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.

44 thoughts on “First Impressions of SunTrust Park (by Sam Hutcheson)”

  1. Thank you, Sam. I’m still looking forward to my first visit, though it will likely wait til next year (perpetual mantra of the old Bums and our new Braves).

  2. I have no interest in visiting the new stadium, and Sam’s review confirms my resolve to watch a game at Manuel’s instead the next time I’m in Atlanta.

  3. It’s a ballpark. It’s not Wrigley or Fenway (and to be honest I liked Fulton County better than Turner Field anyway), and yes it’s commercial and pre-fab instead of 60 year old authentic. However, is it an improvement over Turner Field ? I’m biased as the 25-30 minute drive in and out from Acworth is pretty sweet, but yes, Virginia, it is. The sightlines are far better and you are closer to the action than at Turner Field. It is nice to have it as a destination instead of just driving in and driving out like at TF. Would have been awesome if something naturally evolved at Turner Field but they had 20 years and other than the pretty cool bar on Abnernathy that opened right about when the move was announced, that area has been stale (not dangerous as some have said but stale – as in, nothing happening) since day 1.

    Again, I’m biased and selfish because STP is incredibly more convenient for me (and I think likely also for a plurality of ticket buyers) but there’s no way it’s not an improvement on Turner Field. Wishing for Wrigley Field seems like hoping all our prospects turn out to be all-stars and MVP’s. Would be awesome, but not likely to happen…

    Hope you return soon, because, well Marietta doesn’t suck :-)

    Go Braves – beat the Cardinals this weekend !


  4. I can’t say I’ve ever related to the urbanite’s reverence for things that are old and smell like piss. I don’t care if a building has “soul,” I’d prefer it not to be falling apart and repulsive, thank you very much.

  5. The Red Cardinelles.

    Fifty/sixty plus, worn, busty fat, self satisfied, metronomic clapping at anything that hints at a positive. The only fans I love to hate. Horrible.

  6. Ponce City Market / Beltline…cool (lol). WFF / Battery…soulless commercialism. Makes sense.

    FWIW, the burbs are more than malls and uninspired baseball stadiums. I think WFF kinda sucks too, but certainly not because of where it is or what’s around it. The concourses are way too small and the concession situation is not great unless you sit in the chophouse area.

    Put a real team in WFF and they will come. And it will become awesome. And in a decade it’ll feel like it’s always been awesome.

  7. Ponce City Market is actually sort of bleh. The Beltline is good because it’s a transit project. WFF will almost certainly draw crowds, especially if they put a decent team in there eventually, but it is soulless and bland.

    My buddy Tim moved and his new-ish wife sold his house in Sugar Hill, and her house off of Bolton on the westside, and bought a new house out somewhere near Cumming. I’m not sure where, but it’s like driving to fucking Tennessee to get to that thing. Tim’s house in Sugar Hill was a soulless monstrosity. Her house in Atlanta was a cookie cutter “workman’s cottage” that really didn’t pop much. The place they bought in Cumming is actually this super interesting mid-century ranch with an exceptional living room and galley kitchen that is both true to the style and beautiful. You don’t have to be in the city, per se, to have soul in a place. SunTrust just happens to be in Marietta AND soulless.

    As for Acworth, I don’t hold that opinion against you man. The Dothraki honestly believe horse meat tastes good.

  8. Thanks for the clarification. My objection was only against the idea that being in Marietta makes it more soulless. If they had built the same thing in O4W it would still be pretty sucky (though I’d wager it’d be getting a lot more love from the ITP crowd…).

    We Dothraki didn’t have any say whatsoever about WFF’s design. Forgive us if we are just glad it’s easier to get to than the Ted.

  9. If I were to try to sum up my larger issue with the Battery, outside of it’s “new build that wants to pretend it’s a warehouse conversion” vibe, it’s the Terrapin Taproom. Now, don’t get me wrong. Terrapin’s a fine brewery and has been a mainstay in the craft Georgia scene since more or less founding with Sweetwater and ABC back in the day. Similarly, bring in food there from Fox Brothers, a landmark of the metro BBQ scene. But it’s so… demographically tested and safe. It’s so *boring.* They should have brought in a consortium of actual local craft brewers, including Marietta’s own Red Hare, rather than shipping in the safe and corporately funded Terrapin from Athens. And they should have partnered with Heirloom Market, a *nationally recognized BBQ joint* local to Marietta as well, for the ‘queue. But they couldn’t do that and get it through the seventh necessary committee, I guess.

    It’s just so much possibility gone to waste.

  10. You couldn’t be more right about Heirloom. I guess it’s not too late, the Battery is still like only half open. I’d like to see Monday Night there too.

    I can’t comment on Terrpain Taproom because every time I’ve been it’s been a 2 hour wait and we’ve noped out.

