If Braves’ new stadium is the future of baseball, we’re in for a weird ride

The Atlanta Braves‘ new stadium in Cobb County opened for its first exhibition game on Friday, and from what was shown on TV, it’s somewhat … odd. First off, for a stadium whose architect promised “intimacy” and which team owners promised would feature cantilevering of the middle and upper decks to bring fans closer to the action, holy crap is that a lot of not-especially-cantilevered decks:

You’ll notice no one is sitting in the top deck, which is probably a good move as you’d need bottled oxygen to ascend that high. (The Braves actually limited attendance to season-ticket holders and people who worked on the stadium project, so only 21,392 showed up.) Not to mention that, judging from on-field photos, fans up there may have a hard time seeing the field over their fellow fans heads, thanks to some curious decisions about the rake of the upper deck:

Then there’s — holy crap, what is that?

No, not Bartolo Colon, I’m used to seeing him on a ballfield. But what are those seats in right field, where fans appear to be sitting behind desks or flat-panel TV screens or something? According to the Braves seating chart, those are the “Chophouse Terrace” seats — because in the year 2017, it’s never a bad time to employ a play on words combining a term for a steakhouse with a reference to your team’s embarrassingly racist chant — so maybe those are just tables to help you better wolf down your $26 burgerizza? (Though actually, starting at $36 a person and coming with $15 in concessions credits, the prices on those seats aren’t too hideous, though it does seem a shame to eliminate several rows of not-bad seating so that fans don’t have to put their beers in cupholders.)

What else? There were some problems with the scoreboard and the LED outfield lights that the team promised to fix, and one New Jersey sportswriter said it was missing a “wow factor” and reminded him of Turner Field, which isn’t especially damning except that the Braves and Cobb County taxpayers just spent more than $600 million to replace Turner Field just 20 years after it opened, so “hey, this looks just like the old place” isn’t exactly a ringing endorsement. And the team has relented and allowed fans to bring in outside food, which is good, so long as it fits inside a one-gallon plastic baggie, which is less good. (The most sensible outside food policy to me remains the New York Mets‘, which a team rep memorably explained to me when their new stadium opened back in 2009 as “you can bring a turkey sandwich, but you can’t bring a whole turkey.”)

Oh, and the pedestrian bridge to get fans from their cars to their seats still isn’t open, but is promised to be by opening day in two weeks. Though “open” doesn’t mean “finished,” which apparently means you’ll be able to walk across it and it won’t fall down or anything, but it may still resemble a construction site.

Any Braves season ticket holders out there who actually attended this game? Very curious to hear your impressions, so please chime in in comments. (As should anyone who watched the game on TV and has thoughts.)

47 comments on “If Braves’ new stadium is the future of baseball, we’re in for a weird ride

  1. I enjoy this site because it does a great service in educating people about the idiocy of tax payer funded stadiums. However, there’s an element of everything is awful in this article.

    The seats at this park and even the seats in the upper deck are closer than Turner Field. The seats at SunTrust Park are supposedly the closest in baseball. I would love to see this verified.

    You don’t like the tomahawk chop. Noted. What does that have to do with the new park? Anyway, those fridge seats are hideous. At least they can do is cover up the aluminum with something more pleasing to the eye.

    The consensus from the fans at the game was that they love the park. Who doesn’t like new things (even if taxpayers are being soaked)?

    The ugly seats in right field and the sponsor signs in the outfield are my two biggest gripes. The TV camera angle is a huge improvment. The park looks like it’s going to be friendlier to hitters. Turner Field’s outfield dimensions were pretty generic. SunTrust Park’s wall has a little more personality. There’s also very little foul territory. It might be the least amount in the MLB.

    • I didn’t say it all looked bad, just odd. A couple of notes:

      “The seats at SunTrust Park are supposedly the closest in baseball. I would love to see this verified.”

      I believe this refers to the front-row seats, which may well be true (the Braves announcers indeed talked a lot during the telecast about the small foul territory), but doesn’t matter much to anyone not sitting in the front rows. I would be extremely surprised if the upper deck seats are closer than those at Turner Field, unless it’s just because the new place holds 8,000 fewer people — but I’d love to see schematics or hear from any fans who checked out the view.

    • Suntrust must be the name of this park. My over/under on this name is two years.

  2. Didn’t they leave Turner Field because it was hard to reach, had no parking & was surrounded by poor neighborhoods? Well, SunTrust checked all of those off – so there’s no need for it to look/feel much different than Turner Field!

    • Sounds like diversity in baseball is not only dying in baseball but planned that way. Would explain the 4 fake teams in the WBC.

      • I am curious, besides Italy, which teams were “fake”? Netherlands were all citizens from either the Netherlands or the Antilles and Israel were all citizens according to their laws. I am trying to figure out what other fake teams you might be referring.

