Georgia Tech’s McCamish Pavilion is nearly complete in all of its recruit-impressing glory. The high-definition video board hangs above the hardwood. The charcoal-gray seats and the benches have been installed for 8,600 people.
“The only thing that’s missing now is the baskets,” men’s basketball coach Brian Gregory said Tuesday, “and sometimes it didn’t matter if those were out there last year for us anyway.”
Contractor Whiting-Turner is to complete its punch list in less than 30 days. The Tech men’s team began team workouts Tuesday in advance of the official start to practice in October, and the arena’s inaugural game Nov. 9 against Tulane. The women play their first game at McCamish on Nov. 11 against Tennessee.
A momentous year for both teams and the school is sprouting.
Said Gregory, “I’ve been fortunate to coach in some pretty good arenas, but I think this one’s going to be something special.”
Members of the news media were given a tour of the arena formerly known as Alexander Memorial Coliseum on Tuesday. The arena footprint has expanded by about 30,000 square feet, and the circular seating bowl was demolished and replaced with a rectangular bowl along with an upper deck shoehorned into the space.
The most obvious difference is that the walls separating the concourse and the bowl were removed, meaning that the floor is visible from almost every point in the concourse. The familiar domed roof and the 32 steel support beams remain, but the McCamish interior looks nothing like the old Thrillerdome.
“Each time I walk in here, my eyes open up wide,” said Tyaunna Marshall, the All-ACC guard for the women’s team.
The lighting system, similar to those at Madison Square Garden and Staples Center in Los Angeles, will illuminate the court while leaving the stands darkened, creating a theatre-like feel to games.
“It really creates a different kind of atmosphere, focusing everyone’s attention and energies on the floor,” said athletic director Dan Radakovich, who will hold an arena open house Saturday before Tech’s 3 p.m. football game against Miami at Bobby Dodd Stadium.
Radakovich declined to provide season-ticket sales figures, describing them as “good.” He was hopeful the open house will spur sales.
The project’s final cost will be $50 million, paid with athletic-department funds. That includes $45 million in construction costs, which was the originally cited figure, and $5 million in what senior associate athletic director Paul Griffin called “F, F & E” — furniture, finishings and equipment, which includes everything from the video boards to the goals.
The men’s team will begin its second season with Gregory. The Jackets are fortified by a freshman class ranked No. 16 in the country by Rivals recruiting service. Part of Gregory’s sales pitch to that group was the opportunity to christen McCamish.
After reaching the Sweet 16 in March for the first time in school history and setting a school record for wins with 26, the Tech women will field a team with seven freshmen, almost half the 15-player roster.
In April, Tech will be the host institution for the Final Four at the Georgia Dome. It will be the fourth Final Four played in Atlanta and also the 75th anniversary of the tournament. Griffin, who has been Tech’s point man for McCamish and also the new tennis complex going up across the street, will be the Final Four tournament director.
But first, the basketball goals. They’re scheduled to be put up Tuesday.
Ken Sugiura, Georgia Tech blog