SunTrust Park, which is expected to be unveiled in time for the first pitch of the 2017 season, will serve as the new home of the Atlanta Braves. The $1.1 billion construction project in Cobb County will include restaurants, shops, offices, a hotel and residential spaces directly connected to the park. The Braves organization is making history by building out the development at the same time the stadium is being constructed.
“The new ballpark constitutes a new chapter in Atlanta Braves baseball, and we are excited that SunTrust has decided to build upon our decades-long relationship and embark on this journey with us,” said Terry McGuirk, Atlanta Braves chairman and CEO “Both of our organizations have deep roots in Atlanta and loyal fans throughout the Southeast and across the nation.”
Developed by the Braves in partnership with the Cobb-Marietta Coliseum and Exhibit Hall Authority, SunTrust Park is being constructed by American Builders 2017. The joint venture consists of Brasfield & Gorrie, Mortenson Construction, Barton Malow Company and New South Construction Company. The team has more than 225 years of experience and has completed more than 330 sports projects, including football stadiums, baseball parks, basketball arenas and soccer stadiums.
“As with any stadium project where opening day is non-negotiable, schedule is a challenge,” said Chris Britton, project director of American Builders 2017. “The mixed-use component of this development will also present a challenge, as there will be many moving parts going on adjacent the ballpark site, but we are prepared to overcome that.”
Construction began in August 2014, with workers operating under a 30-month time frame. Early tasks have involved erosion control, clearing and grading the site and blasting rock. Crews also installed temporary fencing and coordinated with other vendors that handled pipeline relocation.
During the initial months of the project, grading and rock removal comprised the majority of work on the almost 60-acre site. As workers excavated, they set up an onsite operation to crush 150,000 cu. yds. (114,683 cu m) of rock. Much of the crushed rock is being used on site for backfill to bring up existing grades and create temporary roadways for crews and equipment. The temporary roads will lessen the impacts of heavy rain on the project schedule by improving drainage.
In early 2015, construction began in full force on the elevated structure. Site work will continue through the spring months, with the number of workers on the premises growing as operations expand. In late 2014, crews installed shoring walls to maintain grading operations and began drilled piers. Approximately half the site will rest on the drilled piers and half will sit on spread footings.
Before work began, trees were cleared, a pond was drained and Boy Scouts completed a service project to relocate turtles from the area. Existing pipelines ran through the middle of the proposed stadium and had to be relocated. Working around active gas and oil pipelines during the pipeline transition was a concern for construction teams, who are keeping the perimeter streets as clean as possible.
“Being good neighbors is a priority for us,” said Britton. “We are striving to respect the county and the businesses around the site, as we construct this landmark project. We are coordinating with Cobb County on a continuous basis. We are placing a high priority on implementing erosion control to minimize dust and help keep surrounding roads free of construction-related materials.”
Crews also held a sustainability charrette in which all team members came together to talk about green aspects of the project. Workers plan to recycle construction waste and reuse materials as much as possible.
“We expect to move approximately 700,000 cubic yards of excess soil material off the site,” said Britton. “We plan to move more than one million cubic yards of earth and rock across the entire site.”
Some of the main equipment utilized on the project includes Caterpillar excavators 349E, 336E, 330C, 325, 365B and 385C, along with a D8 dozer with root rake, a 930 G wheel loader and a 140 H motorgrader. Other heavy machinery includes compactors, pans, off-road trucks, a water truck, a service truck, light towers, a power broom, utility carts, a DX 800 rock drill, a track-mounted tub grinder, a Komatsu PC200 LC excavator with thumb, a JC652 feller/buncher, a JD skidder and a JD650 cutter/loader.
Materials being used include concrete drilled piers, concrete foundations, concrete frame, steel frame roof canopy, glass storefront, architectural precast, brick and glass.
“There is a lot of concrete on this project, which is common with stadiums,” said Britton. “There will also be a lot of glass, particularly on the field side, which will provide a view to the playing field.”
The new ballpark, which some citizens groups have criticized, was designed to better accommodate fans. With more than 41,000 seats, the configuration maximizes sightlines and elevations, placing a higher percentage of seats closer to the field than any other ballpark in Major League Baseball. The existing topography of the property has been integrated into the design to create a certain intimacy as part of the fan experience. This results in building the facility into the sloping terrain.
“Slope has been a benefit and a challenge on this site,” Britton said. “Approximately half the stadium will be founded on rock, while the other half will be installed on deep foundations. In some areas, there’s more slope than desired, which is why we are moving so much dirt, but slope of existing soil is typically useful in stadium construction. Constructing the ballpark on grade is generally less expensive than installing additional elevated structure.
“As with any stadium project, the goal is to put fans as close to the action as possible while respecting safety and comfort,” said Britton. “The facility will have a canopy that is three times larger than Turner Field’s. This canopy will serve as a key design feature, in addition to providing sunshade.”
Working on a mixed-use project has required a lot of planning, according to Britton.