        • Just because I am Jewish doesn’t make me from Israel. Most of Holland team were from an island in the Caribbean. I guess by WBC rules we should gather up Muslim Americans and get Iran and the rest of the middle east represented. Its almost as stupid as the fake teams in the hockey world cup.

          • Hell if remember right most of the Mexico team were American born. Based on the Holland team why even have a USA team ? Why not stamp USA on the Puerto Rico uniforms. Why represent Israel and not a middle east country with Muslim Americans. Looks like MLB showing its planned diversity !

          • You guys have seen the Olympics, right?


          • Also a third of the Columbian team were Venezuelan ringers..My bad only a third of Mexican team had American ringers.

  3. Even a really lazy Google image search shows that it would be a really, really hard argument to say the upper deck seats at Sun Trust are closer than the ones at Tropicana Field.

  4. I’m just hoping that they do a good job at checking the build quality on that pedestrian bridge – and store the PVC and fiber optic cables elsewhere.

    • Except when you consider the fact that something called Red Mercury took out that bridge.

  5. Devils advocate.

    36 bucks for a sandwich you’re probably meant to split among friends seems more than reasonable considering 1 singular burger at Citi Field can go for 11 bucks.

    • Yes, but at Citi Field that burger is ♫ “one, singular sensation, every single bite you take…” ♫

  6. I would have to agree with Neil on this ballpark. If we take a look at the top deck, it is pretty high from the action while the other recent ballparks aren’t any better. I think they are trying to build a copycat Target Field. That field works because it is in a tight spot. It is bordered to the north by some bars, the west by 7th, east by office buildings and I-394 (at least the final quarter mile of that highway) and by the south by Target Center and a parking garage.

    Theoretically, one could park in the garage, go to a Twins or Timberwolves game, take the train to the Mall of America, stay at the Raddison Blu, and on the final day, take the train to the ballpark or arena, enjoy the game, and then collect the car. You really can’t do that at Atlanta’s new ballpark.

  7. How far is the Braves new stadium from the section of hwy that collapsed and how hard now will it be for Braves fans to visit their new digs The one thing that grinds my gears and should grind yours as well is the price of food concessions now at major sporting events.I know some of the food is a step above ballpark food but sheesh where does this end?I guess if they keep making $7 hot dogs and people keep buying them never.

    • It’s on the other side of town. Any degradation of traffic patterns in Atlanta just makes a bad situation worse, though.

      I had an idea a while ago to sell “Friends Don’t Let Friends Buy Ballpark Food” shirts on this site…

  8. Lazy, lame, predictable article. No data regarding the rake or “closeness” of seats, lame upper deck oxygen joke attempt, accusations of racism and complaints about high-priced/unhealthy ballpark food (have you ever been to a sporting event?).

    “Reminded him of Turner Field” ? Maybe because it’s also a baseball stadium.

    The reason they had the exhibition was to iron out issues (LED, A/V, etc) before the home opener. Of course you complain about it looking like a construction site. Know why it looks like a construction site? Because it is a fucking construction site.

    Also laughably hypocritical to complain about taxpayer-funded stadiums and then gush about Citi Field aka the Bailout Bowl.

    Do you ever include figures or do you just crank out editorialized, hot-takey pieces of shit masked as journalism?

    • I’m more than happy to include figures when they’re available. Without any publicly accessible schematics of the new stadium, though, and a thousand miles away, the best I can do is make assessments via the telecast, then ask for eyewitness accounts, which is what I did.

      Also, I didn’t compare the Braves stadium to a construction site (I compared the pedestrian bridge to a construction site, because it will be a construction site until midseason, according to the Braves), and I didn’t compliment Citi Field’s funding (see under “Research” above for my numbers on the subsidies the Mets stadium received), just its policy on outside food. As someone who’s been to, I’m guessing, around 1500 sporting events, I depend on being able to bring my own sandwiches to games, at least until this whole Google ad thing blows up a lot more than it has.

    • Since 2003 the Braves REGULAR season attendance at Turner field has fallen within 29-32k every year (barring 2007: 33,891). This is, we should note, several thousand lower than Braves average attendance during their last five years at Fulton County Stadium. The last time they topped the lowest of the final five years avg attendance from the Launching Pad during the Turner Field years was 2000.

      Redistribution of wealth and new stadium bumps are tricky.

      Does anyone really expect that by May, the average attendance in the new park will be significantly higher than the Braves historic average (which is announced attendance of course, courtesy of Baseball Almanac, and may not represent actual people in the stadium)?

      • And I think he means average attendance. In any case, the reason why the attendance might be up slightly in 2007 because the Detroit Tigers came to town and it was the team coming off their bounce-back year where the Tigers made the World Series. Plus, it was a chance to see Ivan Rodriguez and all the Tigers, for Atlanta fans.

        As for the Braves long term, all that postseason losing got old quick.

