Take me out to the ballgame: SunTrust Park focuses on fan experience

SunTrust Park
photo Fans check out SunTrust Park's Xfinity rooftop during a soft opening game against the New York Yankees March 31. The space, which is open to anyone with a game ticket, features a lounge, virtual reality games, ping pong, foosball and a Waffle House.

If you haven't yet checked out the Atlanta Braves' new home in Cobb County's SunTrust Park, now's a great time to feel the difference those mesh seats make after sitting nine innings under the summer sun.

"Chattanooga's a huge market for us, especially during the summer months when school's out," says Greg Mize, director of digital for the Atlanta Braves.

All 41,000 seats in the new stadium are said to be good ones, positioned closer to the playing field and angled toward the diamond, which wasn't always the case with seats at Turner Field. SunTrust is actually Atlanta's first ballpark built specifically for baseball, though there's much more to do at the stadium than just watching the game.

The park is organized into "neighborhoods," including what's probably the best kid's area at any ballpark in the country. Called "The Sandlot," it boasts a zip line, carnival-style games and a climbing wall. Increase your kid's chances of catching a fly ball by taking advantage of the free glove rentals offered at Atlanta-based company Mizuno's booth inside the stadium (a credit card number is required as a "deposit" until the glove is returned). There's also a space where fans can create custom jerseys, which can be adorned with a patch - available only this year - commemorating the Braves' inaugural season at the park.

Enjoy the park's huge internet capacity, the largest of any park in North America, as you and tens of thousands of other fans share big moments from the game simultaneously, and instantly, on Instagram. Check out the Xfinity Rooftop overlooking the ballpark and battery, which is free with a game ticket and features an indoor lounge with virtual and augmented reality games, ping pong, foosball and, perhaps one of the most unexpected amenities, a walk-up Waffle House. Keep your beer cold with the ingenious insulated "cup colders" at the Coors Light Chop House bar, which has a dugout-level seating area with just a chainlink fence between you and the action.

photo Hope and Will's Sandlot, the children's area at SunTrust Park, keeps kids entertained with Braves-themed carnival games, a zip line and a climbing wall.

One huge perk for Chattanooga fans is that SunTrust is closer than Turner Field, eliminating the need to go into Midtown Atlanta. This is especially beneficial considering the recent collapse of a bridge on Interstate 85, which Mize says hasn't had a direct impact on traffic immediately around the park and won't affect fans driving from Chattanooga.

And with parking lots surrounding SunTrust Park on all sides, the parking situation is also a big improvement over Turner Field, which had one centralized parking area.

"It's a huge advantage, especially for folks coming from Chattanooga," Mize says, explaining that fans from the Scenic City can park in the north and east lots and get in and out without getting caught up in traffic coming from other directions.

Finding a spot is also easier, thanks to the Braves' partnership with Waze, which gives fans personalized directions to their spot purchased in advance at braves.com. You can then take an Uber to the stadium's designated Uber drop-off and pickup location.

"I think Chattanooga will fall in love once fans start coming down and seeing it," Mize says of the new ballpark.

photo The Atlanta Braves' new SunTrust Park has loads of amenities to provide an improved fan experience.