Atlanta motorists this spring have been gawking at a strange sight. Just off a six-lane expressway a mile and a half from the downtown business district, workmen have been busy since April assembling a curious structure on the Georgia Tech campus that gives every appearance of being a giant spider (see opposite page). In actual fact, it is the new Tech basketball .arena, an unabashedly radical design which may well become a commonplace sight in the U.S. Other colleges, faced with greater demands, fewer funds and skyrocketing costs, are already eying the Tech experiment as a possible solution to their own problems.
When it is completed, Tech's big top will seat 6,999 at basketball games and 1,700 more persons for general assemblies. With steeper banks of seats than are normally provided at sports arenas and no obstructing pillars, tiers or ramps, all spectators will command a full view of the court without ever having to crane their necks. The circular construction, in addition, will bring the most distant seats nearer the court area than in conventional rectangular-shaped buildings.
The building was designed by Richard Aeck (rhymes with heck), a leading Atlanta architect, after college officials had jettisoned as too expensive plans for a huge $4 million municipal center suitable for sports, concerts, livestock shows and other exhibits. The core of the Aeck design is a 25-foot excavation inside the 270-foot-diameter circle formed by the building's ribs. By lowering the playing floor Aeck was able to save on steel costs (the point of the dome is only 50 feet above the girders' base but 75 feet above the playing court) and on construction. Concrete was poured directly on the floor of the excavation and, for the seat banks, directly on the sloping sides of the excavation, thus eliminating expensive wooden forms. Visitors will walk into the building and straight down to their seats—which means there are no costly and space-consuming ramps to drive expenses further skyward. The total cost: $1 million, including an adjacent locker room building which also will house WGST, the university radio station.
Tech's arena is being called the Alexander Memorial Center after the late W.A. (Bill) Alexander, longtime football coach and athletic director. "Next step," in the words of J.C. (Whack) Hyder, basketball coach, "is a topnotch basketball team." The Yellow Jackets have been a perennial football power in the Southeast Conference. If they apply even part of their usual efficiency to basketball, they should be striking terror into the hearts of their fellow conferencemen any year now.