Beyond The Lines: SunTrust Park Review

When I watched the Atlanta Braves on television during the 2017 season, I excitedly tuned in to see the various camera angles of brand new SunTrust Park. As a guy who loves MLB stadiums, I become like a kid in a candy store when a new park opens. However, my usual enthusiasm for the debut of a baseball gem was more subdued with SunTrust Park. After a couple games of scouring every shot provided to me by Fox Sports, I tweeted out my thoughts.

Two years ago, I tweeted this about SunTrust Park.

From what I saw, the Atlanta Braves ballpark was just basic. No quirks, no landmarks, no identifiers. Oh well, I thought, its true personality must be hidden from television cameras. It must take an actual visit to SunTrust Park to see how it separates itself from other stadiums in Major League Baseball.

This assumption proved to be both right and wrong.

After catching a game in SunTrust Park this past weekend, I can report that it is pretty much exactly what I gleaned from watching games on TV: It is basic. Not that “basic” is a bad thing. SunTrust is a clean, organized facility with the best Wi-Fi network in professional sports (they say everyone in the stadium could post a selfie to social media simultaneously with no lag time). But it definitely doesn’t stand out from older parks, nor does it have any distinguishing features to give it its own unique personality. To some, it might be easy to look at the new park and compare it to Turner Field and ask did we really need a new stadium in the first place?

A photo of Sidney and I from our seats at SunTrust Park. It is nice inside, but not spectacular.

Here is the truth: Although SunTrust Park itself might be underwhelming, people will quickly realize that they could have just built a giant cardboard box and seen an improvement from the old gameday experience. You see, it isn’t about the inside of SunTrust Park, it is about what surrounds it.

We attended on Military Appreciation Night. Before we went up to our seats, we ate at one of the tables that at the top of sections open to all fans.

By far, out of the many MLB stadiums I have visited, the community district that surrounds SunTrust Park is the best of them all. The Atlanta Braves didn’t move to give fans a world class ballpark, they moved to give fans a comprehensive gameday experience in a safe area.

Some photos I took of The Battery. It is a diverse place that is a lot of fun!

The Battery is an area of bars, restaurants, and shops that anchors the ballpark. Spanning a few blocks, the area leads up to the outfield gates and includes plenty of green space and a music venue. Before and after games, The Battery’s streets are filled with fans, entertainers, and vendors.

Sidney and I enjoying The Battery.

Sidney and I had an absolute blast. We took an Uber right up to the edge of The Battery and then went exploring. We hung out on the rooftop of an entertainment venue/bar called Punch Bowl Social and watched as Braves and Brewers fans walked up and down the sun soaked streets. We listened to a band while carrying our beers wherever we wanted. We stood on a bridge that runs above The Battery and took in some pristine people watching. We enjoyed various juggling, dancing, and singing acts taking place right in front of us.

Sidney looking down at one of the dance acts from the upper level of The Battery.

An atmosphere that mixes a festival feel with sporting passion, we conceded that the situation outside of Turner Field couldn’t deliver an ounce of what we were experiencing outside of SunTrust Park. I can honestly say that the location change, in my mind, justified the need for a new ballpark.

The Battery is a postgame destination too.

Shifting quickly back to the stadium itself, please don’t think that SunTrust Park is a total dump –– it isn’t. Like I said, it is beyond adequate, it just won’t “wow” you. But the effort put forth to make the game enjoyable will. The promotions that take place between innings are fresh and engaging. The food is delicious (I had chicken tenders and fries). The video board is crystal clear and the sound system state of the art. But make no mistake about it, the draw of SunTrust Park is what goes on beyond the outfield wall. Don’t Blink.

A Sunny Atlanta Getaway

This past weekend was…refreshing? Trying to figure out the best word to describe the 50-hour getaway I recently went on with my wife is a little tricky, but I think the one I just used does it justice.

Sid and I both felt very fortunate that we could make our Atlanta trip happen. With Sloan in the caring hands of my in-laws, we were able to skip town and enjoy ourselves with complete peace of mind. We departed for our adventure with a couple items on the itinerary but with plenty of time open to improvise as well. This arrangement worked our perfectly.

It was tough leaving this little girl but we knew she was in great hands.

We dropped Sloan off with Sid’s parents on Friday afternoon and drove to Atlanta. We maneuvered in constant traffic the whole drive but enjoyed our time in the car together. We arrived in the city around 9:30 p.m. and wasted no time going to our first destination (hint: it was not the hotel).

We pulled up to the Cheesecake Factory with the good news that there was only a 15 minute wait. Giddy with excitement, we counted those minutes away as we sat in the waiting area gripping the pager. Once seated, we had our usual incredible meal. We went with our classics (spicy cashew chicken for me and Louisiana chicken pasta for Sid) and split a slice of Oreo cheesecake. Hauling leftovers with us, we checked in at our hotel and watched some late night TV.

We had another delicious meal at the Cheesecake Factory.

For the first time in just over 26 months, we stayed in bed until 10 a.m. on a Saturday. We then slowly got up, hopped in the car, and leisurely drove around the Cumberland area looking at what there was to offer. A small brunch spot called Oy in a tucked away strip mall caught our eye. The two of us enjoyed a nice sit down breakfast with no distractions.

We ate brunch at a cool little spot in Atlanta called Oy.

Afterwards we ventured to TopGolf Atlanta. Yes, it is true that we have a location in Myrtle Beach, but do we ever have the chance to visit it? That is a big N-0. Sidney enjoyed her first TopGolf experience as we had a blast smacking golf balls and sipping beers.

Sidney really enjoyed TopGolf.

Once our hour at TopGolf was up, we went to the Cumberland Mall so Sid could look at a couple different stores. After we were satisfied there we went back to the hotel to shower and put on our Braves gear. We then summoned an Uber and departed toward SunTrust Park.

Us waiting for our Uber.

Our driver dropped us off at what is called The Battery, an area filled with bars, restaurants, and entertainment options that leads into the stadium. Tomorrow I will go in depth about the entire Battery/SunTrust Park experience, but tonight is just about our weekend timeline. We strolled around The Battery for a little over an hour before heading to the main event.

Better photos tomorrow, but this is a photo I took of one of the main drags of The Battery. I took it while we were upstairs in a venue called Punch Bowl Social.

We couldn’t have asked for a better time inside SunTrust Park. As the Atlanta Braves defeated the Milwaukee Brewers in extra innings, Sid and I reclined in our seats and enjoyed every second we had to watch America’s Pastime on a gorgeous evening. We chowed down on stadium food, cheered hard for the Braves, and got a little too invested in the on-field promotions.

A look at the field from our seats.

After the game, we took a cab back to the hotel. Although it was late, we stayed up watching TV and drinking soda. The fun day had put us both in really good moods and we didn’t want it to end.

Sunday started with 7:30 a.m. mass at the Cathedral of Christ the King, the mother-church of the Atlanta Archdiocese. It was special to be in such a significant church with other early morning faithful. Msg. Francis McNamee preached on the necessity of adhering to the commandment that Jesus gave his disciples, love one another.

It was a holy experience to attend mass at the Cathedral of Christ the King.

Back at the hotel, we watched half of “Father of the Bride” before checking out. We made one last stop at Cheesecake Factory and ordered some slices to go. We then hit the road for Myrtle Beach. Although it might be sad for some to head home, we were overjoyed…we had Sloan waiting for us!

I feel it is important for the two of us to get away every now and then. This past weekend confirmed that thought even more. Thanks again to Mr. Sid and Brenda for looking after our little girl, we sure had fun! Don’t Blink.