|Location||Cumberland (Atlanta), Georgia 30339|
|Owner||Cobb-Marietta Coliseum and Exhibit Hall Authority|
|Operator||Atlanta National League Baseball Club Inc.|
|Broke ground||September 16, 2014|
|Opened||February 21, 2017 (planned)|
|Construction cost||$622 million|
|Project manager||Jones Lang LaSalle|
|Structural engineer||Walter P. Moore and Associates|
|Services engineer||M–E Engineers, Inc.|
|General contractor||American Builders 2017 (A joint venture between Brasfield & Gorie, Mortenson Construction, Barton Malow and New South Construction)|
|Atlanta Braves (MLB) (2017–future) (estimated)|
SunTrust Park is a baseball park under construction that will serve as the future home of Atlanta Braves of Major League Baseball (MLB), located in the Cumberland area of Cobb County, Georgia, northwest of Atlanta. Instead of renovating Turner Field, their current ballpark, the Braves announced on November 11, 2013, that they would leave after 2016, when their lease ends, for a new stadium to be built in Cobb County, north of Atlanta.
Turner Field has been the home of the Atlanta Braves of Major League Baseball since the 1997 season. It was originally built as Centennial Olympic Stadium for the 1996 Summer Olympics, then partially reconstructed as a baseball-only stadium for the 1997 baseball season, eliminating the possibility of other sporting event uses such as track and field. The stadium is owned by the Atlanta-Fulton County Recreation Authority (AFCRA) and leased to the Braves, who have full control over its operations. According to team president John Schuerholz, Turner Field needs $350 million in renovations—$150 million for structural upkeep and $200 million to improve the fan experience. Braves executive vice president Mike Plant has stated that capital maintenance would be much less at the new stadium. According to Plant, Turner Field was value engineered for the 1996 Summer Olympics. This has led to higher capital maintenance costs in the long run. Plant estimates that capital maintenance costs at the new stadium will be no more than $80 million after 30 years. That is significantly less than the $150 million in capital maintenance needed for Turner Field after 17 years.
Braves executives have said growing transportation issues have made it difficult for fans to come to games. Also, Turner Field is currently under-served by about 5,000 parking spaces. Turner Field is 0.75 miles (1.21 km) from the nearest Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) train station. Although MARTA runs a shuttle service on game days, the Braves claim that fans have been unwilling to come to games in recent years due to metro Atlanta's infamous congestion. The Braves also have said that parking around the stadium is inadequate. In addition, team VP for business operations Mike Plant has noted the downtown location "doesn't match up with where the majority of our fans come from." Plant said that while the Braves operate Turner Field, they have no control over the commercial development around the stadium. Other baseball stadiums built in recent years have been accompanied by nearby shopping and entertainment.
The Braves were in talks in 2013 with the recreational authority to extend the team's original lease, Plant said, but those talks broke down. Atlanta mayor Kasim Reed said the city could not afford to support the kind of renovations the Braves desired, especially while already funding a new stadium for the National Football League's Atlanta Falcons.
New stadium plans
The stadium will be in Cumberland (also known as Cumberland/Galleria area), a fast-growing edge city in southeastern Cobb County. The ballpark will be located next to the highway interchange between Interstate 75 and Interstate 285. The stadium will have an Atlanta address due to its location in ZIP code 30339, which is shared with the neighboring community of Vinings. The United States Postal Service considers this area to be unincorporated Atlanta. The Braves say the location is "near the geographic center of the Braves' fan base."
The team announced at the stadium's groundbreaking that the naming rights were sold to SunTrust Banks for a 25-year partnership. Braves officials anticipate a capacity of about 41,500, which is approximately 8,000 fewer than Turner Field. On November 20, 2013, the Braves unveiled plans to build a $400 million entertainment district that will surround the ballpark. Parking spaces will number about 6,000, which is 2,500 fewer than at Turner Field. The Braves plan to utilize thousands of additional parking spaces surrounding the stadium, including the Cobb Galleria area. These parking spaces will be connected to the stadium via a circulator shuttle. There are approximately 30,000 parking spaces within 2 miles of the proposed stadium site.
