CUMBERLAND — In an effort to make it easier for fans to get to SunTrust Park on time, the Atlanta Braves announced Wednesday the team will be playing their weekday home games a half hour later at 7:30 p.m. starting next season, the team’s first in Cobb County.
Mike Plant, president of development for the Braves, said pushing back the start time by 30 minutes is just one of several initiatives the organization is using to help alleviate traffic. He also noted the ballclub will be the only team in the Eastern time zone starting weekday games at 7:30 p.m.
“We’re not naive (enough) to say that bringing 10,000, 12,000 cars here is not going to
have an impact, but we’re trying to minimize that by doing smart things like saying let’s move our games back a half hour based on the data that we see as far as loads on the roads, capacity in the parking lots in the lease deals that we’re using,” Plant said.
The Braves typically start games at 7 p.m. Monday through Thursday. Home games on Fridays and Saturdays start at 7:30 p.m. and are not expected to be pushed back.
The announcement was made at a news conference announcing the first phase of the Braves’ three-part transportation and parking plan. In addition to a later start time for weekday games, the first phase consisted of a broad outline of the Braves’ traffic plans, highlighting recent and upcoming infrastructure improvements, the number of parking spots the Braves will have for fans and an explanation for how the organization plans to use technology to improve traffic flow.
Plant said phase two, expected to be released in the fourth quarter of 2016, will include updates on transportation improvements and more information about parking locations, technology and routes to and from the stadium. Phase three is set to be rolled out in the first quarter of 2017 and will consist of final details and the release of a mobile application to help fans get to the ballpark.
In addition to the announcement of later start times, Braves officials pointed to SunTrust Park’s 14 access points — compared to the two access points at Turner Field in Atlanta — and more than $2 billion in infrastructure projects either underway or planned on routes to the stadium.
Some of the projects mentioned specifically include the “reversible” toll lanes being built along I-75 through Cobb and Cherokee counties, the diverging diamond interchange under construction on the Windy Hill Road bridge over I-75 and the widening of Cobb Parkway.
Additionally, the Braves pointed to the fact that there are more parking spaces around SunTrust Park than there are at Turner Field despite the Cobb County stadium having about 8,000 fewer seats.
Plant said there will be 12,000 parking spaces dedicated for SunTrust Park and the adjacent mixed-use development, The Battery Atlanta, with 9,000 of those spots to be used specifically for SunTrust Park.
“So less seats but more parking currently, and we are still actively in lease discussions with a number of the other opportunities around SunTrust Park, so we’re very confident that this number will just continue to grow,” Plant said, noting the Braves plans to continue to work with property owners who want to have “gypsy lots,” just as they do at Turner Field.
Rob Ross, a project manager and civil engineer with Kimley-Horn and Associates, has been working with the Braves on the traffic and parking plan and said the increased number of parking spaces and access points will complement each other and help reduce traffic.
“When you drive to Turner Field today, you go to Turner Field and you park,” Ross said. “When you come to SunTrust Park, you may park without even seeing the stadium. So if you drive from the south and you’re coming to the park, you’re going to get off and park before you even get to the stadium. It’s a very different approach, a very different mindset the fans are going to adopt when they come to the stadium. That way, we avoid all the traffic being funneled into one location — we disperse it over multiple routes.”
Each parking area will have its own address, which will make it easier to find and travel to using mobile navigation applications, said Derek Schiller, president of business for the Braves.
Schiller also said there will be a dedicated pickup and drop-off location near SunTrust Park for fans using ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft.