newfoundland being the most-mentioned destination, the Free Press said. If that move happens, the team would play in the Mile One Center, a venue that opened in 2001 and seats 6,250.

"I expect we'll partner with somebody in another community that will actually run the business of it where we will be responsible for the player and hockey operations component of it," Chipman said.

"St. John's is absolutely an option, that's a fantastic hockey market. We played there for many years, they've got a great building and they'd love to get the American Hockey League back."

The Atlanta Journal Constitution noted "The NHL leaves a metro area of more than 5 million people - the United States' eighth largest TV market - for a city of 700,000 in hockey-loving Canada. The league returns to a city it left in 1996, when the Winnipeg Jets moved to Phoenix and became the Coyotes."

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