Having just opened the new $213 million Philips Arena late
last month, Turner Broadcasting System Inc. expects to finish its $27 million CNN
Center/Omni Hotel renovations this month, and it has targeted an April completion for its
$37 million Turner Studios.
Now being built on Turner's 30-acre Techwood campus --
just north of the campus of the Georgia Institute of Technology and about a
mile-and-a-half from downtown Atlanta -- the 127,000-square-foot Turner Studios is
expected to be the largest all-digital production/postproduction facility on the East
Coast, Turner executives said.
Turner Properties vice president Ken Gwinner and Turner
Studios project manager Richard Long said "large portions" of the site will be
ready in January, with completion due in April. About 250 people will work at that
complex, they estimated.
Turner Studios will produce programming and promotional
spots chiefly for Turner's entertainment networks, but they will also contribute some
news programming, the executives said.
However, they will not be involved in producing programming
for non-Turner networks or commercials for advertisers like Coca-Cola Co., they added --
at least "not at this time."
On top of its projected $37 million construction costs,
Turner Studios will require another $15 million worth of state-of-the-art technology,
including virtual sets and the ability to migrate to the high-definition-television
As part of Philips Consumer Electronics Co.'s
long-term agreement encompassing the Philips Arena and other TBSI facilities, Philips will
be "our first stop" for tech equipment, but it won't have exclusivity at
Turner Studios, simply because it doesn't make everything Turner will need, Gwinner
The 1.5 million-square-foot CNN Center -- headquarters for
4,000 Cable News Network and TBSI employees -- upgraded and expanded its retail, office
and hotel space, as well as its atrium studio environment, where the daily Talkback
Live has long originated. The atrium now also features one-dozen 52-inch Philips TV
monitors suspended from the ceiling.
The center also houses a theater that used to show Gone
with the Wind daily, but that more recently has shown Turner Network Television
"TNT Original" movies and CNN projects like Cold War.
As part of the CNN Center face-lift, the CNN Studio Tour
was given a $700,000 upgrade. The tour will now conclude with a video presentation inside
the merchandise-laden Turner Store, located near the Braves Clubhouse Store.
CNN Center attracts well over 3 million visitors per year,
including 330,000 who take the tour. The company is also looking into the feasibility of
having a separate tour at Turner Studios, Long said.
In addition, CNN Center encompasses 27,000 square feet for
leasing as new retail space and nearly 11,000 square feet for a Centennial Olympic Park
Meanwhile, in the lobby of the 15-story Omni Hotel,
there's a new gallery-style museum corner that features a collection of photos of
historic moments from CNN's coverage.
The 21,000-seat, 700,000-square-foot Philips Arena --
described in Turner literature as "the centerpiece of the downtown development
project," with 25 acres stretching from Centennial Olympic Park to the CNN Center and
the Georgia Dome -- is the home for the National Basketball Association's Atlanta
Hawks and the National Hockey League's new Atlanta Thrashers.
Turner executives projected Philips Arena's annual
attendance at 2 million-plus for more than 200 events. The initial crop included concerts
starring Elton John and Cher, plus a Turner-owned World Championship Wrestling event taped
for TNT's WCW Monday Nitro.
TBSI chairman Terence McGuirk said Philips bought the
naming rights to the arena as part of a 20-year, $100 million alliance with Turner.
As part of that, the two companies will work on teams
(headed on Turner's side by TBSI president Steven Heyer) to explore ways to share
resources, from technology to marketing and media. Among the areas being explored, Turner
executives said, are unspecified electronic-commerce, interactivity, new-media and
A total of 500 Philips video monitors are already located
in the arena and the adjacent CNN Center, and Philips is building a 10,000-square-foot
new-technologies showcase in the arena, which will include interactive elements.
TBSI executives said these hefty renovation expenditures
are just part of a broader, unprecedented renaissance of downtown Atlanta.
Coca-Cola plans a 20-acre corporate campus as its
contribution to the area's revitalization, for instance, while various developers are
building condominiums. Downtown Atlanta, however, couldn't lure The Walt Disney
Co.'s ESPN Zone restaurant complex, which instead went to the suburban Buckhead area.
TBSI vice president of sports teams Stan Kasten -- who is
also president of the Atlanta Braves, Hawks and Thrashers -- has been named Philips Arena
chairman, while Turner Arena Operations Inc. president Bob Williams, who's also
president of Techwood Entertainment (Turner's in-house concert and entertainment
company), is the arena's president.
Jane Marie Smith, president of Turner Sports &
Entertainment Development Inc., was the arena's lead designer and architect. Her past
successes include Turner Field, the Braves' new home, and Baltimore's Camden
Yards, the Orioles' stadium.