First Impressions of SunTrust Park (by Sam Hutcheson)

First Impressions of SunTrust Park (by Sam Hutcheson)

Since it’s timely, I visited the park for the first time last night. Richard B, of the old Baseball Primer hordes, was in town for work and we decided to catch a game (he wanted to check off a new park on his travels, etc.) We met for drinks in my neighby around 4:00pm to get him some non-Delta provided “lunch”. I may or may not have pounded back three somewhat high gravity brews in the process, which means I absolutely did that. Crawford at 5SW makes exceptionally good beers. Regardless, that’s what Uber’s for.

Uber gets you to and from the stadium area efficiently enough, at least coming out of the city proper. We were on the Westside, and at 5:30/6:00 PM the driver smartly used surface streets (Marietta St >> Atlanta Highway) to come up on the west side of 285. Perhaps coming from the other cardinal directions, or coming in exclusively on the interstates would have been worse, but for us, on a sparsely attended Wednesday night game, traffic really wasn’t bad at all.

We grabbed another beer at “The Battery ATL,” which is the outdoor mall that they’re trying to sell as a “neighborhood” around the stadium itself. Options and prices weren’t terribly bad there. Only slightly exorbitant. They jumped again once you got through the gates, but were not notably marked up in the lead-in bars. We wandered around a little in “the Battery.” Found the Hank statue (not the same). RB bought some socks at “Baseballism.” Slipped into the park proper a good 30-45 minutes before game time and walked the perimeter of it on the first covered deck.

To the designers’ credit, SunTrust has amazingly clear sightlines, and the field itself is much more intimate to the fans than Turner. Even on the third level, our seats behind home plate felt close to the action. Much closer than the 300’s (much less the 400’s) of the Ted. Only obstruction of view was the cap of metal railing on the glass safety barrier that SunTrust has instead of Turner’s low concrete walls.

That said… the entire experience felt empty and soulless. Some of that may have been the level of the two teams at play. But “the Battery” feels to me like a suburbanite’s idea of what they think an “good urban neighborhood” might be. It was way more “Atlantic Station with a ball park next to it” than Wrigleyville or the Fens. Now, maybe if it’s still there in a hundred years it will have developed a soul as an urban space by then, but for now, it feels plastic and devoid of anything resembling the human. Which, well, ya know… Marietta.

I suppose if the team gets good again, I’d make trips up to see them there. It’s not a *bad* experience, by any means. Aside from the lack of anything resembling the human spirit that hadn’t been stamped out in corporate-branded, target-market-approved plastic, of course. But when compared to the vibe and feel of West Downtown in 2014 when the Hawks rolled out their “True to ATL” season, or the absolute madness of GA Tech on an ATL UTD match day this year, there was definitely a lack to “Braves Baseball” last night. Again, some of that probably has to do with the nature of the crappy product on the field. But even before UTD was a playoff contender, there was a scene of human madness around it. The Braves currently lack anything close to as much, and outside of rent revenue from the mallpark restaurants and hotels, I don’t see what this new park is going to add to that lacking.



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