Atlanta Braves fans should have better highway access to the new ballpark under construction in Cobb County than they now do to Turner Field, a team marketing official said recently.
“The location is really important. Some people are asking, ‘What will the traffic be like?’
We are not solving traffic in Atlanta. That is not the Atlanta Braves’ responsibility,” Derek Schiller, executive vice president of sales and marketing for the Braves, told about 50 members of the Buckhead Business Association on Dec. 3. “We are selecting a location that has very strong access. You can get to it many ways.”
Drivers will approach new SunTrust Park, located at the intersection of I-285 and I-75 in Cobb County, on interstates from four directions, he said. Once drivers leave the interstate, they will benefit from road network improvements already made in the area by the Cumberland Community Improvement District.
Car access to Turner Field is more restricted, he said, because most drivers are coming from the north and must use only a couple of exits to get to the baseball stadium. “It’s a malaise. It’s difficult. It’s a difficult thing to navigate,” he said. “The number one thing that everyone cites is getting to the ballpark. We know this has been an issue.”
Improved highway access was not the only reason Schiller gave for the Braves’ decision to relocate to Cobb, a decision some fans have criticized because of lack of MARTA access. Turner Field did not belong to the ball club, he said, but instead was owned by a public agency, with the Braves as tenants. The 20-year-old ball field, built for 1996 Olympics, also needed millions of dollars in maintenance, he said. And the Cobb site for the new stadium, scheduled to open in 2017, stands closer to the areas where Braves ticket buyers live.
“We are moving 10 miles closer to our fan base,” he told the BBA members gathered at the City Club of Buckhead, which is located in the 3300 block of Peachtree Road. “You’re closer to SunTrust Park today as you sit here [than to Turner Field]. Buckhead is important to us. We feel we are very connected to Buckhead.”
The new park will be smaller than Turner Field – providing room for about 41,000 seats, as opposed to the roughly 50,000 at the existing park, Schiller said. But SunTrust Park will offer more “premium” seats, he said, and will offer seats at field level for some fans in the outfield. The Cobb property also offered the Braves a chance to develop a housing, office and entertainment complex around the stadium. The new development, called The Battery Atlanta, will include 550 apartments, restaurants, shops, a microbrewery, a hotel and a concert venue named for a longtime Buckhead rock club. “We’re bringing back the Roxy Atlanta [concert hall],” Schiller said. “We’re reinvigorating the Roxy name. Were super excited about that.”
Schiller said the goal was to build a development that would be “lively on game days or non-game days.”
“This is a galvanizing project, we believe, for the entire region,” he said.
Although some fans have criticized the team for moving out of the city of Atlanta, Schiller said the Braves draw their fan base from across north Georgia.
“This should not be about Cobb County,” he said. “It should not be about Atlanta. It should be about the entire area. … We expect this project will affect everyone”