The Atlanta Braves hosted thousands of season ticket holders Saturday afternoon for the first public open house at SunTrust Park, six days before the first sporting event is held at the new stadium – a preseason game against the New York Yankees.
I was not shocked by what I saw around the new stadium; I work just across the bridge on the other side of Interstate 75. But it was probably surprising for others who don’t routinely navigate around the hundreds of cones and widespread construction.
Indeed, there’s a lot of work to be done in the two and a half weeks until the Braves’ first regular-season home game at the Bank(?) A lot. And while the county concedes that the full project won’t be finished two weeks from Friday, they’re going to have enough of it done so tens of thousands can tackle the streets around the ballpark and find one of the 15 or so parking lots that’ll allow Braves fans to park during games.
Here’s what I saw Sunday afternoon as I walked the roads that will be vital for Braves commuters in less than a month.
The Tailgating Lots
The lots themselves are looking good – mostly paved and painted – but the road that leads from the lots to the stadium is still being paved and painted, and new traffic lights were just installed. The first image is looking south, toward the stadium, and the second image is looking north.
Interstate North Parkway
This is a big one; this has to be completed in two weeks. That’s because the Windy Hill Road exit from Interstate 75 will be a major access point for stadium traffic, and virtually everyone will be funneled off the highway to take a direct right-hand turn onto Interstate North Parkway and into a half-dozen parking lots just southeast of the exit.
Heading south, drivers will first encounter this roundabout, then a traffic light, and then they’ll reach their lots.
But looking north – from where the drivers will come – there’s a lot of work left to be done on this road.
Interstate North Parkway and Windy Ridge Parkway
This was an especially interesting decision. It’s true that there will be an influx of foot traffic along these two roads, and the sidewalks weren’t wide enough to accommodate that. But in recent weeks, construction crews have actually removed one lane of the roadway at this intersection to widen the sidewalk.
While painting is ongoing, it appears there will only be room for three lanes instead of the previous four. Hopefully, they’ll be able to reverse these lanes depending on the time of day, because this will be a critical chokepoint for traffic on game nights.
The first image is looking south along Interstate North Parkway, toward Windy Ridge Parkway; the second image is looking north.
Further south on Interstate North Parkway …
Plenty of fans will get off the highways southeast of the stadium, and they’ll try to navigate north on Interstate North Parkway. On good days, this is a congested road. Lately, it’s been impossible because two lanes have been removed for construction.
Will they add those lanes back? It remains to be seen, but if this becomes a two-lane road, you’ll want to avoid this route at all costs. My office is in this immediate area, so I’m extremely concerned about what this construction means for me, as it has been very bad in recent weeks.
The first image is looking north on Interstate North Parkway toward Windy Ridge Parkway; the second image is looking south.
If you’re coming to a game in April
There is good news: where the construction has been completed, you’re driving on new roads that have been optimized for boatloads of traffic. There’s a lot of money to be made inside the park and at the Battery, so they want you to get into the facility quickly and make the experience enjoyable so you come back frequently.
There will be issues to iron out, but arrive as early as you can to minimize those headaches. There’s so much to do before the games – this isn’t like Turner Field. You won’t be wandering around in empty parking lots, so don’t wait until a half-hour before first pitch to leave your house. If you can beat rush hour traffic, that’s a really good idea, and it’ll increase the likelihood that your first experience at SunTrust Park is as stress-free as possible.Follow @Sean_Breslin