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Chattanooga Times Free Press (Tennessee)
It's always nice to be first. Unless you have to buy the tickets to be the first to see it.
That's one way of looking at the Atlanta Braves' new 41,500-seat playpen at the corner of I-75 and I-285, the stunning $662 million SunTrust Park.
Framed on its perimeter by the four-star Westin Hotel, a concert hall, restaurants, retail shops and residential areas -- the whole development is known as The Battery Atlanta -- SunTrust is seen by no less than Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred as "a roadmap for clubs to get new stadiums built."
In an interview with The Associated Press this past week, he added, "I think the scope of the mixed-use development surrounding the ballpark and the economic opportunity it has created for the club is what people see as revolutionary. It's a different era in terms of community financing for facilities."
Becoming the first Braves fans to cheer on their team during a regular-season game might require some creative financing, however.
Top-tier tickets for the home opener -- against the San Diego Padres on Friday, April 14 -- will cost $143. That same price will exist for the April 15 game. However, if you buy that same "dugout infield" ticket for April 16, the price drops to $113. And for the next day's series wrap-up game, it is $69.
For the more economically stressed, general admission tickets are $10 for the opener, dropping to $8 on that Sunday and $5 on Monday. Elsewhere in the park, there are plenty of tickets to be bought for less than $30, beginning with the opener. As for parking, most of the lots around the park will require a walk of 10 to 15 minutes and cost either $20 or $18.
Once inside, a family of four will need at least 50 to 60 bucks for a quick dinner, with a jumbo all-beef hot dog retailing for $6.50, a 22-ounce fountain drink (without the souvenir cup) listing for $5.50 and an eight-ounce bag of peanuts $5. A burger basket (including curly fries) goes for $10.
But just in case that's not gourmet enough for you, the Braves and their catering partner, Delaware North Sportservice, are adding a "Taste of Braves Country" menu intended to highlight food from six Braves Country states -- Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee.
At least the park's decision-makers have changed their plan not to allow food to be brought into the park. They announced this past week that some food can be brought in if it's in a clear one-gallon container, along with one bottle of water per person.
Perhaps the coolest attraction in this selfie-obsessed world -- and this won't just be available at SunTrust Park -- is the opportunity for every fan lucky enough to catch a foul ball to be captured on video. Thanks to a multi-year partnership between the 15 Seconds of Fame company and Major League Baseball Advanced Media, anyone in that situation can get a video copy of the event after the game.
Available in all 30 MLB ballparks on Opening Day, the "15SOF app" -- a free download on iTunes and Google Play -- will deliver the clip in HD video directly to your smartphone. All you do is take a selfie (not seen by others) within the 15SOF app before the game. The app tells you the pose to use for appropriate facial recognition. The app does the rest.
The selfie most Atlanta fans should want upon their first visit to SunTrust Park is the one that has them standing by the nine-foot statue of the greatest Brave of them all -- Hammerin' Hank Aaron. Sculpted by noted Atlanta artist Ross Rossin, the project took nearly a year to complete.
It will now forever more, or at least until the Braves decide to build another stadium -- Turner Field lasted 20 years -- anchor Monument Garden, a zone near the park's third-base entrance that celebrates the Braves' greatest moments and players.
Sort of like SunTrust Park appears to be overall for those with fat enough wallets to pay $20 to park in order to walk 10 minutes to buy game tickets before coughing up $12 for a hot dog and soft drink minus the souvenir cup.
If nothing else, at least for fans the country over, it's apparently a phenomenally accurate blueprint of the sport's future.
Contact Mark Wiedmer at mwiedmer@timesfree press.com.
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