Those living in Northwest Atlanta around the intersection of I-285 and I-75 might have been concerned about the traffic before the first game at SunTrust Park, the Atlanta Braves’ new stadium, last Friday (March 31). This includes Vicki Greenberg, a Weber math teacher.
Greenberg said she’s concerned traffic will be an ongoing problem around the new stadium going forward, including for the season home opener on April 14. “The traffic has been awful, and it’s only going to get worse,” Greenberg expressed. “People in areas around [Weber and Sandy Springs] will take surface streets to get to the game, which is how I go home. It just means more traffic on surface streets, which means cities now have to repair roads more often. I think we’ll overall have more traffic.”
Sandy Springs Mayor Rusty Paul previously echoed this sentiment. Last year, Cobb County had recommended stadium-goers travel through Sandy Springs, sparking initial pushback from city officials. After meeting with county representatives, Sandy Springs will now have traffic crews assisting with congestion between 5:30 pm and 8:30 pm on weekday evening games.
Among those attending Friday’s game was junior Parker Zaglin, who said traffic was normal, stating there wasn’t anything he “wouldn’t normally expect being on 285 and 75 at that time of day.” He continued, “while I had some doubts initially about what would happen to the traffic, I don’t see it being an issue at all on any given gameday when there is no special event or big name team in town.”
According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, there were 21,392 attendees at Friday’s game. That’s nowhere close to the full capacity of 41,149 people and 14,000 cars, though the Braves are expecting around 12,500 cars per game.
While traffic wasn’t unusually congested on Friday, that can be attributed to the game being open to season ticket holders only. Mrs. Greenberg commented that she thinks the I-85 bridge fire and resulting collapse will push any future traffic problems stemming from the 81 home games this season out further into the perimeter, though it is still unclear what effects I-85 will have.
In efforts to ease concerns, the Braves have created a designated “Uber zone” and dispersed parking lots at the stadium, as well as incorporated parking directions through traffic-app Waze and changed most evening home games to starting at 7:30 pm instead of 7:10 pm. Additionally, Cobb County has spent over $100 million on nearby road improvements, as the county is not part of MARTA and only has a little over 100 buses for their bus service, CobbLinc.
Another factor that will play a role in congestion is The Battery Atlanta, the Braves’ new mixed-use development surrounding SunTrust Park. Mostly opening on April 14, the 1.5 million square foot development will feature restaurants, including Antico Pizza and Goldbergs Bagel Company and Deli, as well as shopping opportunities and entertainment venues such as The Coca-Cola Roxy Theatre and Punch Bowl Social. Furthermore, The Battery will have a hotel, apartments, and Comcast’s regional headquarters. All venues will be fully open by the end of May.
David Helberg, a General Manager for LiveNation Entertainment and the parent of senior Harris Helberg (editor-in-chief of this publication), will be overseeing The Coca-Cola Roxy as part of his portfolio. In a statement, he said the Roxy “is a 4,000 capacity theatre-styled building [that] will host both ticketed shows and private and corporate events.”
As for the development as a whole, he commented that “the best part of SunTrust Park and The Battery is that there [are] activities for all ages that are accessible all the time: entertainment, dining, baseball games, shopping, apartments, etc. If you live around The Battery, it creates a centralized social network.” Helberg also remarked that he thinks traffic will resolve itself over time, as both attendees and local police start to understand traffic patterns.
It is likely that The Battery will help ease congestion by reducing the density of traffic. Touching on what Helberg mentioned, Zaglin said he looks forward to spending many hours at The Battery with friends before games.
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The game on Friday was the last of spring training, with the Braves beating the New York Yankees 8-5 in their first game played at SunTrust Park. Despite the momentum and confidence from Friday, the Braves lost 6-0 to the New York Mets in an away game on Monday, according to ESPN.
Aside from baseball games and post-game concerts, the only upcoming event at SunTrust Park and The Battery is a Billy Joel concert scheduled for April 28.
As for traffic, only time will tell.
Note: For information on transportation to/from SunTrust Park and The Battery Atlanta, visit bravesupdate.com.
UPDATED 11/15/17 to reflect adherence to the AP Stylebook and journalist formatting.