Braves, Comcast will unveil major stadium deal

Atlanta Braves' new stadium, SunTrust Park, is under development in Cobb County and is scheduled to open for the 2017 season.

Credit: Atlanta Braves

Credit: Atlanta Braves

Atlanta Braves' new stadium, SunTrust Park, is under development in Cobb County and is scheduled to open for the 2017 season.

Cable giant Comcast will provide high-tech infrastructure for the new Atlanta Braves stadium and become an anchor tenant in the mixed-use project planned for next door to the ballpark, a move expected to spur more development, the team is set to announce Tuesday.

The deal will involve a partnership between the Braves and Comcast on technology and high-speed Internet access for SunTrust Park and the adjacent 74-acre development taking shape in the Cumberland area of Cobb County, multiple sources told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

It also will include new office space for Comcast, which plans to expand its regional presence in Cobb and add jobs, the sources said.

The Braves have scheduled a 10 a.m. news conference on Tuesday with Gov. Nathan Deal and Comcast executives to announce the agreement.

Braves spokeswoman Beth Marshall said Monday the team wouldn't confirm or deny the AJC's report. Comcast spokesman Alex Horwitz also declined comment, though he has said that the company has scouted the Braves' new complex.

The agreement between the franchise and Comcast would be a major victory for the Braves, who are privately financing the $452 million mixed-use development. The $622 million stadium, which is set to open in 2017, involves nearly $400 million in taxpayer-backed bonds.

Comcast would become the first announced tenant in the planned office tower that will overlook the new ballpark. The team is relying on office space, hundreds of residential units and hotel rooms, and a trove of new restaurants and retail to keep the complex alive even when the Braves aren’t playing.

For Comcast, which recently announced it was adding 300 new jobs in metro Atlanta, the deal offers a high-wattage marketing opportunity in a fast-growing area. The company is expected to take up a significant part of the office tower, and its signs would be seen by thousands who pass through the area — and many more watching games from home.

The Braves complex has already spurred nearby development. There are at least four developers with plans for major commercial and residential projects near the new stadium, including a $100 million project called Stadium Walk on a 13-acre site just north of the stadium.

Sports teams are putting an increasing emphasis on technology – particularly cellular and WiFi connectivity – in their stadiums. The Atlanta Falcons in February announced they would partner with IBM to develop what the team called a "game-changing fan experience" when that franchise's new downtown stadium opens in 2017.

Providing the infrastructure for every fan to make calls and access photos and videos instantly on their mobile devices has become a basic requirement in venues, and an expensive proposition.

“Technology is now a fundamental, like restrooms and concessions and so on,” sports architect Earl Santee, who is in charge of the Braves stadium design for Kansas City-based firm Populous, said in a recent interview with the AJC. “It’s all about enhancing the fan experience … not only today but in the future.”

Even as the mixed-use site takes shape, fundamental questions about the project remain. Perhaps the biggest concern involves the surge of new traffic expected to further choke the already-gridlocked streets surrounding the construction site.

Another involves Cobb County's still-evolving plan to link SunTrust Park with the Galleria area with a double-decker bridge that would span I-285. The county is narrowing down its options for the bridge, but it still doesn't know how much the project will cost or how it will be funded.