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Atlanta Braves break ground on new SunTrust Park stadium

Major League Baseball Commissioner-elect Rob Manfred and Hank Aaron were among the many dignitaries who flocked to Cobb County on Tuesday morning to be part of what Braves CEO and Chairman Terry McGuirk described as “one of the most important days in the franchise’s history”. They all gathered for the groundbreaking of SunTrust Park, a US$672m state-of-the-art stadium designed by world-renowned architects Populous that will open before the 2017 season.

McGuirk said:

A groundbreaking is a beginning. In two years, we’ll transform this bare patch of dirt from what it is today into a magnificent ballpark and a majestic ballpark village.

While the ceremonial breaking of the ground with shovels stood as the basis of the event, the highlight occurred during the early portion of the ceremonies, when McGuirk revealed that SunTrust Bank would serve as the naming rights partner for the stadium.

SunTrust Chairman and CEO, William Rogers, said:

We are extremely proud to be affiliated with a world-class franchise with tremendous business potential and incredibly loyal fans.

Sports Business Journal reported that SunTrust’s sponsorship will be worth over US$10m per year to the Braves. Although this is unconfirmed, that would equate to at least US$250m over the full term.

The ceremony was held inside a tent that was positioned on a plot of dirt that will soon serve as the new stadium’s centre-field area. Around the open-air, 41,500-seat ballpark will be a mixed-use village that will include restaurants, hotels, office space and residential opportunities.

With this mixed-use development, the Braves are hoping to gain year-round revenues that will continue to assist them in their efforts to construct championship-caliber rosters on a consistent basis.

Club President, John Schuerholz, said:

The feel of this new ballpark will foster a one-of-a-kind experience unrivalled in all of baseball.

Manfred highlighted how the vision of this facility is another example of the business excellence the Braves have shown over the years:

The Braves have always had great leaders, from [past owners] Bill Bartholomay to Ted Turner, to Terry McGuirk and John Schuerholz. The Braves truly have been blessed with business acumen and vision.

Today, here in Cobb County, there is a new history of the Braves being launched. The state-of-the-art facility that will be built here will be essential to the Braves continuing their great winning tradition, and this project is an example of the kind of vision the Braves have always shown.

No club in Major League Baseball has ever undertaken to building a facility and a stadium that is as fully integrated with a mixed-use project as this one. It will provide a unique experience for the fans of the Braves.

While the day was certainly special for McGuirk and Schuerholz, who have long beamed when speaking about the new stadium and mixed-use development that will attempt to attract consumers 365 days a year, this event was truly a celebration for Braves Executive Vice President Mike Plant, who spearheaded the initiative.

As far back as 2005, Plant had visions of building a mixed-use facility around Turner Field. But when it became apparent that he would not be able to complete this project, he set out looking for alternatives, and he found what he was seeking in Cobb County.

Plant said:

This is going to be a legacy transformation and a generational impact throughout the whole Southeast. I think we’re going to set an example for sports teams well into the future. I feel proud that I helped get it going in the beginning and have a pretty significant role moving forward working with our whole team.

We’ve got a lot of good people working on this. I think we all understand the significant impact this is going to have not only on this region, but the whole sports legacy.

Source: Atlanta Braves website. Images courtesy: Atlanta Braves.