Braves mascot Blooper performs with the Heavy Hitters drumline during pre-game activities prior to the Braves' season opener at SunTrust. . (Curtis Comptonemail@example.com)
The afternoon game, which the Braves won 8-5 over the Phillies on Nick Markakis's three-run walk-off homer, officially kicked off Season Two at SunTrust Park and the adjacent mixed-use development, The Battery. There've been some off-field changes this year: More parking lots are accepting credit cards. A tubby new mascot, Blooper, zipped around the stadium's lower level concourse in a motorized cart before the game.
And in early January, the Omni Hotel opened in a spot just steps away (55 steps, by one slow-pokey reporter's count) from SunTrust and featuring some guest rooms with stadium views — even if the Omni's web site and staff are careful not to say that.
“We refer to everything as (having) ‘views of the Battery Atlanta’ and ‘adjacent to SunTrust Park,’” said Ramon Reyes, the hotel’s general manager. “We don’t want Major League Baseball to feel we’re allowing people to get around purchasing a game ticket.”
Alas, not every Omni room has stadium or Battery views. Nor is it the only place to stay near the stadium, where about a half-dozen hotels are anywhere from a short four-minute walk to a 24-minute hike to SunTrust [See the AJC's handy guide here].
But it’s the four diamond Omni where some visiting teams are choosing to stay and where the pool deck bar is 582 feet from home plate as the foul ball flies. And it’s the Omni whose partnership with the Braves is apparent in things like a trio of meeting rooms named for Smoltz, Maddux and Glavine and a collage-like piece in the guest rooms of early scouting reports on Hank Aaron, Phil Niekro and other greats.
This baseball mitt chair is a tempting place to sit inside the South End Trading Company retail space at the new Omni Hotel at the Battery Atlanta. Want one of your own? It costs $6,000. Jill Vejnoska/AJC
“The Braves own fifty percent of the hotel and the Omni brand owns fifty percent,” Reyes said. “We’re able to leverage that relationship and give guests behind-the-scenes access.”
There’s an oversized baseball mitt chair for sale in South End Trading Company on the third floor. And chandeliers that look like the World Series trophy turned upside down hanging in the Battery Ballroom.
Still, you can’t beat some of the views.
On her way to SunTrust Park to take in Thursday's Opening Day Braves game, Cheyenne Brinson paused to show a photo she'd taken of the view through the window of her 11th floor room at the Omni Hotel at the Battery Atlanta. Jill Vejnoska/AJC
"It's a lot better than going to Wrigley," Richard McCall, a Braves fan now living in Chicago, chuckled, as his Cubs-cap sporting companion, Cheyenne Brinson, displayed a photo of their 11th floor room on her phone. It had no balcony, but much of the ballpark was visible through the room window.
What’s it like staying there during a game? To find out, I booked a “premium room with view” for the night of the home opener in early February. Luckily, as it turns out. On Wednesday, Reyes said that the 264-room hotel, where the average starting nightly room price is $239 (the AJC paid $383 for its room, including taxes) was sold out for the next seven nights.
That almost exactly corresponds with the Braves’ first home stand, when the team plays games every day except Easter Sunday.
“I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the amount of guests driven by baseball,” Reyes said about the hotel, which also attracts concertgoers at the Coca-Cola Roxy as guests. “We expected a lot of corporate business, but didn’t expect it as much on the baseball side.”
Puh-leeze. I was almost bursting with curiosity as I arrived: Will Chipper Jones valet-park my car, I wondered? Does the room service menu include baseball-shaped waffles? Will I be able to see any part of the field from my "room with view?"
No, no and oh my, yes. My room also was on the 16th floor, next door to Stewart and Carrington. We met when we emerged on our neighboring balconies (technically “terraces”) to gawk at the pre-game festivities down on the Battery and the view into the stadium. We’d all been upgraded at check-in, something Reyes said frequently occurs when a hotel is fully booked and some room assignments have to be shifted around to accomodate arriving guests.
Watching a giant American flag being unfurled as part of the pre-game festivities from the balcony/terrace of my room at the Omni Hotel at the Battery Atlanta. Jill Vejnoska/AJC
Bouncing between my room and the stadium, I discovered definite pluses to “watching” the game from 16 floors up: No crowds or Blooper-mobile to dodge. The overhead view of a giant American flag being unfurled in the outfield was spectacular. And the boos and cheers sounded like music as they mingled and rose up out of the stadium.
Minuses: The huge scoreboard wasn’t visible from my terrace and the announcer’s voice sounded garbled so high up, meaning I had to keep checking the TV and online for things like balls and strikes. Nor is it as much fun yelling “You stink!” at the home plate umpire all alone in a nice hotel room.
So when the Braves tied the score in the eighth inning, I headed back inside SunTrust Park and joined Stewart, Carrington and thousands of other delirious fans as Markakis hit his game winner. Minutes later, a sudden torrential downpour drenched those same fans out on the Battery or scurrying to their cars.
Me? I walked 55 steps back "home" for the night.
It was an experience. And definitely a convenience.