ATLANTA — The transformation of Philips Arena is now underway.
Channel 2's Justin Wilfon got a look Wednesday night at the renovation work that has already started at the home of the Atlanta Hawks.
After months of negations to figure out how to pay for the project, Hawks officials and Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed are fired up about the renovation and what it means for Atlanta.
The long-awaited project is being billed as something that will transform the downtown venue into what officials believe will be a world-class facility.
"It really is making Atlanta one of the leading cities in the world. And this venue is a vital part of everything that represents the city of Atlanta," Reed told Wilfon Wednesday.
Reed and officials with the Atlanta Hawks essentially broke ground on the remodel at an afternoon news conference Wednesday, even though work started about a week ago.
The project once appeared in jeopardy after the city worked for months to find the money to pay for it, finally reaching a deal to extend a tax on rental cars.
That money, which will come largely from tourists, will pay for a large chunk of the $192 million renovation.
"I think my naysayers don't know what they're talking about. Obviously, they have the right to have their opinions but if you look at the way the arena deals are being negotiated in the city of Atlanta, they're primarily being paid for by other people," Reed said.
Hawks officials also released the first look at the new features the renovation will bring to the arena including some unusual ones like a barber shop.
Other renovations include a courtside club and a dismantling of the multiple layers of suites. Workers will replace them with a new upper deck.
Officials hope the arena's new look will lead to a new look for downtown Atlanta.
"Really trying to help transform downtown Atlanta, and lead in that direction," Atlanta Hawks owner Tony Ressler told Wilfon.
The work will continue here until the fall of 2018, but the Hawks will continue to play at the arena. Crews will do most of the work in the Hawks' off-seasons.
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