'It’s kind of forgotten about': Tiffany Hayes' Plan to Bring Elite Basketball to South Atlanta

Hayes' new gym, Hoop Nation, is one of a kind in College Park

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When Atlanta Dream guard Tiffany Hayes took ownership of her gym, Hoop Nation, in February, it was a business years in the making.

A few years ago, Hayes talked with a couple of her siblings about opening a gym and running it as a family business, though the plans never went further than that. 

But in late 2019, while Hayes was in Spain playing for CB Avenida, her sister, LaTisha Jones, called with an opportunity. The gym where Jones’ son, Antwan, had been playing was closing, and Jones thought it would be a good business opportunity for her sister. 

“We had been talking about opening a gym a long time ago—this might have been like three or four years ago—and just keeping it in the family,” Hayes said. “I’m glad that I’m able to get this one and hopefully soon my brother can move back up to Atlanta and he can be a part of it as well, because my sister’s already up here. That was pretty cool.”

The gym is located on the south side of Atlanta in College Park, mere minutes from the Dream’s new game facility, Gateway Center Arena. It’s a part of the city that doesn’t have many gyms or resources to offer young basketball players, which is part of the reason Hayes wanted to make the investment. 

“North Atlanta has all these great, elite gyms that people can go to,” Hayes said. “The south side doesn’t really have that, so I want to kind of change Hoop Nation into one of those gyms where everyone knows about it and everyone loves coming to that gym because it has such elite status and great players come there and they can get good training, get good recovery, get good runs, all that type of stuff.

“... This area doesn’t really have a lot down here because it’s kind of forgotten about.”

Two weeks after Hayes got the keys to the building, the coronavirus pandemic forced her to shut down operations for the time being. Hayes had planned to do extensive renovations, including repainting and redoing the floors and adding weight rooms and recovery spaces. 

Suddenly, those plans were put on hold. Hayes and her small staff, which includes Jones as the operations manager, had to stay home to comply with Georgia’s shelter-in-place regulations. But when governor Brian Kemp began to loosen the restrictions at the end of April and gyms were allowed to reopen, Hayes put a plan in motion to get things going at Hoop Nation again.

“We just do everything we can to make sure we can keep everybody as safe as we can,” Hayes said. “We have a temperature reader thing now that we do at the door. I’m there often helping clean the bathrooms. We Lysol everything. We make people put hand sanitizer on when they walk in the gym. Just anything we can do to help.

“... People are choosing to come to the gym and it’s their choice. We can only do so much. Whatever we can do to help the situation, that’s what we’re gonna do.”

Now, Hayes hopes to get her renovation plans back on track as soon as it’s safe and to continue holding open gyms for basketball players in the area. As she continues to develop Hoop Nation into the kind of elite gym she envisions, she has her eyes set on a bigger goal: multi-state expansion. 

“[I’m] definitely always thinking about life after basketball because everyone knows it doesn’t last forever,” Hayes said. “This would be one of the things that I would be working on to keep it alive, because I definitely want to franchise it. That’s how big I’m looking at this gym getting right now. Hopefully my plans turn into reality.”

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