Atlanta Hawks have called on other major sports teams to allow their venues to be used as voting precincts after making their State Farm Arena home available for polls, including November’s Presidential election.
The National Basketball Association (NBA) team has struck a deal with local authorities to allow the 680,000-square-foot facility to be used as a voting centre until the start of next season, which begins in December.
State Farm Arena, which has a 21,000-seat capacity, will become the state of Georgia’s largest-ever voting precinct when it is used for the Georgia General Primary Runoff Election from July 20.
It is thought tens of thousands of people will be able to vote at the facility while maintaining CDC-recommended social distancing requirements so that polling machines are separated by six feet.
In addition to offering the venue, hundreds of Atlanta Hawks and State Farm Arena employees will be trained to serve as election workers to further support the operations.
“When our ownership group purchased the Hawks and State Farm Arena five years ago, we were clear that we felt it was our responsibility to make sure the organisation was an important civic asset to the city of Atlanta,” said Tony Ressler, Atlanta Hawks and State Farm Arena’s principal owner.
“Utilising State Farm Arena and our incredible staff to make the arena an accessible and vital polling site in an important election year is a fulfilment on that promise.”
Hawks head coach Lloyd Pierce said he was keen to ensure the team could make a positive social change in a time of unrest in the US. A number of protests and rallies have been held in Atlanta since the death of George Floyd at the hands of police officers in Minneapolis in May.
Georgia’s recent Primary election was plagued by huge waits at the polls in the Atlanta area, and it is believed the use of State Farm Arena will make voting easier and potentially increase turnout.
“This is great information and great news to deliver,” Pierce told reporters. “And we’re competitors. This will be a challenge to 29 other coaches in our league if they can get this done. I’m encouraged by us being the model for voting, us being the leader and making this a reality and then us leading the charge and getting the rest of our country to encourage voting.”
To provide greater accessibility to voting, the Hawks Foundation will be providing free parking to individuals accessing the venue to vote. More than 1,500 parking spots surrounding the arena will provide complimentary parking for vehicles with a voter.
“State Farm Arena is an ideal solution to help us serve thousands of voters while maintaining social distancing requirements,” said Mary Carole Cooney, chairperson of the Fulton County Board of Registration & Elections. “We appreciate the Hawks for coming to us with this creative solution.”
The current NBA season will be completed at Disney’s ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Florida from the end of July, however only the top 22 teams will participate, meaning Atlanta Hawks will be absent.