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Best of 2017, #1: SunTrust Park Opens

SunTrust Park

We end 2017 with a countdown of the 10 biggest stories of the year on Ballpark Digest, as chosen by editors and partially based on page views. Today, #1: The opening of SunTrust Park as the new home of the Atlanta Braves.

It’s not every season a new MLB ballpark opens, so the opening of SunTrust Park as the new home of the Atlanta Braves was by default a momentous occasion in 2017. Luckily for you and for the baseball community, SunTrust Park shone as a baseball facility, and the combination of SunTrust Park and the adjoining Battery was a blueprint for any baseball team wanting to combine baseball with a top-notch development. That potent combination makes it an easy choice for the top story of 2017 on Ballpark Digest.

Purely as an MLB venue, SunTrust Park is a success. There are great views of the action in the grandstand seating bowl, the better to serve baseball purists. For those with a more casual interest in the game, there are plenty of social and group spaces throughout the ballpark for meeting and gathering with friends. And for those with a purely theoretical interest in the game, there are spots, like the Chop House, where the emphasis is purely on socializing.

As far as locations go, the Braves took a challenging site and made it work as a full-featured game facility. What would have been throwaway space in other ballparks housed a history exhibit and a stirring display to the team’s best-known and important player, Henry Aaron. It’s turned into a popular spot for fans wishing a break from the action: a sea of tranquility in the midst of a busy ballpark.

And, perhaps the most importantly, SunTrust Park directly led to increased revenues for the Braves. (As part of publicly traded Liberty Media, the Braves’ revenues are broken out in quarterly reports.) The whole point of leaving Turner Field for a new ballpark was to get closer to the fan base in the northwest suburbs and generate more revenue. In the end, the move was a success and positioned the franchise for years of prosperity.

We wrote plenty about SunTrust Park in 2017. When SunTrust Park opened, we focused on the design side of the equation and the many food and beverage options at a Braves game, while Populous’s Joe Spear presented an overview of hospitality as central to the SunTrust Park design. Later in the season we took an in-depth look at how the Braves create community at SunTrust Park with design and tech. Finally, we reported on how SunTrust Park boosted revenues for the Braves–a very important piece of the puzzle when evaluating a new ballpark . We also named SunTrust Park our Ballpark of the Year.

Previously in our Top Ten Stories of 2017 List:

#2: Hartford Yard Goats

#3: Elmore Sports Group Announces Franchise Shifts

#4: MLB Teams Extend Netting at Ballparks

#5: Oakland A’s Ballpark Search

#6: Wrigley Field Renovations

#7: BB&T Ballpark at Historic Bowman Field

#8: Tampa Bay Rays Seek New Ballpark

#9: MLB Teams Roll Out Ballpark Passes

#10: PawSox Search for New Ballpark

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