SBD/April 14, 2017/Facilities

SunTrust Park Continues Facility Trend Social Gathering Spaces; Ballpark Reviews Solid

An increasing number of customers at modern sports facilities want "social gathering spaces within the stadium where games can be watched," and the Braves' new SunTrust Park has "many such places," according to Tim Tucker of the ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION. There is the "three-level Chop House restaurant behind right field, the Xfinity Rooftop high above right field, the Hank Aaron Terrace in left field, the Home Depot Clubhouse beyond left-center field and the State Farm Deck below the main video board." Populous Founder & Senior Principal Joe Spear, who led the design for SunTrust Park, said that the "trend toward such gathering or hospitality spaces in stadiums has been gradual." Spear: "Teams want to break stadiums up into neighborhoods." Tucker noted at SunTrust Park, the Xfinity Rooftop, which "offers views of both The Battery Atlanta and the field," includes "an enclosed indoor lounge, an outdoor patio and cabanas." The Below the Chop space is "located at ground level along the warning track in right field, mere inches from the field, offering views through vinyl-coated chain-link fencing cut into the right-field wall for groups of 50 to 90 people." About "4,000 'premium' seats, which range from $92 to $500 per game, have access to posh indoor private clubs with up-scale dining: the 5,179-square-foot SunTrust Club, 15,722-square-foot Delta Sky360 Club and 15,513-square-foot Infiniti Club." At the "other end of the pricing scale, seats in the Coca-Cola Corner in the left-field upper level, which cost $11 to $17, have access to an outdoor concessions area on an artificial-turf terrace" (AJC.com, 4/11). 

GETTING THE FULL MAKEOVER: YAHOO SPORTS' Jay Busbee wrote SunTrust Park "presents a simple truth: you can have one hell of a fine time here without ever seeing a single live pitch." There is "no doubt" that SunTrust Park is a "beautiful facility." But this is also a "shrine to Brands as well as Braves." The facility "isn't authentic," but it "gives such a convincing appearance of authenticity that you feel like you've been been here before." It is as if Turner Field "lost a few pounds, hit the gym, had a bit of work done and moved out to the suburbs." The "simple fact is that this is an impressive stadium" that will "provide you a carefully curated afternoon of Baseball-Themed Entertainment." It is "worth a visit for stadium road-trippers, if only to see what's coming next to your town" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 4/12). USA TODAY's Gabe Lacques writes SunTrust Park is a "testament to the restless nature of modern franchises, along with the desire to mix sport into an atmosphere where fans can integrate a live-work-play experience into the patronage of their local squad" (USATODAY.com, 4/14). In Atlanta, Mark Bradley wrote under the header, "The Braves' Arrival Leaves Cobb County Forever Changed." The Braves and their ballpark and its Battery Atlanta mixed-use development are "now the first things we think of when we think of Cobb County" (ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION, 4/13).

WHAT'S IN A NAME? The JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION's Tucker noted SunTrust and Braves execs recall that they "realized early in discussions that their companies were aligned philosophically" and then "made the deliberate decision to see if a deal could be done by ground-breaking." SunTrust Chair & CEO Bill Rogers Jr. said, "We thought if we're going to do this, let's take this out of the long-term bidding process and all that, and let's actually just be great partners. We thought we could be a real asset to the park and the development and that we could be a bigger asset if we announced early." Tucker noted naming-rights deals "rarely come together quickly." Rogers: "That ... opened our eyes to, particularly, the national exposure that one could get through a sponsorship. Seeing SunTrust behind the batter on every pitch, seeing people across the county respond to that, seeing clients respond ... That was sort of an eye-opener to what a naming-rights relationship could be" (AJC.com, 4/11).
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