COLLEGE PARK, Ga.- Larry Hubbard and his nine-year-old son Aiden walked down the stairs inside The Gateway Center Arena looking for Trae Young. The boy had a red Trae Young Atlanta Hawks jersey in his and an autograph on his mind. The Hawks were playing their third preseason game of the season in College Park against the New Orleans Pelicans. For many of the fans in attendance it my have been the first time they would see Young, or fellow Hawks guard Dejounte Murray or Pelicans star forward Zion Williamson play in person.
Larry and Aiden drove down from Memphis for the game. Aiden is a big fan of Young and his father wanted to make sure he saw him play. They don’t get to watch the Hawks play the Memphis Grizzlies the one time per season during the regular season, so the game in College Park, particularly with the inexpensive tickets, was a great reason for a road trip.
“I love it in College Park,” said the elder Hubbard about being able to see the Hawks outside of State Farm Arena and downtown Atlanta. “I believe the team definitely needs to go places where you can get people who don’t normally come to games.”
The fact that the Hawks were playing in a 3,500 seat arena was unique. State Farm Arena, the Hawks’ home court, has a capacity of 16,888, more than five times Gateway Arena. Saturday afternoon’s announced attendance was 3,051.
“A lot of times people cam turn into super fans and season ticket holders because of stuff like this,” said Larry.
All of the seats inside Gateway Arena were full just before tip-off Saturday afternoon. The crowd was made up of parents with their kids, couples on dates and friends groups enjoying food and beverages similar to a Hawks regular season game, but something was different. The energy felt different.
“It’s very exciting and it’s closer to my house,” joked Bernard Knox, who attended the game with his wife Gussie Knox. The married couple sat with food and drinks and prepared to watch the best professional basketball players in the world play in College Park.
“It’s a good move,” said Bernard of the Hawks coming to the Southside to play a preseason game. “It’s a very good move.”
Chuck Collins, who attended the game with his son, said this game was easier to get to than the games downtown.
“When they come to the community like this it’s more accessible,” Collins said.
Tyrone Spriggs and his son Cahmari, 10, were there too. The pair made a 22-mile trip to College Park from Lithia Springs to see the Hawks. They have gone to Hawks games in Atlanta but this one was better, according to Spriggs.
“It’s cheaper and these are better seats,” he laughed.
The Atlanta Hawks won the game 110-105, but what may have been a much bigger victory was the fans the franchise was able to meet just a few miles south from their downtown home court.