SunTrust Park Hits it Out Of The Ballpark
Atlanta Braves celebrate opening day at SunTrust Park
- by Matthew De Silva
- Published: April 19, 2017
The new home of the Braves, SunTrust Park, Atlanta. (Photo courtesy: Atlanta Braves)
The first ever Opening Day at SunTrust Park is in the books. April 14, 2017, home run king Hank Aaron threw out the inaugural ceremonial first pitch to thunderous applause before the Atlanta Braves defeated the San Diego Padres 5-2. The game was played in front of a sell-out crowd of 41,149.
SunTrust Park is located in the Cumberland neighborhood of Cobb County, about 10 miles northwest of downtown Atlanta. At an imposing 1,114,400-square feet, the stadium offers 4,000 premium seats and 19,000 seats for under $20. A massive canopy provides coverage to the majority of the seating bowl. Utilizing a cantilever design, the stadium’s seating configuration maximizes sightlines and places a higher percentage of seats closer to the field than any other ballpark in Major League Baseball (MLB).
From the beginning of design to the end of construction, the building of SunTrust Park took only 37 months, a remarkable feat as compared to the lengthy timelines required by similar ballparks. Structural precast allowed for faster installation and virtual reality mockups allowed construction to move forward as decisions could be made in advance. Incorporating seven miles of handrails, 6,800 tons of structural steels, 908 miles of wire, 57,312 cubic yards of concrete, and 156,000-square feet of sod, the creation of SunTrust Park demanded an eye-popping 5.6-million man-hours. Cumberland is projected to add $2 billion in real estate value by 2024 due to the economic boost from the stadium.
The most impressive aspect of the fan experience at SunTrust Park might be the MLB.com Ballpark app, available on Android and iPhone. Through this one-stop application, the Braves customize every aspect of game day. A designated drop-off/pick-up zone on Windy Ridge Parkway caters to ridesharing through Uber, while real-time navigation updates, delivered by Waze, ease the flow of traffic for fans and commuters. After uploading your ticket and/or parking bar codes, Waze can direct you to the parking lot nearest your seats.
Opening Day at SunTrust Park, Atlanta.
Inside SunTrust Park, the Ballpark app is your best friend, offering key features including ByPass, Fan Assist and Satisfi. Director of Digital Marketing for the Atlanta Braves Greg Mize highlighted the importance of the Braves’ partnership with Comcast Xfinity, which provides an astonishing 200 GB of bandwidth. In more tangible terms, the stadium’s network infrastructure can support more than 40,000 fans simultaneously posting selfies.
Through ByPass, premium ticket holders can order concessions directly to their seats. Through Fan Assist, patrons can alert the staff if they experience a subpar service (i.e. being served a cold hot dog or a warm beer). Using the “Remedy” feature, fans might be compensated with a concessions voucher or perhaps the opportunity to take photos on the field after the game. This in-depth personalization ensures that all aspects of game day add up to a perfect outing. The most forward-thinking aspect of the Ballpark app is Satisfi, an Artificial Intelligence assistant. Looking for the nearest H&F Burger? A concession stand serving Coors Light? The closest restroom? Instead of endlessly perusing a directory, just ask Satisfi.
The stadium’s built-in technology includes a 64 x 121-foot BravesVision LED scoreboard installed by Panasonic. In fact, throughout SunTrust Park, there are 1,300 Panasonic televisions. The ballpark also features a 90x30 sq.-ft. scoreboard at left center field and five new Grass Valley LDX 86 hard cameras for broadcasting purposes. In the name of modernization, SunTrust Park is lit by programmable LED Sports lights (as compared to the incandescent bulbs used at Turner Field).
Premium areas and suites in the ballpark include the SunTrust Club, Delta SKY360 Club, and INFINITI Club among a host of others. Fully padded seats, valet parking and a variety of premium dining options make these suites the height of luxury. Group spaces such as the Xfinity Rooftop, Patio, and Cabanas (each available for private parties) provide a more intimate experience with entertainment options including pingpong and foosball tables. In addition, the Hank Aaron Terrace displays the legend’s 715th home run bat and ball and features two viewing decks for large groups. The Home Depot Clubhouse, Coca-Cola Corner, Coors Light Below the Chop, Coors Light Chop House (a three story restaurant), the Konica Minolta Conference Center, and Batter’s Eye Deck round out the group spaces.
Delaware North Sportservice serves as the Braves’ concessions partner. The company is launching a “Farm to Fan” initiative at the ballpark, which sources from more than 40 Atlanta-area producers to serve seasonal dishes. In a prepared statement, president of Delaware North Sportservice, Carlos Bernal said, “The Braves envisioned and built a state-of-the-art ballpark so we wanted to design a food and beverage operation that was just as forward-thinking. The game day experience has evolved, and fans expect as much out of their food as they do their baseball team. This means incorporating food trends like locally-sourced ingredients and partnerships with hometown brands and companies.”
The Terrapin Taproom featuring Fox Bros. Bar-B-Q, the First & Third Hot Dog & Sausage Shack by celebrity chef Hugh Acheson, King of Pops, Gu’s Dumplings, High Road Craft Ice Cream, Waffle House, and Chick-fil-A give the Braves a full dining roster.
For the Braves, a baseball game is truly a family affair. With Hope and Will’s Sandlot, the team offers youngsters interactive games ranging from a batting cage and pitch simulator to carnival games and a climbing tower. There’s even a zip line.
In all, SunTrust Park does a magnificent job of joining the old and the new. The venue has incorporated technology at an unprecedented scale, but still retains its baseball sensibilities. With curated memorabilia sections throughout the stadium paying homage to the franchise’s rich past and modernized fan experiences, the Braves have brought baseball into the 21st century while remaining true to the game’s humble beginnings.
- by Matthew De Silva
- Published: April 19, 2017