[Editor’s note: Kevin wrote up such a thorough review that I thought it made more sense to break it into two parts so you could really savor the experience of his experience at SunTrust Field. Yesterday, he explored the Exterior, Interior, Field, Views, and Seating Areas. Now, with the exciting conclusion, here’s Kevin...]
This is really where the Braves shined.
The ballpark is located amidst one of those ballpark villages that has become a popular trend, an area artificially shaped like the urban downtown of a vaguely midsized big city. But unlike other such villages, this ballpark is out in the suburbs, where the feel is even faker than a forced urban feel.
However, the area itself is packed with stuff. There’s a BBQ place to get brisket and beers. There’s a bar for burgers and beer. There’s an English-style tavern to get Fish & Chips and beer. There’s a steakhouse that might pair wine with your beer. Fangraphs indicates it will eventually have “60 Bars”. But it’s not just that. There’s a variety of small shops, from a new Baseballism store that seems obvious to a paper-products store that is fun but random. The bars indicate a desire to be social, with one in particular that has bowling, foosball and more for non-gameday entertainment. There’s also a concert hall to keep the place a little busier when it’s not the season. Directly outside the park, you’ll find a plaza with water fountains for the kids to play in (a great feature for Atlanta), places to lay out, what appears to be a small stage for maybe small bands to play.
All this also has all sorts of parking garages for gameday and non-gameday use, and which help serve for the parking at the stadium. If you need to walk to a garage, walking through a ballpark village is certainly more interesting than many stadium-to-lot/garage trudges.
That said, I explored the area on a non-gameday Thursday night, and it was dead, dead, dead. It was more fun on gameday, for sure, but I wonder how the village will do long-term when it’s far from an urban center.
On gameday, though, it is packed. As fans stood in line waiting for the gates to open, a drum and dance team made its way into the pavilion and played and danced. The pre-game videos and activities were well-produced.
Inside the stadium, the kids section was particularly crazy. There were some pretty out-of-place features like a climbing wall and zip line, but there were also traditional competitive games, batting cages, and a first-base-dash complete with scores kept.
In a move that Krukow would absolutely be ga-ga for, Mizuno will loan you gloves (For free!) for the game! Seriously, that’s pretty danged cool, and especially for kids, a fun thing. Of course, if you like the glove you are loaned, they are more than happy to sell it to you.
In the middle of the game, there were plenty of things going on, in particular mid-inning games, the Beat the Freeze race, and the drummers performing behind the Chop House. All in all, no matter what type of fan you are (except for traditional purists who hate all the extra crap), there was good stuff going on.
Bonus mention for the best Wi-Fi experience I’ve had at a park, other than having to put in my email address so Comcast and the Braves can spam me, and the system even kicked me out if I tried to put an email address with “Spam” in the address to lie.
Fair warning, I’m not the best judge for food. I’m allergic to too many foods, I don’t drink alcohol, and on top of it, I am judging by one game, so I couldn’t get a wide plethora of foods to choose from. But...
This is where the Braves really, really stunk.
The selection of concessions looked pretty good. Going between the various levels and the restaurants, there were a lot of options that I saw for food and beer. That all is good.
The experience trying to get any of it is an absolute nightmare. First, the lines are unmanaged, so the lines block most of the concourse. This line blocked the entire width of the concourse, for Dippin’ Dots. As a note, the Dippin’ Dots lines were all the longest in the ballpark. Anyways, because of all these unmanaged lines, more than half the width of a concourse may be blocked at any point, making navigating hard and getting anywhere harder. The kids playground looked like it was organized and run by the military, where as the rest of the concourses made the fair in Revenge of the Nerds look decent by comparison.
Also, in some parts, the added carts are taking up a ridiculous amount of room on the concourses, just like I mentioned at AT&T Park.
Now, part of this is line management that is desperately needed. But part of the reason for the long lines is that the service in most of the booths seems unbearably slow. I stood in one line for six outs, and only three orders were taken and served ahead of me. (And these weren’t very quick innings). I ditched that line, but didn’t get it much better elsewhere. Even in the big, built-in booths where you had more than two employees for each working register, getting an order was slow. After you give your order, they make you pay first (and wait for the credit card to go through). Then the person taking the order needs to go elsewhere to get your soda (despite fountains on either side of her?), and after that is gotten, then she needs to tell someone the food you want, and wait for them to put it together.
This was not a good experience, and it’s frustrating because this can be easily fixed with better management, both of lines and of ordering processes.
FWIW, the fries from the French Fry booths were very good, not crisped to the point of flavorlessness like some places. Unfortunately the chicken tenders were crisped that far.
The Braves take their history seriously, calling themselves the “Longest Continually-Operating Team” in baseball. (The Cincinnati Reds are older, but went Arena League and had some years they didn’t operate.) The park has history throughout it.
Statues outside the park feature Phil Niekro, Warren Spahn and Bobby Cox. Sprinkled throughout the park you’ll see historical jerseys, bobbleheads, informational panels tell you about the team’s history.
One of the ballpark’s gems, though, is it’s Monument Garden on the main concourse behind home plate. This is one of the best parts of the park, with the Hank Aaron statue as the centerpiece. It has the team’s history, hall of fame plaques, tributes to the hall of fame members, retired numbers, and of course a Commissioner’s Trophy and championship rings.