The new stadium will be constructed in a public/private partnership with a project budget of $622 million. Cobb County will contribute $392 million. The county is raising $368 million through bonds, $14 million from transportation taxes, and $10 million cash from businesses in the Cumberland Community Improvement District. The Braves will contribute the remaining $230 million, which can be increased up to $280 million at the team’s discretion.
The baseball stadium will occupy 15 acres (6.1 ha) of a 60-acre (24 ha) lot, with the remainder of the space devoted to parking, green space, and mixed-use development. Although the new stadium will be over 10 miles (16 km) from the nearest train station, the Braves plan to use a "circulator" bus system to shuttle fans to and from the stadium.
A pedestrian bridge that would span Interstate 285 and connect the Cobb Galleria area to SunTrust Park has been planned. In November 2014, Cobb Chairman Tim Lee said the county was still determining how it will fund construction. Plans for the bridged have changed repeatedly. The bridge was originally meant to accommodate pedestrians, bikes and a shuttle-type vehicle, but in November 2014, officials stated that it would only be open to pedestrian and bike traffic. Shuttles were ruled out to keep costs low, according to county spokesman Robert Quigley. However, in February 2015 the Cobb County Commission asked engineering firms to design a double-decker bridge over Interstate 285 that would allow a circulator bus on the top span and a pedestrian walkway on the bottom.
Commission Chairman Tim Lee had repeated assured citizens that no local tax money would be used for the construction of the bridge. However, in February 2015, Lee acknowledged during a town hall meeting that local tax dollars would help fund the bridge. When asked how much the bridge would cost, Cobb Department of Transportation Director Faye DiMassimo said the county is sticking by its $9 million estimate. Asked if the bridge construction cost could be higher, DiMassimo said, “potentially.”
In February 2015, the Cobb County Commission approved AECOM as the county’s top candidate to design and engineer the bridge. The county has budgeted $750,000 for the engineering work, but the final cost could exceed that.
After the new stadium was announced, citizens organized campaigns both supporting and opposing the plan, which was made public only two weeks before the Cobb County Commission voted. More than 80 percent of county residents supported delaying the vote, Cobb Chairman Tim Lee and Commissioner Helen Goreham insisted that vote could not be delayed because it would threaten the stadium's timeline. A InsiderAdvantage/FOX 5 poll released on November 25, 2013 showed that 59 percent of registered voters in Cobb County favored building a new stadium for the Braves. However, support fell to 30 percent of Cobb County voters when they were asked if they'd support funding the stadium with Cobb County tax dollars, with 56 percent opposed and 14 percent undecided. On September 8, 2014, the University of Florida's Department of Tourism, Recreation and Sports Management released the first independent scientific poll on Cobb residents' attitude toward the public investment in the stadium. The survey found that 55 percent of the survey respondents would have supported the stadium in a referendum.
Two weeks after the Atlanta Braves announced the new stadium project, the Cobb County Commission held a public hearing to vote on whether to approve the plan. Citizens who both supported and opposed the plan began crowding into the meeting hall hours before the 7 p.m. hearing was to begin, many sporting "Cobb: Home of the Braves" T-shirts. After a one hour public comment on the new stadium project the Cobb County Commission voted 4–1 to approve a memorandum of understanding with the Atlanta Braves. On May 27, 2014, the Cobb County Commissioners voted unanimously, 5–0, on the operating agreement that bound the county to borrow up to $397 million to build the new stadium.
Cobb-Marietta Coliseum & Exhibit Hall Authority plans to issue up to $397 million in bonds for the project. Retired businessman Larry Savage, attorney Tucker Hobgood, and Austell resident Rich Pellegrino have filed notices of appeal with the Georgia Supreme Court, to argue against issuance of the bonds. Attorneys Lesly Gaynor Murray and Blake Sharpton of law firm Butler Snow, the county’s bond counsel, will represent Cobb in the Supreme Court. The appeal could be heard by the Georgia Supreme Court in February if oral arguments are requested. In the event the Georgia Supreme Court rules against the bonds, the Braves could break their agreement with Cobb County.
