Jul 6, 2023 - Development

Atlanta's Omni Coliseum gave the Hawks a home

A large black metal enclosed arena surrounded by landscaping trees with a billboard advertising a hockey game

Photo: Acroterion/Wikimedia Commons

The Omni, Atlanta's first contemporary coliseum, had a cool name and looked like a concert hall designed by Darth Vader.

  • But the roughly 16,000-seat arena also had giant holes created by its rusting steel and only so much room for big spenders. Twenty-six years ago this month, the wrecking ball arrived.

Catch up quick: Talk of a grand coliseum for Atlanta began in the 1960s and gained traction when Tom Cousins and former Gov. Carl Sanders bought the Hawks basketball team in 1968.

  • In the early 1970s, the city and region were in the heady days of go-go growth and business-driven boosterism that made modern Atlanta what it is today. What was a city without a coliseum?
  • Completed in 1972, the $17 million venue was made with corten steel designed to oxidize over time and create a rust patina, according to the Atlanta History Center.

Zoom in: The Atlanta Hawks and Flames — a pro hockey team that left the city in 1980 — called the arena home. The facility hosted pro wrestling, Elvis Presley and the 1988 Democratic National Convention.

Yes, but: Designers didn't take Atlanta's obscene heat and humidity into account, and the steel rusted at an advanced rate, Bloomberg reports. The corrosion created cracks that allowed rain to leak onto the court.

The big picture: The true killer was the Omni's outdated layout that offered only a small number of luxury boxes, according to the AJC's Furman Bisher, who compared the venue to a "rusty waffle iron."

  • The coliseum was demolished in July 1997 just shy of its 25th birthday, the average lifespan of sports venues in Atlanta.
  • Two years later, Philips Arena (now State Farm Arena) was completed in its place.

Get more local stories in your inbox with Axios Atlanta.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more

More Atlanta stories

No stories could be found


Get a free daily digest of the most important news in your backyard with Axios Atlanta.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more