Three and a half years ago, the Atlanta Braves sparked spirited debate by announcing that they would be packing up and heading north—not to Boston, where the franchise was founded in 1871, nor to Milwaukee, where the Braves played in the 1950s and early ’60s. This time, the big move is just twelve miles up I-75, from downtown to Cobb county. Since the news broke, the team has unveiled plans for one attraction after another at their new SunTrust Park home. But for baseball fans, what’s inside the park matters the most. Whether you’re counting down the minutes until the home opener on April 14 or just trying to find an upshot to the move, these five ways to enjoy a game are well worth cheering for.
The park may be new, but it pays respect to history.
The Braves are the longest continuously operating franchise in the major leagues. Previously, much of the team’s memorabilia was sequestered in a standalone museum; now it’s woven into the fabric of the park. “We thought it would be great to put our exhibits throughout the park so that everyone would get to see them,” says Hall of Fame director Carolyn Serra. “We wanted to make sure we went all the way back to beginning, and let people learn about our over-145-year-old franchise.”
Jerseys will be on display in Monument Garden, an area behind home plate open to all ticketholders. A comprehensive photo timeline will cover Braves milestones dating back to 1870—including little-known trivia, like Babe Ruth’s stint with the team in 1935. Interactive features sweeten the experience: Step up to an exhibit with Sid Bream’s knee brace, and you’ll hear beloved sportscaster Skip Caray’s voice as he announces Bream’s game-winning slide into home that sent the Braves to the 1992 World Series.
Show up with an appetite; you won’t go home hungry.
The Battery, a development just outside the stadium gates, will have bars, a live-music venue called the Roxy, shopping, and restaurants from such ATL power-chefs as Ford Fry and Linton Hopkins. (Stay tuned for more details about a G&G experience in the Battery, coming this fall.)
In-stadium options abound, too, including H&F Burger, a Turner Field favorite. Since Braves fandom crosses state lines, so do the concessions: several stadium menu additions draw from regional specialties, like Alabama white sauced barbecue and Nashville hot chicken. Cool down with a tomahawk-shaped ice cream bar from Marietta’s High Road Craft Creamery, or join the Braves in supporting a different kind of home team—local farmers—with the Farm to Fan initiative, which works with more than forty Atlanta-area farms to source fresher gameday fare.
Two restaurants inside the park will operate year-round: First and Third, a “hot dog and sausage shack” by Hugh Acheson, the James Beard award-winning chef who built his impressive reputation with Five & Ten in Athens and Empire State South in Atlanta; and the Terrapin Taproom, a microbrewery serving hometown Fox Bros. Bar-B-Q alongside a rotating selection of craft beers from Athens-based Terrapin Beer Co. The taproom’s Brew Lab will experiment with ballpark-exclusive beers (including the newly-announced Chopsecutioner, an IPA aged on wood left over from Mizuno’s bat-making process). Now, a cold one at the ballpark really will taste different from a beer anywhere else.
You’ll have great views of the action.
Seating starts 30 to 50 feet closer to the field than at Turner. Those looking for maximum shade (or maximum heckling opportunities) can book private parties in “Below the Chop,” a space on the ground level separated from the outfield by just a chain-link fence. Meanwhile, groups of four can score seats at semi-circular terrace tables, which allow for easier conversation than a straight-across row—without missing a pitch. And any over-21 ticketholder still can meet friends for a brew at the Chop House, now a three-level bar and lounge, to scope the game from right field.
Bring the kids—or act like one yourself.
For the Braves’ youngest fans (or any of those among us who can’t quite sit still for nine innings), Hope & Will’s Sandlot holds carnival games and high-energy recreation. Here, the next generation of hall-of-famers can test their skills in a simulated first base dashes, racing against lights that signify Braves players’ speed. Strap in at the rock-climbing tower or one of two zip lines. Spots in line can be reserved up to 24 hours before each game, making for happy chaperones, too.
You can actually update your social-media status during the game.
Although no one wants to spend the game glued to a screen, the Braves’ top-of-the-line tech aims to simplify several common ballpark gripes. “It’s frustrating when someone’s at a sporting event and they can’t use their phone, whether they’re trying to find a friend or to share some of the cool things that they’re doing,” says digital marketing director Greg Mize. That shouldn’t be a problem: a multi-terabit fiber network will offer fans the fastest wifi available at any pro sports venue in North America. “To put it into perspective, if we’ve got 41,000 people here at a game, they can all use their phones at the same time to upload or view a video.”
On a more practical level, the network aims to help fans to take advantage of the Braves’ new mobile app, which is designed to hold digital tickets and help deal with a problem familiar to any Atlantan—traffic—via integration with Waze. And free charging stations throughout the park ensure that you’ll have the juice to enjoy these plugged-in perks well into extra innings.