With no fans allowed in the stadium because of COVID-19, the Braves, like other MLB teams, plan to break the silence by piping in artificial crowd sounds throughout games.
Braves President and CEO Derek Schiller said a team employee, assigned to manage the sound effects for each home game, will choose from about 75 options of recorded ballpark noise provided by MLB. The sounds can range from a persistent murmur to thundering applause, depending on game circumstances.
“Like a lot of people, we were very unsure about how this was going to come across,” Schiller said. “But I think … it’s impactful not only for television, but for radio as well.”
Presumably, there will be no boos.
There also won’t be any tomahawk chop music or chants played on the sound system during the games without fans, Schiller said.
“No, we are not simulating the chant,” Schiller said. “That’s something that (if fans were in the stands) it would be more natural to have that come from them.”
Schiller again was noncommittal, as the Braves have been for months, about what the team’s stance will be on the chop when fans return.
“Our position on that remains the way it (has been), which is basically we’re continuing to monitor that,” Schiller said. “And until we have fans come back to the ballpark, we’re not going to have a position on that.”
For now, he added, “I would imagine many of our fans will be chopping at home and doing their own version of the chop when they’re watching the Braves and something really good happens.”
About 1,500 cardboard cutouts of Braves fans will be in the lower-level seats behind home plate and along the first- and third-base lines.
The cutouts were made from photos submitted by Braves fans, who paid $50 ($25 for season ticket holders) for the privilege of having their likeness in the seats. (Proceeds went to the Braves Foundation.) About 80 cutouts will be of players’ family members, and a few will show the pets of fans or players, Schiller said.
Maybe there will be a surprise or two, too, such as the cutouts of Chipper Jones and his son Shea at Citi Field for Mets games, those reportedly bought by ESPN.
The Braves stopped taking orders for their cutouts late last week to ensure all of those submitted could be printed and placed by the home opener. More may be made available later, Schiller said.
The cutouts, which Schiller said have a coating on them to help withstand weather, will remain attached to seats all season – or until real fans return. Speaking of that: “I’m still very optimistic we’re going to have fans (in the stadium) at some point in time this season -- until someone tells us we can’t,” Schiller said. “We’re going to be in position to be ready should the league and the government and health-care professionals all sign off on it being safe to do.”
On the telecasts, you’ll see advertising signage – some actual and some virtual – in new spots.
Ads for two of the Braves’ sponsors, Northside Hospital and Ford Motor Co., will be painted in the grass in foul territory between home plate and first and third bases, Schiller said. There also will be new signage positions on or near the backstop behind the plate, he said.
In addition, virtual advertising will appear on TV on the back of the pitcher’s mound and on what otherwise would be outfield seats. The Braves opted for virtual ads on the outfield seats rather than actually covering them with tarps carrying sponsors’ names, as some teams have done, Schiller said. Virtual ads also at times will show up on the “batter’s eye” backdrop beyond center field, he said.
The Braves and other MLB teams offered the new ad positions to increase sponsors’ visibility on TV in games with no fans in the stadiums and to preserve some sponsorship revenue. Schiller said almost all of the Braves’ nearly 200 sponsorship agreements had to be renegotiated for this shortened season.
“For those companies that may have had signs in locations that are not necessarily picked up by the camera, they have been repositioned since we don’t have fans in the ballpark,” he said. “It’s to continue to give those sponsors some exposure during this shortened season.”
The new name
Wednesday’s home opener will mark the first regular-season game played at the Braves’ stadium since its name was changed from SunTrust Park to Truist Park in January. Truist is the bank formed by the merger of SunTrust and BB&T.
“We’re about 95% finished” in replacing approximately 150 SunTrust Park signs with Truist Park signs, Schiller said. “Like everything, production (of the new signs) was impacted by the pandemic.”
You might catch a glimpse on TV of a new covered group hospitality space that has been completed under Truist Park’s center-field video board, the “Harrah’s Cherokee Casinos Back Porch.” Also, renovations have been completed on the “Infiniti Club” on the stadium’s middle level, including the addition of “Mr. B’s Bourbon Bar,” named for former Braves owner Bill Bartholomay, who died in March.
The renovated spaces won’t be utilized, of course, until fans return to the ballpark.