  11. “Todd English’s Tavern” – why bring in a “celebrity chef” from Boston when Ford Fry lives right here?!

  12. Look. I don’t hate Marietta. Some of my best friends are from Marietta. And honestly, I can see where someone from Acworth would think Marietta was “cool.” I mean, Acworth, right?

    There are 10-20 local ATL breweries I’d partner with for craft at the ballpark ahead of Terrapin. And again, I LOVE SPIKE AND HIS BEERS. But Terrapin is from Athens, not Atlanta, and is a InBev commodity now anyway.

  13. Obligatory Braves talk: BP cleared waivers. Nobody wants him for basically free…so hard to see how Coppy was ever supposed to pull off a deadline deal for prospects.

  14. “Wahlburgers.” A Boston based “fast-casual” burger joint from, one assumes, the family associated with Donny Wahlberg. Did Yeahburger! or Farmburger of FLIP not answer the phone?!

    Playing Phillips at 3B *might* spike his value slightly, as it amelerioates the bad defense at 2B.

  15. @19

    Yeah, I pretty much agree with that. I’m not sure what Wahlburgers has to do with Atlanta and why they couldn’t get one of the establishments you referenced or any number of others. I mean, you can pretty much leave aside any opinions you have about the Wahlbergs and that will still be the case.

    As for the ballpark, I think by any measure related to actually watching a baseball game, SunTrust Park is easily better than Turner Field. I also think any new ballpark has the issues you’re referencing, and the only thing that fixes that is time. That’s how someone can convince themselves that Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium was anything other than a colossal dump. Even I occasionally have wistful thoughts of it, then I remember it was basically a circular trash can that wasn’t properly designed for either baseball or football.

    I would still much rather SunTrust Park be in town. I would much rather it be accessible from MARTA (and yes, I know it technically still kinda sorta is…but please), but nothing’s perfect. I’ll get used to this, and I’m guessing most other Braves fans also will.

  16. I’d rather SunTrust be in Atlanta because I’d rather Atlanta reap the tax revenue associated with the park. I’m glad it’s in Cobb because I’d rather someone else have their taxes sent to pay for corporate welfare for a change; we here in Fulton have had plenty of that already, thanks.

  17. What Nick said. I really enjoyed SunTrust Park for actually watching the game. I also think it offers a lot for kids – but I’m well beyond all that, of course.

  18. @19, the spots probably went to the highest bidder. If you want Atlanta soul and local flavor then we need local owners.

  19. We just traded Andrew Albers and his 2.61 ERA in 120 innings at AAA (with 115k’s and a 6:1 k/bb) for….cash considerations. I get he doesn’t light up a radar gun, but this kind of shit annoys me.

    Get a toolsy teenager in the DSL, or a relief prospect with a cannon and no control. Something that at least has the appearance of being more concerned in the future on-field product than a rounding error on Liberty’s P&L.

  20. 9 — spike, thanks for that. Great story that I didn’t know.

    26 & 28 — that’s the stuff.

  21. At 20, 25 –agree. I realize that this kind of notion is quaint, but it seems that without said access it eliminates for the most part a part of our community from going to the games. If a baseball team is wearing the logo of the city, I’d much prefer that all of its citizens had reasonable access to the park. Fulton county/Turner Field, despite very real issues with their location, were both a place where you could walk/bike from several intown areas or slap down $10 for a parking spot and buy a ticket from the window for cash. I know I did it many times. Like waffle house, the ballpark has always seemed to me to be a great leveler of society, Hank Aaron used to go on about how he loved to see working class folks in the stands cheering and booing, taking their shirts off and drinking beer. Again, I realize this is a concept from a bygone time but it used to be a part of why they called it “America’s pastime”.

  22. We’re on track to hit into nine double plays tonight. May as well set a record that’ll stand for awhile.

  23. Just curious, Jay…and your condescension is, once again, greatly appreciated BTW…at what point would you be concerned that they only seem to be trading people for salary relief and not anything remotely useful?

  24. I’m just happy Albers is going to get to play in the majors.

    12-3 2.61. Can’t imagine how it would feel to have that year and nothing to show for it.

    EDIT: Short, not small.

  25. Way ta go Snitker you stupid was.. 1 run game and you sit on ass and watch brothers wild as a buck face 2 rh hitters when ya got Johnson in bullpen .. well ya just blew a chance by stupidity

  26. “Atlantic Station with a ballpark”….EXACTLY what I thought standing there for the first time outside the stadium before the game. But at the same time there was the resignation to that it was probably a good business decision and it was a nice place to watch a game and get in/out. I guess there was just a sadness to it sort of: “is this what it has come to” sort of thing. Very antiseptic.

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