The NBA will see another notable home opener later this week, when the Atlanta Hawks play their first 2017-18 regular season game at Philips Arena.
Since the 2017-18 season got underway earlier this month, there have been several introductions when it comes to arena renovations. The Utah Jazz and Minnesota Timberwolves played home openers at their newly-upgraded venues—Vivint Smart Home Arena and Target Center, respectively—last week, and the Hawks are slated to return to Philips Arena for their home opener on October 27.
Starting during the most recent offseason, the Hawks began a two-phase renovation to Philips Arena. Once the overhaul is complete, the venue will offer several distinct features, including revamped food and beverage offerings, improved suites, club areas, social spaces, and other overhauled amenities. Some of the amenities—such as a barbershop and the Hawks Bar, the NBA’s first floor-level bar—will be fairly unique among the league’s facilities.
One change that will be evident to fans this season comes on the food side. Joe Schafer is now serving as the executive chef of Philips Arena, and is planning some unique food items, including crickets. More from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution:
Sourcing local is happening in tandem with a move from frozen to fresh product. All chicken served at Philips Arena now hails from Springer Mountain Farms in North Georgia. Whereas before, chicken tenders arrived packaged and frozen, Schafer and his team are making them fresh, brining the meat in sweet tea, soaking it in buttermilk, then hand breading it. Currently, they go through 1,000 pounds of poultry a week.
While Schafer is working to create a base menu that can serve as the foundation for food offerings in various clubs, suites and catering operations, one unique addition is coming as a test run to concessions: crickets. One concession stand at the arena will sell roasted, dried crickets as a one-ounce snack pack or on a taco. The cricket food stand makes its debut this Friday, Oct. 27, at the Hawks home opener.
The crickets, which are de-legged, come from edible insect food company Aketta. Schafer and his team have developed seasonings for the crunchy critters that include pimento cheese, taco and salt and vinegar. Besides the snack packs, adventurous eaters can order cricket tacos, which feature the crickets seasoned with a blend of cumin, coriander and chili power and garnished with onion, cilantro and lime.
As for the other changes taking shape for 2017-18, fans can expect to see the Hawks Bar in place this season. In addition, the team is preparing to debut the new Courtside Club, which adjoins the Hawks Bar.
The Hawks played two preseason games at Georgia Tech’s McCamish Pavilion before beginning the 2017-18 NBA season with a five-game road trip. Philips Arena, however, did see some action last week when it hosted a pair of Eagles concerts beginning on October 20. Still, The Hawks’ matchup against the Denver Nuggets on Friday should mark a major milestone for the arena.
Renovations to Philips Arena—which originally opened in 1999 for both the Hawks and NHL’s Atlanta Thrashers—are expected to conclude in time for the 2018-19 season. As part of the $192.5-million renovation agreement, the Hawks are to remain at the venue through at least 2046.
Renderings courtesy Atlanta Hawks.
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