Officials from the Atlanta Braves and Cobb County say their traffic plan is ready to be put to the test, with less than a week until some 20,000 season ticket holders descend on SunTrust Park for an exhibition game against the New York Yankees.
Braves President of Business Derek Schiller said the exhibition game will give the team, the county transportation department and the Cobb Police Department a chance to identify kinks in their plans before first pitch of the regular season home opener.
“Rest assured, we’ll probably have some lessons learned from the 31,” Schiller said. “We’ll make the adjustments. We’ll have two weeks to do so and by April 14 we will be ready to go with the most efficient plan possible.”
Schiller was speaking during a press event Monday where the team rolled out the final phase of its transportation plan. In July, the team announced it was pushing first pitch from 7:10 to 7:30 to accommodate rush hour traffic.
Monday’s event offered little new information, but team representatives emphasized that fans should buy tickets and parking ahead of time, or take Uber, an official partner. They also touted a new mobile app with built-in GPS.
Braves’ president of development, Mike Plant said the new stadium had “much more extensive parking” than Turner Field.
“In today’s world, you have to plan early, and planning is the key before you leave your house or place of work,” Plant said. “Buy a ticket early, buy parking online, use Uber and Waze to help you get here, and then that experience is going to be better for you, for everyone.”
The Braves say they have more than 15,000 parking spaces, including private lots that have entered into lease agreements with the team. Some of these scattered lots will be served by a new circulator operated by the county, which will launch on March 31, the same day as the exhibition game.
Pedestrian bridges over Circle 75 and Windy Ridge Parkway will be open for the exhibition game, but a bridge over Interstate-285 leading to the Cobb Galleria will open after the 31 but before first pitch on April 14.
District Commissioner Bob Ott said he was feeling confident about the plan, even though it relies on many Braves fans (and Atlanta drivers) planning ahead.
“As more and more information comes out, people’s concerns kinda get lower and lower,” Ott said. “There’s obviously things we’re going to have to track, but I’m confident that the plan that’s in place is going to work.”
Ott also addressed concerns that limited parking on the south side of I-285 undermined the justification for building a $12 million bridge there. He said the Galleria Authority and the team have signed an agreement for the Braves to use up to 2,000 parking spots, but he also pointed to 5,000 new apartments and several office buildings going up that would also be served by the bridge and the circulator.
“It wasn’t just about parking, it was about a safe way for pedestrians to go from the highly developed south part of 285 to the now developing north side of 285,” Ott said.
Ott said the express bus from Kennesaw to midtown Atlanta planned for later this year was another example of transportation that would serve the wider county, as well as the Braves.