CD and I attended Sunday’s game vs. the Padres. These impressions are my own — CD may add his take later.
Pretty much everything about the new yard is better than it was at Turner Field. As CB noted, the highlight is a home run homage to the franchise’s history. Displaying the tributes and memorabilia in the open, along a main concourse is a big improvement vs. cloistering it inside the Ted’s museum.
As CB also pointed out, the sight lines are better. Beyond that, SunTrust has more stairways with odd landings and nooks that afford surprising and interesting views of the field. The Ted’s design gave us almost none of those little revelations.
Yeah, it’s a bit sterile. But by now, I’m not sure how much originality we’re ever going to get in a new ballpark. Short of natural wonders — a bay, a river, mountains — or old urban buildings, it’s hard to conceive of anything truly unique that you could incorporate in a stadium design. It’s hard to wow us these days.
I think we’re saps for expecting pro sports executives to think like us, or to be our pals. It’d be nice. But Liberty Media is a publicly traded, multibillion-dollar corporation. It exists pretty much solely to produce returns for its shareholders. It does what such organizations do: makes money. It’s hardly alone among sports owners. Look at the craven Oakland Raiders owner, an individual who grew up with the team. There are the Texas Rangers, tired of their 20-year old ballpark and so all set to build another with hundreds of millions in taxpayer money. The Falcons $800 million, er, $1.2 billion home is sucking up hundreds of millions in public funds because the 25-year-old dome wasn’t sufficiently lucrative. The Hawks’ new owners went asking for taxpayer funds before the ink was dry on their receipt.
So, yeah, it’d be cool if Liberty had kept the Braves in town. But the city apparently wasn’t a huge help. And as much as we in town fans, and I suspect many other longtime fans, are peeved, Liberty simply did what one would expect from a for-profit colossus based on the other side of the continent, like a lion eating an antelope or a python crushing a bunny rabbit. Nothing personal. Just business. We should probably learn not to expect more. Ballparks of yore were quirky places mainly because their builders had no choice but to shoehorn them into existing neighborhoods. Do you really think tightfisted owners who made ballplayers beg for meager raises after hitting .350 really cared that much about giving fans a warm, cozy place to spend their money? Maybe some did, but I doubt that topped their lists.
The Ted had little real charm inside or surrounding it. Certainly wasn’t a bad yard, and it would’ve functioned perfectly well for years to come.
But life moves on. We can stew about it, swear off the team, or deal with it. I don’t much care what other people do. I’m not thrilled about the Braves being in Cobb. But there they are, and it doesn’t do much good to pretend the Ted was idyllic. The city of Atlanta accounts for only about 10 percent of the metro area’s population. Yes, it is the center and the city is growing and probably as vibrant as it’s been in decades. Check out the Beltline and all the cool stuff going on there, including old buildings being converted into hopping bars and restaurants.
I wish the Braves new yard could have been part of all that. But a stadium is a complicated undertaking. A private company did what private-sector companies do. The rest of us can now choose to do what we want to do.
After visiting SunTrust Park Sunday I was reminded of this exchange from the original “Stepford Wives” (very underrated):
“Like Walter says, it’s all so dazzling. Why don’t I like it? I mean, I like it. It’s perfect. How could you not like it? I just don’t like it.”
Maybe it’ll grow on me. As a ballpark, the sight lines are an improvement from Turner Field and the seats are much closer to the action. The food is better. Getting in and out was easier than I feared. And I really appreciated the focus on the team’s history and its greatest players. The organization gets an A-plus for that.
It’s just a bit … sterile. It takes a little from this stadium, a little from that one, but little about it is original. And its surrounding are manufactured. The stadium wasn’t built incorporating existing neighborhoods and pubs — it simply created new ones. In that way it has much in common with intown, where the influx of mixed-use developments threaten to rob the city of its soul.
The truth is, ballparks belong in cities. There’s a reason no one lists the homes of the Rangers or Angels among the greatest ballparks. They’re nice, clean, and functional but largely soulless. I felt like I had visited an amusement park when I left SunTrust.
I blame the city as much as I do Liberty Media for Atlanta’s loss. The faceless Colorado conglomerate did what faceless out-of-state conglomerates do. They took the money and ran and built the kind of ballpark you’d expect them to build.
It’s nice. It doesn’t feel like home.
(A few tips: Do not count on signage to direct you to the proper parking lot. Plan you trip, and get your parking beforehand. And definitely take some time to visit Monument Alley behind home plate.)
(Pictured: My friend Jay Winter posing with Braves execs and Commissioner Rob Manfred, all of whom were apparently unaware of the message contained on his T-shirt.)