New Atlanta Hawks owner introduces self, immediately complains that 16-year-old arena sucks

The Atlanta Hawks have a new owner, because the old one got caught complaining too many black fans were going to games and had to go. What do you have to say to your new team’s fans, leveraged buyout king Tony Ressler?

Ressler allowed that there were three things the new owners could do about Philips Arena, which opened in 1999: Nothing, remodel or rebuild. And the first, Ressler said, “isn’t an option.”

(Ressler also described Philips as being “not in the upper quartile of arenas.”)

Now, I know we’re in an age where sports venues are declared defunct after only a couple of decades — especially in Atlanta, for some reason — but declaring that your arena is obsolete because it’s 16 years old and there are seven nicer ones elsewhere is pretty ballsy.

And upping the ballsy quotient: For his reported $850 million purchase price, Ressler (and his co-owner, former NBA star Grant Hill) go not just the Hawks, but Philips Arena itself. So he’s not actually in a position to threaten anything if he doesn’t get a new arena, unless he’s prepared to attach his old one to balloons and fly it to Seattle. (Which, come to think of it, would defeat the point.) [CORRECTION: Ressler only bought operating rights to the arena, which is owned by the state stadium authority. So, sadly, no balloons.]

The hope is that Ressler won’t be looking for any public subsidies (ha ha ha!), and if he decides a new arena really is needed, will just spend his own money on building a new one. This time one that won’t start to look obsolete to its owner as soon as the shrink wrap is off, okay?

20 comments on “New Atlanta Hawks owner introduces self, immediately complains that 16-year-old arena sucks

  1. It’s seems that arenas are starting to depreciate (sorry, amortize) faster than a 90s Cavalier.

  2. Hey, Marty T … I’m still driving a 90s Cavalier. Maybe I should seek an upgrade from the local taxpayers!

  3. The Affordable Health Care Act which is subsidized would probably be much for substantial for people (i.e. manageable deductibles, improved care) if it weren’t for all of the corporate welfare subsidies handed out to professional sports team owners and other billionaires.

  4. “Upper quartile” is raising the stakes. Used to be, “we need 500 million dollars because our stadium is one of the oldest in the league.” Now, “It’s not in the upper quartile, so we need…” At some point building stadiums will be like painting bridges, you begin again right after the old one is finished.

  5. If the arena and city of Atlanta is not willing to cater to the Hawks need’s, then please, by all means, move to Louisville, KY!

    Kentucky is the true basketball capitol of the world, and support would be immense right from the get go! Of course, having a brand new NBA ready arena for the city to support is not a bad perk either.

    It would be the only true professional sport in the state of Kentucky. One that the state, and residents, will treat like gold and support!

  6. These guys understand that not every stadium can be in the “top quartile,” right? Or do they just assume that we dummies don’t understand that?

  7. On this site, we’re all a little jumpy when it comes to an owner commenting on the state of his team’s building. To be fair, he didn’t say anything about taxpayers paying for anything (well, yet).
    But, if he speaks more directly about taxpayer-funded upgrades, it’ll be the first time I can remember that active players (Kobe, KG, Duncan) played in the old building and played in the replacement building until it was considered outdated!

  8. Michael Jordan started his career before Miami Arena was built, and ended it after the Heat had moved out.

  9. A basketball player’s career had lasted longer than the Miami Arena. That says a lot.

  10. It is my understanding that what he got wasn’t the deed to the arena but rather the operating rights through 2017(?) and some portion of the bill for the bond payments. If I recall correctly, after 2017 (or whatever year the current deal ends), the team is free of any obligation to Philips, either in terms of playing there or paying bonds. Philips is a pretty good money maker though so the operating rights probably brings in some good cash.

    The real trick is that in 2017 there will be a municipal election and the city’s voters can use the election as a proxy for voting on paying to upgrade or replace Philips. The current mayor that bent over to give the Falcons everything they wanted and more is term limited but the city council is not. He might be willing to do a deal walking out the door with no fear of facing the voters but the city council would have to face their wrath so they might not be so warm to the idea.

    Atlanta doesn’t really love the Hawks very much but then again, Atlanta doesn’t really love the Falcons like many other NFL cities love their teams but still ended up on the hook for over half a billion in costs for an unnecessary new stadium. The Braves are really the only pro team Atlanta has ever truly loved though the move to the suburbs is going to strain that a bit.

    Maybe the Hawks will have another good season and keep the new fans on the bandwagon but I wouldn’t bet on it.

    There have been a few rumors over the past few years that Atlanta’s second least favorite developer wants to build a new arena at Pershing Point overlooking where interstates 75 and 85 merge. This would also help him acquire the MARTA station he’s desired for years but hasn’t been able to get built for him. A new arena at Pershing Point (or “Uptown” as Dewberry calls it) would have some advantages over Philips. It’s in walking distance of the very hot Midtown residential market, a half a dozen stops closer to the northern suburbs on the heavy rail line Dewberry wants a station for his Uptown development on, and the office buildings on the property are under Dewberry’s ownership so he would already have control over much of the parking, though it likely would need to be expanded.

    Dewberry (nicknamed Don’tberry) is disliked because he sits on highly visible lots in hot markets refusing the build on them until he can put up something “world class” with a “lasting legacy”, which he has yet to do anywhere. Most think he’s an egomaniac but a new arena for his Uptown project would fit those parameters. Though relatively young, he does suffer poor health so his time for these types of projects might be running out. Given the way things work in Atlanta, I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see Philips mothballed a few years after the current Hawks lease runs out.

  11. Jason: You are correct, my bad — I should have known to check a reliable source like Wikipedia before trusting what the newspapers were saying.

    Also, should have mentioned that Mayor Reed has already offered $150 million to the Hawks for extending their lease, which presumably could be used for arena upgrades:

    So, yeah, there’s grounds to be more than a little jumpy.

  12. I would like to see the reaction if I complained that my kid’s school (built in 1999 and one of the newest in the school district) is old and outmoded.

  13. School, schmool — my kid dates back to 2003, I should be due for a replacement soon.

  14. Atlanta Hawks – $850 million
    LA Clippers – $2 billion
    Hawks went deeper in 2015 NBA post season
    Way to go Steve Ballmer

  15. I have to admire Atlanta. If you’re a member of the owner class, you can get a new stadium there pretty much any time you need one for any reason you can think of. I wish I had my local pols trained that well to serve me.

  16. Scott, the conventional wisdom around Seattle is that an overblown budget/expectations and a belly flop of a product, particularly compared to more agile competitors, is the hallmark of a Steve Ballmer-influenced product.

  17. ChefJoe,
    I understand where you are coming from – e.g Apple vs Microsoft, wait in line 20 minutes for an overpriced Starbucks coffee, observe the ‘house of cards’ that is Amazon that is perpetually losing money, …

  18. If only Minnesota decision makers were as accommodating as Atlanta’s. I mean stadiums should be built ever ten years after the novelty wears off. Oh well.. The state legislature be ready for replacing my outdated Target Field in 2030.. Or else!!