For the third time in a half-century and the first time in two decades, Major League Baseball will bring its All-Star game to metro Atlanta in 2021.
MLB commissioner Rob Manfred made it official Wednesday, announcing before a large crowd of Braves fans in The Battery Atlanta that the sport’s marquee summer event will be played at SunTrust Park in July 2021.
Manfred said the Braves’ bid was chosen over “a list of 10 teams waiting in line for All-Star games.” He credited the Braves’ stadium complex, which he called “the best in baseball,” and the stability of the team’s management and ownership.
“You want to be in a situation where you know in 2021 who is going to be here, who’s going to be running the club,” Manfred said after the announcement ceremony. “There is no better-managed organization in baseball than the Braves. It’s been true for a very long time, and it makes it a lot easier for us to give them an event.”
Baseball’s All-Star game was played at Atlanta Stadium (later renamed Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium) in 1972 and at Turner Field in 2000.
“It’s about time that we’re back,” Manfred said.
The Braves had been lobbying MLB to bring the event to SunTrust Park since the Cobb County ballpark opened in 2017.
“I think this is going to be one of those events that is a defining moment in time for us to showcase SunTrust Park and (adjacent mixed-use development) The Battery Atlanta in front of a worldwide audience,” Braves president and CEO Derek Schiller said. “To have all eyes on Atlanta and SunTrust Park at that time is something we’re really looking forward to and can’t wait for.
“Short of a World Series game occurring in this ballpark, which we hope will happen very soon, this is the largest event in the world of baseball,” Schiller said.
Wednesday’s announcement confirmed an exclusive report last week by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that the Braves were expected to announce this week that they had secured the 2021 All-Star game.
On hand for the ceremony were 10 former Braves All-Stars, including Hank Aaron, who hit a home run in the 1972 game, and Chipper Jones, who went 3-for-3 with a homer in the 2000 game.
Also participating in the announcement: Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and Cobb County Commissioner Bob Ott. “Georgia got another big win here today,” Kemp said.
Schiller said the Braves intend to make the All-Star week “a metro Atlanta-wide event,” with ancillary events spreading from Centennial Olympic Park downtown to the Cobb Galleria Centre near the ballpark.
Like other marquee sports events, the All-Star game has grown over the years into a multi-day attraction that extends well beyond the game itself.
Two days before the main event, the All-Star Futures game is played, featuring top minor-league prospects. One day before the main event, the popular Home Run Derby is held, featuring many of the sport’s top sluggers. Those events will be held at SunTrust Park, which will have a new name by then because of the pending merger of SunTrust Banks and BB&T.
An indoor fan festival, likely lasting four or five days, will be held in the Cobb Galleria Centre, and concerts or other events will be held in Centennial Olympic Park. Availability of hotel rooms in downtown, Midtown, Buckhead and the Cumberland area of Cobb County was cited in the Braves’ bid.
MLB expects the energy in The Battery to create a special All-Star environment.
“I really think it provides us with an opportunity to set a new bar for the All-Star game festivities,” Manfred said.
“I think the biggest thing for the fans is the opportunity to have all this hospitality right alongside the ballpark. It will make the celebration that much bigger. All the people come together earlier, stay later, and I think it’s going to be a great few days.”
Schiller said all Braves season-ticket holders will have the opportunity to buy All-Star game tickets. He also said some tickets will be sold to the general public.
The game will extend an extraordinary recent run of sports mega-events in metro Atlanta, drawn here by two new stadiums that opened in 2017 at a combined cost of more than $2 billion, including hundreds of millions of dollars each in public funding.
Mercedes-Benz Stadium hosted college football’s national championship game in January 2018 and the Super Bowl in February 2019, and it will host college basketball’s Final Four in April 2020. It also hosted the MLS All-Star game and MLS Cup final last year.
Schiller said the Atlanta Sports Council “played a very significant role” as “chief organizer” of the All-Star bid. He also praised the contributions of the Atlanta Convention and Visitors Bureau.
“I think we did a good job collectively of educating the league on just how much Atlanta has changed and evolved (since the last All-Star game here in 2000) as a community, as a region, and not about just one particular part of Atlanta, but metro Atlanta,” Sports Council president Dan Corso said. “These big events touch all different parts of metro Atlanta.”