(Fun trivia: The Braves only have one trophy. The Braves have won the World Series three times (1995, 1957, 1914), but MLB only started handing out trophies in 1967.)
Aaron, of course, is the centerpiece of another area, the exclusive Aaron Lounge in left field, filled with more of his memorabilia (including the bat and ball from home run #715.
The team does not short-shrift its time in Boston or Milwaukee throughout the park, either. It does an excellent job showcasing its history, though I was surprised to not see a lot of mention of the 1990’s teams. Maybe the Maddux statue is back-ordered.
Okay, let’s start with this: traffic in Atlanta sucks. As a visitor, staying in the exorbitantly expensive hotel right next to the park was cheap in the amount of time saved from trying to drive from just about anywhere. I can only imagine trying to get to a weeknight game at this place from anywhere. At least the field is close to two freeways, with not a few different ways to access them.
For all the complaints about Turner Field being far from Mass Transit, the main Atlanta mass transit system MARTA doesn’t really connect to Cobb County. You can get from downtown to the stadium with a transfer or two, but it’s not a great situation at all, and heaven help you if you want to get here from another suburb.
There are a lot of garages in various spots around the park, including the still-hilarious sponsored Delta garage. Local office buildings seem to be good for offering their parking garages during non-work hours. You won’t be tailgating here, but to be honest, tailgating is something that is disappearing from baseball more and more.
The team is depending on Uber quite a bit, and even has two different Uber pickups, a closer one for UberX and then one further away for your average Ubers. I honestly wonder if Uber put that in their promotion contract with the Braves.
What is the Bonus? Start at a 45 grade. Here I’ll find the big and small and tiny things that I loved or hated, and I’ll add or remove points based on them.
Ceiling fans! This is the second ballpark I’ve seen with them (the other being the now-retired Lake Olmstead Stadium in Augusta), and they work very well here keeping the concourses cool.
Points: +5 Kevin J. Cunningham
- Lego Tomahawk? Eh…a Lego Buster Posey is still more impressive, but still pretty cool! Points: +1 Kevin J. Cunningham
- Telling me where to take a selfie? I do what I want! Points: -3 Kevin J. Cunningham
- A display of a magical bat couldn’t look any more like a mythical, empowered sword. Points: +5
- There are seriously cars everywhere around this park. Like Atlanta needs more advertisements for traffic. Points: -5 Kevin J. Cunningham
- The artwork throughout the Park is awesome. There are some very well-imagined styles. Points: +5 Kevin J. Cunningham
- Exclusive clothing only for Infiniti Club (Luxury Suite) Members? Snobby to a T. Points: -5 Kevin J. Cunningham
- Glove memorializing Old Hoss Radbourn being in the HOF? Points: +1 Kevin J. Cunningham
- Seating section not perfectly symmetrical behind home plate? AGH!!! Points: -5 Kevin J. Cunningham
- Expensive Knock-Off Porthole Gang? Points: -2 Kevin J. Cunningham
- Refrigerated Cupholders? Points: +5 Kevin J. Cunningham
- Statue of a Manager leaning on the Dugout? Awesome! Points: +5 Kevin J. Cunningham
- Chop On signs obviously for Instagram? As long as you don’t tell me “Take Picture Here!” Points: +5 Kevin J. Cunningham
- LMAO Already? I’m so saving this for memes! Points: 0 Kevin J. Cunningham
- Rotating “A” logo with an embedded screen that can show different images? Nice. Points: +5 Kevin J. Cunningham
- Small scoreboard with Closed Captioning For The Hearing Impaired? Points: +5 Kevin J. Cunningham
- Colored lights lighting up the underside of the metal roof at night. Points: +3 Kevin J. Cunningham
- Record attendance, and the 50/50 Raffle Jackpot is about half of the Giants on an average weeknight. Points: -5 Kevin J. Cunningham
The Tool Race (sponsored by Home Depot, with a hammer, drill, and two other things I can’t be bothered to remember) is low-hanging fruit, and yet is absolutely deserving of every joke it spawns. The need for many stadiums to do gimmick races is getting very old, and needs to die. (Milwaukee, for being original, and Washington, for being un-sponsorship-ishly unique, get passes.)
Beat the Freeze is one of the coolest mid-inning things, and it should be the only race they do.
Total Bonus: 66
So, was it worth moving into this park? I took a good, long look at it…okay, no, this is based off of one ballpark tour, and one game on May 4th, 2018. Although, since this game set the attendance record at the stadium, I think I got a good night. Ready? Let’s look at the score sheet.
(Guide: 20-30 is well below average, 40 is below average, 50 is average, 60 is above average and 70-80 is well above average.)
TOTAL SCORE: 52
Honestly, this is a nice park, even though in many ways it feels absolutely needless. You won’t find many bad seats, it’s mostly up-to-date technologically speaking, and it has some pretty solid features. What it’s missing, however, are the killer features. In some ways, this feels like the suburbs. It’s new, it’s comfortable, it’s up-to-date, and it’s just oh so meh.
Just take advantage of the food outside the park, and don’t try to get into the lines here.