ATLANTA — By the time the decked-out charter bus reached the curb outside Philips Arena’s main entrance, the group of 35 German businessmen and -women, plus its two American hosts, had hardly lifted a finger.
Traveling from the St. Regis Hotel in Buckhead through Atlanta traffic, side roads and highways up to the Atlanta Hawks’ home opener on Friday night, a 30-minute trip in all, there was little stress involved.
The group, one which had already traveled thousands of miles on business from Frankfurt, Germany, all the way to Wichita, Kan., before touching down in Atlanta, collectively agreed they could use some free time without dealing with the hustle-and-bustle of organizing the transportation and itinerary of a large group outing in a foreign city.
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So it was convenient that the Hawks extended an invite for it to attend rookie Dennis Schroder’s home debut — his first professional game in Atlanta since being drafted from his hometown team in Braunschweig, two hours west of Berlin. Most knew the young point guard’s name and origin, though fellow German Dirk Nowitzki, the country’s greatest player who faced off against the Hawks in the season opener, was still one of the first inquiries received when talking NBA interests.
Still, Schroder’s presence provided a bit more anticipation for the first live NBA action the attendees had seen.
The setup, of course, allowed the group to ride on the maiden voyage FOX Sports’ newly-outfitted Fan Express, a 60-seat charter bus complete with a hardwood court walkway, six mini-TVs playing promotional videos and music, WiFi, an intercom system necessary for a tour guide-like speech in German (also applicable in English, surely) and waiver sheets allowing the out-of-country guests to ride the bus and be filmed doing so.
From the exterior, the Fan Express was immediately recognizable idling outside the St. Regis. Even the out-of-towners did not miss it.
High-definition posters of team stars Al Horford and Jeff Teague adorn the port- and starboard sides — Teague’s dribbling pose bearing a striking resemblance to the classic pose struck in Michelangelo’s masterpiece, “The Creation of Adam”, for what it’s worth — while sharpshooter Kyle Korver is the person of interest for any cars trailing the bus. Once the Fan Express arrived outside of Philips, many young fans began to linger, thinking this was the Hawks’ actual team bus. Unfortunately for all involved, no NBA players emerged, though tours were given on site.
Overall, the charter had the intended effect. It delivered a large group of fans from Point A (Buckhead) to Point B (Philips) in NBA style — then from Point B back to Point A after the game — in time to catch Schroder (16 minutes, four points) and the Hawks edge the Raptors for their first win under new coach Mike Budenholzer.
And truthfully, from a large-group perspective, it makes plenty of sense to contact the team about the Fan Express, a complimentary service provided at no additional cost to a group ticket package. Yes, it’s a free ride … for a bunch of people. Plan accordingly. (For more information, see the side panel.)
It helps take the worry out of accounting for mass transportation, both to and fro … whether you’re a lifetime resident of the city or just visiting from 4,500 miles away.