  9. As a former Braves ST holder, the seats in the upper deck (and particularly the second level) appear quite a bit closer to the field. It’s especially noticeable toward the right field line where the upper deck extends almost to the pole itself. Nobody ever hit a home run into the second level at Turner Field and it would happen easily at the new place if that level extended into fair territory.

    (Just looked this up) There are 31 (third-base side) or 32 (first-base side) rows of seats in the lower level at Cobb Taxpayer Stadium versus the 45 lower level rows at Turner Field. So even without the super-duper cantilevering technology, the upper levels are going to be probably 35-50 feet closer to the field on that basis alone.

    This of course still leaves the X factor of I-85 being impassible for awhile.

    • So you’re saying closer horizontally, not vertically? Because the upper decks at the new place do look very high.

      • Yes, horizontally.

        The fourth level does look quite high. It could just appear to be steeper without actually being higher though. Hard to tell.

        • It’s tough to find a good profile photo of Turner Field, but judging from this:


          And knowing the outfield wall is eight feet high, it looks like the last row of the upper deck was around 100 feet above field level.

          Judging from the top photo in this post, and knowing the RF wall is 16 feet high, the last row of the new upper deck is around 110 feet above field level. And keep in mind that that’s the 41,000th seat in the new place, compared to the 49,000th seat in the old one — if you compared it to the best 41,000 seats at Turner, matters would look even worse.

          Moving the seats closer to the field horizontally definitely helps (I’d need way better schematics and a refresher in trigonometry skills to say exactly how much), but I think it’s fair to say — or at least guesstimate — that at best the seating distances at the new Braves stadium are no better than they were at Turner Field, and at worst they’re probably a bit worse.

          • And in comparison, the new place is 4 not so cantilevered decks compared to Turner Field which has 3. Granted that the upper deck in the old place was bigger, but it was still cantilevered over the middle deck, kind of how it was done at Old Yankee Stadium and Shea Stadium. As a result, I would say that you are closer to the action in the old place if you were in the upper deck compared to the new place.

  10. I especially like how the Braves have made it impossible for fans to fall out of the fourth (!) deck in right field down in to the third deck (they’ll land in the second deck instead, if they jump hard. Otherwise it’s straight down to concourse level I assume).

    This commitment to fan safety makes all the spending and hardship on the people who were evicted/eminent domained worthwhile.

    You go, Cobb Braves!

  11. I find it comical that they Braves won the Championship in 95 in the old stadium. Then in 97 they started playing in Turner Field. No championships after that.

  12. Saw an article that said some? most? of the seats are mesh backed. Allows for breathability during Hotlanta summers.

  13. So the first (unofficial) game at the new Braves stadium is started by a pitcher whose major league baseball career is officially longer than Turner Field’s major league baseball’s career was. Take that in for a second.

    The stadium itself is….meh. I mean, it’s new.

    I find it ironic that from pictures I’ve seen of the place, if you can squint your eyes from the upper deck behind home plate, you can just barely make out the downtown Atlanta skyline far off in the horizon, right over the fake suburban “skyline” they built up around the park.

    • I keep wondering when they’re going to tear down Bartolo Colon and build a state-of-the-art pitcher.

      • When building Colon Bart, be sure to cut out some of the fat and make him taller.

  14. I think the park looks great . The article was terrible however. Should have known better and not wasted my time . Sad that people criticizing and complaining about everything is such a popular thing to do. Get a life.

    • Is there a term for “complaining about people who complain about things”? In German, maybe?

  15. With Hank Aarons statue at Sun Trust park, I can’t wait to go to this so called racist ball park.

  16. Fan proximity to the players isn’t a deal breaker in my opinion. Although it’s nice, if possible, I can’t recall anyone commenting on their game experience holding too much weight on how close they were to the players.

    There may be advantages in business terms, that should be taken into account before shooting negative comments.

    In my experience, I can’t recall anyone raving about a game experience soley due to fan proximity to the players/field.

    Maybe the architect can shed some light on the issue.

    If the stadium makes strong revenue, they can spend more money on key players. A winning team seems to be a pretty big influence on ticket sales.

    Just my two cents….

  17. Although I’m not perfectly aligned with the article in general. I do overall agree the stadium is an absurd joke. First lets talk about how the stadium looks more like a spring training facility than it does a major league park. Second the aesthetic or authenticity or complete lack of is another enormous problem. The stadium has zero attachment to the South or to Georgia whatsoever. Third for another 150 million you could have put a roof on it, why not you already stole 400 million from Cobb County. Fourth the word quirky does justify the symmetrically challenged near sighted architect who completely mismatched and rearranged seating areas that could have been uniform and flowing architecturally. Fifth lets talk about the front row of seating around the inside that can’t be sold due to the fact it sits 4 feet below the field level. What genius thought this idea was acceptable. Overall the stadium is boring lacks authenticity and fails to represent a major league baseball team at all. In so many words cheap.