The Omni hotel and Comcast office building are open, overlooking the outfield. A half-dozen more shops and restaurants have joined the lineup in The Battery Atlanta. And inside the stadium, six rows of seats in two prime lower-level sections have been replaced with four-person tables.
Those are among the noticeable changes since the end of last season in and around SunTrust Park, which will begin its second year of operation with Braves exhibition games Monday and Tuesday and the regular-season opener Thursday.
Here’s a rundown of what’s new:
Inside the stadium
Sixteen semicircular tables, each with four swivel chairs, replaced the top six rows of seats in sections 122 and 130, which are along the first-base and third-base lines, respectively. The change was made because the 80 four-person tables in the stadium’s original design, all on the terrace level, sold out quickly last year.
The Delta Sky360 Club – open to fans in about 1,800 lower-level premium seats between the dugouts, including those at the new tables – was expanded by about 2,000 square feet. The additional dining and kitchen space was gained mostly by eliminating a media interview room. Some fans complained last season that the club, already the stadium’s largest at 18,500 square feet, was too crowded.
Derek Schiller, who this week got a new title as Braves president and CEO, said a series of operational and logistical improvements have been made with the stadium’s concession stands as a result of a “comprehensive review” by industrial engineering students at Georgia Tech.
“The primary things that we are changing are going to be somewhat unrecognized by the general fan, but their experience is going to be more efficient and better,” Schiller said. “Their speed of service is going to improve.”
Other changes: The playing field has been resodded, and the plants that struggled in the low-light “Monument Garden” area have been replaced.
“In all, there were probably 50 different projects we have done in the off-season, some bigger like the Delta Club and some smaller like … adding a dressing room in the Clubhouse Store,” said Mike Plant, whose new title is president and CEO of Braves Development Company, the team’s real-estate and development arm. (Both Schiller and Plant, Braves executives for 15 years, continue to report to team chairman Terry McGuirk.)
Outside the stadium
The 264-room, 4-star Omni hotel and the Comcast office building, both of which overlook the stadium, opened during the Braves’ offseason, adding energy and activity beyond the outfield.
“It will look more bustling,” Schiller said. “I think it’s going to add a whole new flavor to the whole thing.”
Both buildings were under interior construction throughout last season.
Jeremy Strife, general manager of The Battery Atlanta, said Comcast has about 800 employees now working in the office building. He also noted, by the way, that the Omni’s pool deck is 580 feet from home plate.
Two-dozen shops and restaurants now are open throughout The Battery, the mixed-use development adjacent to the ballpark. The latest addition is “eat-ertainment” concept Punch Bowl Social, a two-story, 27,000-square-foot restaurant/bar with eight bowling lanes, two karaoke rooms, a giant wall-mounted Scrabble board and other games.
Among the other newcomers to The Battery since the end of last season: Tex-Mex restaurant El Felix, barber shop Van Michael Men and Goldberg’s Bagel Company.
About 75 percent of the available retail and restaurant space in the mixed-use development will be occupied on the Braves’ opening day, Plant said. Seven more establishments are scheduled to open early in the season, ranging from a sunglass store to a candy shop.
Plans also are underway, Plant said, to develop “phase two” of The Battery. He declined to provide details but indicated announcements will come soon.
Parking and transportation
The Braves have made several changes to their parking and transportation plan for the ballpark’s second season.
Seven parking lots – the Red deck and the E29, E31, E35, E41, E42 and E43 lots – will begin to accept payment by credit card on-site.
A second Uber pick-up/drop-off location will be at Heritage Court and Battery Avenue.
The Braves also said ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) parking will be consolidated in the Red deck and N29 lot. Shuttles will run from the N29 lot to just outside the third-base gate.