The Braves are ringing in the new year at SunTrust Park.
The organization’s staff has moved out of Turner Field in Atlanta and has begun working out of SunTrust Park, according to Mike Plant, president of development for the Braves.
The team began moving out of Turner Field the day after the Braves’ 2016 season ended, storing equipment temporarily at a warehouse. But within the last six weeks, staffers began moving office equipment and furniture into SunTrust Park, and on Dec. 19, team employees began moving into their offices even as construction crews were still working to finish the interiors, Plant said.
“It was a big day for everyone, and (we) saw a lot of happy faces, obviously, on our entire Braves staff organization the day we moved into our offices,” Plant said, adding, “I would say as far as milestones are concerned, that’s probably at the top of the list.”
The last day for office staffers at Turner Field was Dec.15, but a few Braves employees stayed behind, Plant said, moving out the few things that were left and “taking care of our commitments on securing the facility and cleaning it up for Georgia State,” which will now begin the process of retrofitting the ballpark to become the university’s new football stadium.
“People spent a couple days before Christmas unpacking and getting themselves set up so that (when we) come back from the holidays here, we hit the road running pretty hard. That was kind of the process that took place over a couple months.”
In addition to moving office equipment to SunTrust Park, the Braves also had to transfer all the technology that will be used at the new ballpark and the massive amount of data used by both the major league team and all its minor league affiliates, Plant said.
“That transfer all occurred a couple weeks in advance, and then the last piece of the move was all the final furniture that was going in about two weeks in advance and getting that (certificate of occupancy) from the building permit and fire marshal,” Plant said. “That is everyone’s permanent office now, SunTrust Park. They don’t have an office at Turner Field anymore.”
Meanwhile, with much of the exterior work on the new ballpark complete, the focus continues to be on the interior, Plant said, such as finishing installing the signage, flooring and lighting for the concession stands, clubs and suites. There are also about 1,300 televisions throughout the ballpark to be installed and tested, not to mention the main scoreboard and other smaller display boards.
These display boards, as well as the LED lights that will shine down on the playing surface, are being tested now — drivers on Interstate 75 passing by the new ballpark can see them illuminated at night while the tests are being performed.
The playing surface itself is starting to take shape now that the drainage and irrigation systems are installed and covered with layers of gravel, sand and soil. The infield, pitcher’s mound and warning track are all being formed now, and the final layer of topsoil that the grass sod will be planted in will be spread soon. The grass itself won’t be planted until late February or early March, Plant said.
Next door, The Battery Atlanta, the mixed-use development the Braves are building adjacent to the new stadium, is progressing at a similar pace, Plant said. The 16-story Omni Hotel that will overlook SunTrust Park will be topped out — the final piece of structural steel installed — in the next two weeks, Plant said.
“That’s really the last component of the mixed-use that has to be topped out,” he said.
Some of the future tenants of the retail, office and restaurant space have already begun working on the interiors of spaces they will occupy, Plant said. Live Nation, which will develop and operate the 53,000-square-foot Coca-Cola Roxy Theatre, began building out the venue in mid-November, ahead of an early April opening, he said.
The infrastructure around the Battery is also taking shape.
“There’s roads, there’s curbs, there’s sidewalks, there’s hardscaping and landscaping that’s starting to go in and really starting to give it a really good feel beyond just a construction site,” Plant said. “You start to really envision the type of place that it’s going to be, the comfortable and inviting type of place that the Battery’s going to be.”
With the completion of the interiors of the ballpark and the different components of the Battery just a few months away, the Braves are planning an “aggressive” schedule of soft launch events, Plant said.
“It’s no different than what a restaurant will do with a couple soft launch openings to test their people, test their systems,” he said. “We’ve got about 30 of those different events on our schedule. (We’re) really starting to focus in earnest on the planning and execution of those. And that’s all in anticipation of, obviously, one of the biggest soft launch events is the exhibition game (on March 31). That was all by design, (we) get to test the systems but not at full capacity and get ourselves ready for opening day.”
The schedule has the Braves getting the certificate of occupancy for the entire ballpark on Feb. 27, Plant said. A couple weeks of testing will follow, and the soft launch events will start around March 10-12.
“We have a lot of confidence. We know the finish line is in front of us. It’s just going to take a huge effort, as it has taken all the way to get to this point. But fortunately, everyone in our organization and everyone that’s part of this has been committed from the very start.”