CUMBERLAND — When the Atlanta Braves open their new stadium by Cumberland Mall in 2017, it will incorporate the best aspects of ballparks across the country, said Derek Schiller, the franchise’s vice president of sales and marketing.
“There are going to be various nuggets or features of lots of different ballparks that are out there that will be integrated into this,” Schiller said.
The project’s architect, Populous, a firm that has designed nine of the last 10 ballparks in Major League Baseball, understands this goal, he said.
Schiller said he, Vice President of Business Operations Mike Plant and their team have examined everything from NFL buildings to hockey and basketball arenas in their search for the best stadium design.
“There’s even elements of design that we’ve looked at that have nothing to do with sports facilities, but because we will be uniquely joined to a development, where the development and the ballpark meet is critically important in our minds, because that has to work not only really well for game days, but it has to work for non-game days, and how that operates and how the ballpark comes up against the development, and vice versa,” Schiller said.
Most people who build a sports facility focus just on the structure, Plant said.
With an accompanying $400 million mixed-use development, the $672 million stadium won’t be the only focus for the Braves.
“We understand that we’re going to play games there 91 days a year,” Plant said. “How do you create a destination — I’ve heard Tim say, ‘a new downtown Cobb, possibly’ — and to do that you have to create this energy and this sense of place, a place that people gravitate to, well beyond us just playing ballgames there. And that hasn’t been done before.”
Plant said there are great examples of success in Denver and San Diego, and now Cincinnati, which, after building sports facilities, recognized the need to create another element that operates year-round.
Concerts and food festivals
Plant listed activities, from food and wine festivals to art and music events, that may take place during the 274 days of the year that aren’t game days.
Schiller said the ballpark could host concerts, but there are also the streets and the plaza areas of the property that could potentially host other events.
“Two of the global players in that space we’re in discussions with,” Plant said. “They know what we’re doing.
They’re very interested in partnering with us on a big scale entertainment opportunity.”
Plant said he’s not trying to copy Disney World.
“We’re not trying to replicate Disney, with the exception that Disney draws people from a long, long way all over the world, and we’re really fortunate,” he said. “We have no competition in the baseball business from North Carolina to Mississippi. That’s why we call it ‘Braves Country.’ There’s no other baseball team in the country that has that expansive, exclusive space and we’ll claim north Florida, too.”
Schiller said the franchise has not yet gone into the market to sell the stadium’s naming rights.
“We’ve received a lot of interest, lot of inquiries coming our way already about interested parties, and I would say sometime mid/late summer we should start to get that process started,” he said.
What will it cost?
The Cobb-Marietta Coliseum & Exhibit Hall Authority plans to begin the bond validation process next month.
Jim Pehrson, Cobb’s finance director, said the county’s portion and Braves’ portion of the stadium’s cost haven’t changed since November.
The split is still $300 million from the county and $372 million from the Braves, with an additional $35 million commitment from the county for capital maintenance costs.
The county plans to move forward with a $368 million bond issuance to finance the stadium.