Friday, October 07, 2016

Better Than the Ted

Highlights from my SunTrust Park tour this morning. Started out in the Braves 8th floor offices directly across the street, overlooking the construction to the north (with Kennesaw Mountain in the distance).
We sat in the new ventilated seats and checked out the stadium model (below).
While the Omni Hotel will not be completed by Opening Day 2017, much of the Battery will be, including many of the apartments – as well as the pedestrian bridge crossing 285, which is well underway. The ballpark construction itself is weeks ahead of schedule, unlike the Mercedes Dome.
We donned our safety vests and Braves hardhats, and crossed the street.
Our tour guide had worked on several new stadiums: the new Yankee Stadium, the Jets/Giants MetLife Stadium, Target Field in Minneapolis, and the 49ers Levis Stadium. He says the SunTrust sightlines are better than any of them. His words: sightlines “better than new Yankee Stadium” and “this stadium blows away Minnesota’s new Target Field.”
We walked in the field level tunnel underneath the stands from left-centerfield to behind the plate, and entered the spacious entertainment area.
Ticketholders can come here to eat, drink, and watch players warming up in the batting cages right next door (out the window above). After the game fans can watch in person as the media interviews the Braves manager.
This large area is comparable to the new Hundred Yard Bar in the Falcons’ new Mercedes Dome.
It will have numerous eating and drinking areas, a large overhead grille, and a massive Gold Glove display (below).
Next door is the SunTrust Club, where those sitting from dugout to dugout can retreat for food and drink. The area is much larger than the similar area at Turner Field. The SunTrust Seats immediately behind home plate are also greater in number than at the Ted, and they’ve already sold out. Fortunately for us regular folks, a majority of the tickets are $19.00 or less.

My company’s seats are just beyond the third base dugout on the eighth row, in the first section past those more expensive seats.
The workers were in the process of raising the playing surface two feet. I forgot to ask, but here’s my theory: Atlanta Stadium was called the Launching Pad because so many home runs were hit there. Before Denver’s Coors Field came along, AFC was situated at one of the highest elevations in MLB. Turner Field was built at a lower elevation, but SunTrust is built higher than AFC. Will the new park be one of the best hitter’s parks in the majors? We’ll know soon enough.  
All seats are much closer to the field. Those sitting down the third base line have access to the Dugout Club, underneath the stands near the left field foul pole – convenient concessions and restrooms. Field level seats have direct access to nearby parking lots. Parking decks are rising right next to the stadium to the east and the west. The parking decks under the two high-rises right across the street will also be used. The new bridge makes the short walk south to the vast Galleria and Cumberland lots all the more easier. There’s also a sea of parking east across the Windy Ridge Parkway bridge on the other side of I-75.  
Our guide pointed out the varying heights of the outfield wall, ranging from six feet in left field, and climbing to as high as 16 feet in the closer right field porch. Also in right will be two large chain link viewing areas for large groups to congregate and watch the game (behind the yellow tractors).
The Chickfila cow has completed his trip to Mississippi for refurbishing, and has taken up a perch in right centerfield below the two light stanchions already displaying pennants celebrating every Braves championship season.
In left center looms the Home Depot Clubhouse, to be rented out on a game by game basis to groups of forty. This is where the new strikeout “K-Counter” will be.
The large “A” rising above the three-story Chophouse in rightfield will revolve. The Omni Hotel and Xfinity Building will have Wrigley-like rooftop viewing areas, as well as a cabana bar.
Behind the plate the pressbox will have a higher vantage point than Turner Field, though still closer to the field. While we didn’t climb to the upper deck, I’m sure fans in those seats will have great views of downtown Atlanta, Midtown, Buckhead, high-rises near Perimeter Mall, and even Stone Mountain.
Many of the dark green molded plastic stadium seats had already been installed, complete with aluminum baseball seat numbers.
Seats at the row’s end will feature logos inscribed “Braves Baseball Club Est. 1871” encircling the Braves logo and Hank Aaron’s silhouette. Our guide even let me in on the 2017 bobblehead lineup.    
We climbed up to the mezzanine, where like Turner Field a fan can walk all the way around the ballpark. This area will include displays to make up a “living” Braves museum. There will be a new Hank Aaron statue that’s supposed to be more spectacular than the one the city is holding onto.
Whereas at Turner this area had a ceiling, at SunTrust the mezzanine area currently has the high underside of the stands exposed. Should make for greater air flow, and a cooler environment.
An escalator and walkways rose behind and above concession stands and restrooms.
The aluminum to make handrails like these came from my company. Similar carbon steel handrails being installed in the Mercedes Dome also came from my company.     
After the tour we lunched at nearby Ted’s Montana Grill, which seemed fitting. Parked near the pedestrian bridge linking Cumberland Mall to the Galleria area, which isn’t far from the new pedestrian bridge crossing over 285. Then I snuck back into a secluded spot underneath the ballpark, where I plan on hiding out until Opening Day. Hopefully my phone battery won’t run out.  
My takeaway: SunTrust Park is worlds better than Turner Field. More intimate and more fun, both inside and out. Better for the fans and better for the players (well, at least the hitters). Watching the game will be easier. Weekday traffic will be no worse than at Turner Field, actually better for most fans. Weekend traffic will be much better at SunTrust. Unlike the city-controlled parking lots at Turner Field, the new park and Battery development will generate additional millions to greatly increase the Braves payroll (and as a result, deeper playoff runs). I can’t wait.

2 comments:

Cam Mullally said...

Okay okay i guess the cobb co braves should be happy. every time i think atlanta is ready to move into the bigtime they build another stadium without access to mass transit. No guys, that term is not outdated old school hopes and dreams. It is what separates a streamlined international mecca (think chi, ny, london, singapore) from overblown dumb growth cowtowns. You'll get it in 40 years if you dont now. Theres lots about atlanta that works but the wrecking ball running round the clock is ultimately very fouled up.

Jeff Henjes said...

Mass transit isn't needed at the new ballpark, there's actually more parking and has better access than Turner. Also people will come earlier than Turner as there's now something to do in the Battery and then stay later instead of running for the train in that God-awful hood Turner is mired in.