Charge!: The 36-month sprint to build The Battery
Construction workers building The Battery Atlanta came up with a new nickname for Mike Plant.
“Behind my back, they called me General Patton, and that’s OK, I can live with that,” said Plant, the Atlanta Braves’ president of development and the executive responsible for making sure the first phase of the 1.5 million-square-foot development was ready to open at the same time as the 41,500-seat ballpark.
For the most part, it did, which is a first in sports: A stadium connected to retail, restaurants and residential, all opening their doors simultaneously as part of the master plan of development. It all came together for the Braves at their April 14 regular-season home opener at SunTrust Park.
Several hours before the first pitch, hundreds of fans jammed bars and restaurants across the plaza from the ballpark, partying on a sunny Friday afternoon. On the plaza, team concessionaire Delaware North Sportservice rolled out kegs stored in plastic carts to serve thirsty customers watching the Heavy Hitters, the Braves’ pep band. The big crowds extended to the rooftop bar at Yard House, a restaurant boasting 250 beer taps, and Antico, an authentic Italian pizzeria that had a line of customers coming out the door on game day.
Those businesses are the first parts of The Battery to open, along with the Coca-Cola Roxy Theatre and a few retail stores such as the Mizuno Experience Center, Tomahawk Harley-Davidson and Baseballism, plus SunTrust’s OnUp Experience, an interactive space mixing baseball with financial advice.
“I’m busting it every day to get [certificates of occupancy] on board,” Plant said. “We knew what we have open was the plan. I didn’t want to see a single crane here when we played our first game and no Georgia red clay flowing down the streets. We were successful in accomplishing that.”
|A few of the spots already drawing fans at The Battery Atlanta (top to bottom): The outdoor plaza beyond the ballpark’s outfield wall, the Live! building containing the Todd English Tavern (with the PBR Bar & Grill coming soon), and Tomahawk Harley-Davidson.
The Braves, serving as the developer, squeezed construction of the mixed-use project into 36 months. Putting it in context, full-time developers touring the $550 million Battery have told Plant a project of this scope typically would take five to eight years to complete.
There were tough decisions to make on The Battery. The Braves, in conjunction with Jones Lang LaSalle, the firm they hired to help manage the development, had to make them quickly to match the progress of the ballpark rising next door.
“This project was not for the weak of heart,” he said. “You have to be decisive. One of my jobs the last three years was managing all these general contractors to play in the same sand box together. They all had hard dates to deliver by, and there were substantial penalties if they didn’t. It’s controlled our world and lives for the past three years and that’s what got it done … not having a lot of bureaucracy and bringing teams of people that had a lot of expertise together.”
Earl Santee, Populous’ principal-in-charge of designing the ballpark, saw firsthand the Braves’ efforts to meld the two projects on the same timeline. By hiring MLB’s most seasoned architecture firm to develop the stadium, the Braves were really able to focus on The Battery, Santee said.
“The development took a greater toll on them than the ballpark,” he said. “They’re new to it. In some ways, they probably couldn’t have got it done if they did it slower. I think you have to have a momentum behind an idea and kind of capture it and go with it.”
More Battery businesses open their doors this month, including a steakhouse run by local chef Linton Hopkins and a fried chicken joint, plus the PBR Bar & Grill. The Pro Bull Riders-branded restaurant is part of Live! at The Battery Atlanta, a Cordish Cos. concept in place at entertainment districts tied to sports venues in other big-league markets.
Four more bars and restaurants will open this summer, including Wahlburgers, branded for the family of actors Mark and Donnie Wahlberg. Sweet Pete’s, a 90,000-square-foot candy store where customers can create their own confections, opens in August.
Comcast’s new Southeast headquarters, a nine-story office tower, opens in November. About 1,000 employees will relocate to the new building.
The final piece of the first phase, a 264-room Omni hotel featuring an elevated pool deck with views into the ballpark, makes its debut in January. To date, about 65 percent of Battery space is leased, and over the next year, more development will come online, including a potential movie theater, Plant said.
At the edge of the development, on the parcel farthest from the ballpark, sits a huge pile of dirt. Over the next year, the Braves plan to build about 300,000 square feet of office space there on a prime corner in Cobb County.
A new three-story parking garage is also in the works to supplement the 5,500 spaces already on site. It’s a critical issue for the overall development and a topic the Braves discussed every week over the past three years to coordinate parking on game days and non-game days.
“It’s all going to be married together,” Plant said. “If we didn’t have any control over this project, do you think [competing developers] are going to give a crap about our stadium parking? No. Zero. We got all this and we make the decisions. If you’re vacillating, you’re done.”
Tenants at The Battery Atlanta (listed alphabetically)
Braves Clubhouse Store
Braves Development Co. Management Office / Dickey Broadcasting / CA South
Burn by Rocky Patel
C. Ellet’s Steakhouse
Comcast Home Office
Cru Wine & Food Bar
Feed Fried Chicken & Such
First & Third Hot Dog and Sausage Shack
Georgia Power Pavilion
Goldberg’s Bagel & Deli
Live! At the Battery Sports & Social Club
Live! At the Battery. Todd English Tavern (1st floor); PBR Bar & Grill (2nd floor)
Mizuno Experience Center
Punch Bowl Social
Terrapin Taproom / Fox Bros. BBQ
Sugarboo & Co.
The El Felix
Courtesy: Atlanta Braves