The Atlanta Braves released a new set of renderings for their 60-acre ballpark village concept, set to open in 2017 in Cobb County, Georgia. A quick roundup of features:
- 41,000-seat ballpark
- 6,000 parking spaces
- 500 residences
- A boutique hotel
- Retail and office space
Populous is designing the ballpark. Something bugged me about the look when I first saw the pictures this morning, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. Then I realized that the bowl looks like two-thirds of a football or soccer stadium. The “C” shape with its curving corners are as inoffensive as Wonder Bread. It has three seating decks, or four if you count the split upper deck/single concourse as two decks. Club seats and suites are packed behind the plate, as is the case with so many recent Populous parks. Firm principals Joe Spear and Earl Santee (lead) talked specifically about not having the park resemble other previous work. I suppose they can’t avoid it. The Chop House restaurant in right field resembles a similar feature in left at Target Field. Cantilevering is modest, except for the 90-foot long roof, which will be great for fans in the upper deck.
The big change is of the orientation to nearly true south. No current park has such an angle, the closest being Comerica Park’s south-southeast orientation. While that shouldn’t have much of effect on the game on the field, fans along the third base line could be subject to some difficult sun in the afternoons (or nice sunsets in the evening). Previously the ballpark faced southeast. Northeast is the preferred orientation by MLB.
By changing the orientation, Populous can take advantage of an already existing feature on the mostly undeveloped land: a lake with a fountain. That lake will be transformed to fit the development, yet it will remain just beyond the outfield and near the big entry plaza. Populous is also utilizing topography, by nestling the grandstand into a hill that rises 70 feet from the lowest point on the property.
Parking will be situated at the western and eastern ends of the property. They’ll need garages to get to 6,000 spaces, otherwise that much parking would require 46 acres of surface lots. It would seem appropriate for traffic planners to route fans from the north to one end, while fans from the south use parking lots at the other end. The Braves are also claiming that they’ll have parking available from parking lots surrounding the village, which tends to lead to overly optimistic projections. The ballpark will be one of the least public transit accessible parks in the majors, which translates to the team needing more than 10,000 spaces at a close proximity. 6,000 won’t cut it.
All told, the Braves’ plans bear a keen resemblance to Lew Wolff’s failed ballpark village efforts in Oakland and Fremont. The key difference is that the ballpark in this case feels tangential to the rest of the development, not wholly integrated. A bolder approach would’ve been to put the ballpark on the western end, parking on the east end, and allow fans to walk 1,000 feet to the ballpark through the village. The ballpark could be oriented to the east and Populous could even take advantage of a small hill on the western end. Oh well.