The Atlanta Braves announced on January 28, 2014 that Populous would be designing the new ballpark. Populous has designed 19 of the 30 Major League stadiums currently in use including the new Marlins Park, Target Field, and Yankee Stadium. The Braves chose Populous over HKS, Inc.. HKS is based in Dallas and served as a consultant for the Braves prior to the selection of Populous.
On May 14, 2014, the Atlanta Braves released the first renderings of the new stadium. The ballpark will be oriented to the southwest. Only a handful of other Major League ballparks have a southwest orientation; however, Atlanta Braves officials said that a comprehensive sun study was conducted by the team and designers and the orientation will not be an issue. The seven images released by the Braves showcased the new ballpark as well as unique shops, restaurants and entertainment venues. Also, the plan is for the complex to offer approximately 500 residences, a boutique hotel, and office space.
The ballpark will feature an intimate configuration placing the highest percentage of seats closer to the field than any other ball park in Major League Baseball. Braves executive vice president of sales and marketing Derek Schiller has stated that the plans for the seating bowl are aimed at putting fans closer to the action. Not by reducing the amount of foul territory, but with cantilever designs that push the middle and upper bowls toward the field. The ballpark will also include a 90-feet-wide canopy horseshoeing around the stadium's top and air conditioning on every level to ensure that fans remain cool on hot summer days. The existing topography of the property has been integrated into the design.
On December 10, 2014, the Braves released new renderings of the planned entertainment complex surrounding SunTrust Park. The new renderings further define the public spaces and show a blend of architectural styles, with a blend of steel, brick and glass facades. Derek Schiller, the Braves executive vice president of sales and marketing, said in a conference call with reporters that the rendering represent the concept of project’s look, and is not the final design. But the locations of buildings and streets demonstrated in the designs are largely settled. Two taller glass towers, a hotel and an office building, will feature views into the ballpark. The complex also will feature a brewpub and Braves store. The Braves named architectural design firm Wakefield Beasley & Associates as the lead designer of the mixed-used project surrounding the stadium.
On March 17, 2015 the Braves announced a partnership with Comcast under which Comcast will provide high-tech infrastructure for SunTrust Park and will become an anchor tenant in the mixed-use development planned for next door to the ballpark. Comcast will occupy 100 percent of a nine-story office building in the mixed-use development adjacent to the stadium. The office tower, which will overlook the ballpark, will become Comcast’s Southeast regional headquarters. According to Braves chairman and CEO Terry McGuirk, Comcast will "lend its expertise to drive the most technologically advanced ballpark and mixed-use development ever built." Some 1,000 Comcast employees will work at the office building, most of them new hires. The office also will include an "innovation lab" for new technologies.
On April 16, 2014, Atlanta Braves and Cobb County officials outlined the timetable for the new stadium's construction. Site clearing was scheduled to begin July 15, 2014 and complete by October 13, 2014. However, site clearing started ahead of schedule after the Cobb County commission vote on May 27, 2014. The Atlanta Braves held a formal groundbreaking ceremony on September 16. The ceremony took place at the site near the northwest intersection of Interstates 75 and 285.
In order to start construction three natural gas lines that ran under the property had to be moved. The high cost of moving the gas lines are one of the key reasons the land had not been developed. The cost to move the lines cost $14 million. The pipelines were moved to the perimeter. Two of the lines, which run about eight feet underground, are owned by Colonial Pipeline Company, and the third belongs to Atlanta Gas Light Company. The project was completed in early November, 2014.
In November 2014, workers started drilling the holes for the pylons around the outside perimeter of the stadium’s footprint. According to the Braves vice president of business operations Mike Plant, phase one of construction for both the stadium and mixed-use development began in November and included infrastructure for the site, such as sewer, water and electrical systems. The pylons will take four to six weeks to complete. Additionally, Plant said retention walls for the underground service level of the stadium are also being built. The underground level will have a few hundred parking spaces for players, team doctors, clubhouse staff and management staff.
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