Today’s modern ballpark is more than just baseball and beer: it’s about connecting with friends and sharing experiences. One big design philosophy the Atlanta Braves pursued at SunTrust Park: the ability to create a venue with an abundance of new social spaces.
One big drawback to Turner Field: apart from a small premium club, a distant upper-level sponsored space and the center-field Chop House area, there were very few spots for fans to gather with their friends and watch a game. These days fans expect to be able to meet their friends no matter where their ticketed seats are located, even if it’s for an inning or two. And with the rise of cheap SRO seats—many combining a ticket with an adult beverage as part of a season pass—there is certainly a demand for social spaces, especially where millennials are concerned.
And the trend is certainly toward these social spaces, with the Minnesota Twins building plenty into Target Field, the Colorado Rockies converting underused social spaces into a hot area, and the New York Yankees converting limited-view bleacher sections into new social spaces for 2017, while expanding Steinbrenner Field to include even more this past spring. The Braves and architect Populous made social spaces a priority during the design process for SunTrust Park.
“We knew early on there needed to be plenty of places for fans to socialize,” said Zach Allee, Populous Senior Associate. “One of the drawbacks to Turner Field was a lack of social spaces, and the spaces in SunTrust Park are designed to be more 24/7, not just on game days.”
The Braves quickly found there was a large demand for social spaces at the new ballpark, ranging from a big new premium club (with capacity for 4,000 or so) to accessibility for the average fan. That led to the establishment of several levels of social spaces. The exclusive 5,719-square-foot SunTrust Club and 15,722-square-foot Delta Sky360 Club are traditional club-style social spaces found in almost every ballpark. For suite customers, the 15,513-square-foot Infiniti Club for suiteholders features a sleek design. But that’s just the start. Here are the notable social spaces fan can enjoy at SunTrust Park.
The Xfinity Rooftop on the upper level on the right-field side is certainly the one most geared for millennials in SunTrust Park. It’s a high-tech destination open to any fan holding a game ticket and includes self-serve beer taps, outdoor games like bag toss, plenty of TVs for following the game, shaded cabanas and the Waffle House concession stand. (Self-serve beer taps and Waffle House: a match made in heaven!) If you need a break from the heat on a hot day, an indoor lunge is available. It’s also adjacent to the surrounding ballpark development in the form of The Battery and concert space, making it a social space that can be more than just on game days.
The three-level Chop House is a carryover from Turner Field, where it was basically the only major, open-to-all social space. At SunTrust Park, it’s been reimagined and serves several different needs. The bottom level, 50-90-person capacity Below the Chop, looks directly onto the playing field through a vinyl-wrapped chain-link fence, a location that’s been popular in other ballparks like Safeco Field. The main level includes a bar, ticketed seats overlooking the field of play, and an air-conditioned drink rail to keep beer nice and cold. At the top of the Chop: High-end burgers and an above-concourse walkway to the Terrapin Brewery.
“The idea is that all these spaces would be linked to the plaza on non-gamedays and the ballpark on game days,” Allee said.
Finally, we have the 45-personal Home Depot Clubhouse beyond left-center field. It is perhaps the most unique social space in the ballpark in terms of entertainment offerings. Mascots representing Home Depot tools will hang out with fans, who will also be tasked with helping to manage a manual scoreboard tracking strikeouts.
The theme here: social spaces are a central park of the fan experience, and SunTrust Park is designed to provide that kind of fan experience. The social spaces are also designed to be use throughout the year, not just on game days—avoiding that dreaded dead time between games.