“Having a number of construction projects underway at one time will require extremely close coordination and sequencing to avoid having to do rework or getting boxed out. We will work in close coordination with all parties involved to ensure that the ballpark construction plan is clear to everyone, and we will layer the additional components into our plans to avoid any potential problems.”
The Braves’ lease at Turner Field, which is owned by the city of Atlanta and the Atlanta Fulton County Recreation Authority, ends at the conclusion of 2016. Based on a number of factors, the team opted not to renew it. Officials stated the current facility would have needed $150 million in infrastructure work, including replacing the seats and repairing and upgrading lighting.
If the Braves were to pay for additional projects focused on improving the fan experience, the additional costs could reportedly exceed $200 million. A lack of consistent mass transit to the facility also has been cited as a reason for the move, as well as the lack of adequate parking and access to major roadways.
The Braves will be a major investor in the public/private project, along with Cobb County. The new site will serve fans and the organization for the next three decades, with the mixed-use property offering a variety of possibilities.
The official design is still being refined, but overlooking the plaza area will be an office tower and a 200 to 300-room hotel that will allow visitors and out-of-town fans to stay close to the ballpark. At the other end of the plaza will be an entertainment venue, which will be suitable for concerts and special events. In addition, residential space will occupy the areas above the retailers and restaurants. In total, 700,000 to 1 million sq. ft. of space will be used throughout the development.
“We’re building an experience that extends well beyond the confines of the ballpark and putting it to a broader mixed-use community for those that want to come early for a game or stay after,” said Derek Schiller, Braves executive vice president of sales and marketing. “By controlling the rest of the development, we can ensure that’s going to happen, not only when we first open, but throughout our 30-year agreement.”
Master land planner The Jerde Partnership Inc., retail developer Fuqua Development, office developer Pope & Land Enterprises and residential developer Pollack Shores Real Estate Group are playing various roles in the project, while JLL will help manage the architects, engineers and construction companies on both the ballpark and mixed-use development sides.
“There’s no way that our organization could embark on this alone,” said Mike Plant, Braves executive vice president of business operations. “It’s too massive, and it requires a great deal of skill. I think we’re all smart enough to know how to be good quarterbacks and conductors and orchestra leaders, and we just need to make sure all the instruments are being played well and the team is playing together, and fortunately, that’s all happening.”
The Braves also have announced a multi-year technology and real estate partnership with Comcast that will deliver multi-terabit network capabilities to SunTrust Park, making it the most technologically advanced mixed-use development in the United States Comcast will provide video, voice and high-speed Internet connectivity throughout the project. Comcast also will become the Braves’ signature tenant in a multi-story office building within the development.
The nine-story tower will include an innovation lab, a dedicated home for the company’s growing workforce of technologists, engineers and software architects. It will serve as a primary technology development hub for Comcast, connecting directly via high-speed fiber to the company’s other major research and development centers. The building will feature another 15,000 to 20,000 sq. ft. (1,393 to 1,858 sq m) of restaurant and hospitality space facing into the SunTrust Park plaza.
Cobb County commissioners also have decided to hire a company to design a new multi-use bridge that will span Interstate 285 and connect the new stadium to a parking lot at the Galleria shopping center. Some individuals are raising questions about the construction cost estimates, and are concerned how the county will find the millions needed to build the bridge. More details are set to be released this summer.
According to Dan Corso, executive director of the Atlanta Sports Council and senior vice president of the Metro Atlanta Chamber, “SunTrust Park’s impact on the area begins with its construction, which is creating more than 5,227 jobs and generating $235 million in payroll. Additionally, it will offer improved parking and convenient access from our roadways.
“There are currently two new stadiums under construction in metro Atlanta — Sun Trust Park and the New Atlanta Stadium. These world-class venues will add an enhanced experience for fans, and an opportunity for event recruitment that draws global attendance and visibility.”
“SunTrust Park is more than just a baseball field, it’s an experience, said Corso. “Turner Field plays a significant role in Atlanta’s history, but we look forward to creating new memories and history at the Atlanta Braves new home.”
Based in the city since 1966, the franchise is the longest continuously operating franchise in Major League Baseball. In the past 24 years, Braves teams have earned two National League wild cards, 15 division championships, five National League pennants and a World Series title. For countless fans, the new ballpark can’t come soon enough.
“I’m beyond excited about the new Braves stadium and the location,” said Jeremy Hunter, who has a closet full of Braves clothing and is currently working on a shoulder to elbow tattoo dedicated to the team. “This is coming from someone who lives one hour south of Atlanta and will have to drive a farther distance to the new home of the Braves. I’m excited at the rate it’s going up.”
“I plan on being at the very first game and making a tradition of going to the game and staying at the hotel that will be beside the new stadium every year for my birthday. I’ve seen the drawings of SunTrust Park, and can’t wait to enjoy a hot Georgia summer night, sitting there with the people who mean the most to me.”
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