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The Braves chose a stadium architect — now, be bold!

Jan 28, 2014, 2:24 PM EDT

Image (1) braves%20logo.gif for post 3603

The Braves have chosen an architect for their new Cobb County ballpark: Populous, the firm formerly known as HOK, which has built or massively renovated nearly 20 current big league stadiums.

Populous/HOK Sport is launched the “retro” era of baseball park design in the 1990s, beginning with Oriole Park at Camden Yards. It’s been quite a revolution and, certainly on the whole, a welcome one. It led the the (near) end of multi-use stadiums and has brought the game closer to fans (well, at least rich ones) and made it more comfortable for everyone.

But the retro-park thing has run its course. Indeed, the last few new parks — Target Field, Marlins Park and Nationals Park — are finally sloughing off the old-timey brick designs of the 1990s parks. These have been hit and miss from what I have seen and read — Minnesota is said to be gorgeous, Miami, well, a bit too much — but the effort to at least attempt to be forward-looking is welcome.

And I hope it maintains with the Braves new park. More than maintains, actually. I seriously hope that Populous and the Braves come up with something truly forward-looking and modern without even a trace of a nod back to old-timey baseball.

For one thing, the Braves aren’t really deserving of nods to tradition. When they move into the new park they’ll have played in four cities and five parks in a little over 60 years. You can’t do that while simultaneously attempting to leverage history. At least not with a good conscience. Limit the history to the championship banners, the retired numbers and for the Braves museum back behind the bullpen or wherever it’s going to be.

For another thing: you’re building this park in, basically, an empty field next to a mall in a growing exurb. There are no limits forcing you to put in odd dimensions or architectural quirks. The move to Cobb County is, more or less, an embrace of the future. Or, at the very least, an embrace of where everyone thinks the rich parts of the population will continue to live and grow in the future. You have a chance to put a unique stamp on an otherwise faceless and bland landscape. Be bold. Make the ‘burbs a better place with some much-needed flair.

I’m not terribly optimistic, though. The Braves are a conservative organization by most measures and they’re moving out to a particularly conservative part of their region. I fear that they’ll try to play it safe and conventional. That they may even backslide on the more recent work of firms like Populous and skew retro, with nods to Braves Field in Boston or something, as if anyone would care.

Please, prove me wrong, Braves. Build something bold and forward-looking and cool. It’s baseball. It’s supposed to be fun. Take a risk or three.

  1. phantomspaceman - Jan 28, 2014 at 2:38 PM

    It seems kind of hard to take a risk with an almost billion dollar/30+ year investment. Unless you’re the Marlins. Then you can take all the risks you want because, hey, it ain’t your money right?

    • Craig Calcaterra - Jan 28, 2014 at 2:39 PM

      But it’s not a real risk. Not a financial one anyway. It’s still a ballpark people are going to go to. Make the seats nice and the bathrooms plentiful and no one is going to go or not go there based on aesthetics alone.

      • phantomspaceman - Jan 28, 2014 at 2:44 PM


      • shawndc04 - Jan 28, 2014 at 3:09 PM

        That’s true, Craig. Nationals Park is not aesthetically beautiful or unique on the outside, but inside it is comfortable, with fair dimensions, excellent sightlines, and wide concourses. I don’t go to a ballgame to stand outside and look at the building.

      • cackalackyank - Jan 28, 2014 at 3:26 PM

        However, Craig, like you said, the Braves are conservative. What you are asking is like asking the Yankees to put names on the backs of their Uni’s, or let their players have beards again. The horror.

  2. raysfan1 - Jan 28, 2014 at 2:44 PM

    They should design the stadium to look like an outstretched hand with a stack of bills on it. Tres avant garde.

  3. kalinedrive - Jan 28, 2014 at 2:49 PM

    Instead of the uphill climb at Minute Maid Park, they could put in a downhill slope and let the ball roll a bit. Maybe add some angled fences so it caroms around like a mini-golf hole.

    • phantomspaceman - Jan 28, 2014 at 2:51 PM

      They can throw a windmill in center instead of a flagpole.

      • 18thstreet - Jan 28, 2014 at 2:58 PM

        You’re close. It should be a huge tomahawk chop arm. Put it between shortstop and left field.

      • arckln - Jan 28, 2014 at 3:39 PM

        I wanna see a tree in play myself.

  4. billybawl - Jan 28, 2014 at 2:53 PM

    Unfortunately, forward-thinking in this day and age means maximizing the premium suits and putting relatively affordable seats further away from the field.

  5. skerney - Jan 28, 2014 at 3:06 PM

    The design will be safe, reassuring, and easily digestible for the collectible sensibility of Braves fans. I’m sure the “nods to tradition” will be heavy on Hank Aaron, Chipper Jones and other stars of the Braves Division Champ run. Also lots of ’95. Lots. I’m not optimistic that it’ll avoid nonsense like pointless field dimension quirks but that would be nice. It would be really, really funny if it turns out to be like CitiField; nice, heavy on Nostalgia but with modern conveniences and the overall feeling of Meh.

    • cohnjusack - Jan 28, 2014 at 3:35 PM

      I think everything in the stadium show be named after a member of the 1995 Braves. Everything from the Greg Maddux premium-deluxe double-cushioned, behind home-plate seats to the Jose Oliva commemorative urinal.

      • zzalapski - Jan 28, 2014 at 3:43 PM

        Along with a Chipper Jones basketball hoop in the play area for kids.

  6. happytwinsfan - Jan 28, 2014 at 3:18 PM

    if i were a gazillionaire team owner, to get a home field advantage i would:

    put both the fences 400 feet away from the plate at the foul poles, and run the walls angling back to 500 feet in dead center, making home runs rare but majestic and bringing back the inside the park home run.

    speed in the outfield and on the base paths would be premium values, traits most commonly had by younger, cheaper players. use the savings to sign fly ball free agent pitchers looking to escape the bandboxs.

    • Alex K - Jan 28, 2014 at 3:41 PM

      ….and then move the fences in within 5 years because fans and players are complaining…

      • happytwinsfan - Jan 28, 2014 at 4:11 PM

        yeah maybe, but if i was a gazillionaire i wouldn’t have to care what the fans and players were saying.

    • billybawl - Jan 28, 2014 at 5:05 PM

      You’d also be giving up any hope of signing the best free agent hitters. And you’re going to need somebody to hit those majestic bombs.

  7. rjmarrella - Jan 28, 2014 at 3:19 PM

    Wow, you can really prattle on about a stadium that is still years away…

    • zzalapski - Jan 28, 2014 at 3:48 PM

      So what do you prattle on about in your baseball blog during the winter?

  8. sdelmonte - Jan 28, 2014 at 3:23 PM

    Interesting to think about the end of the multipurpose stadium. It’s definitely better for the experience of the fan of baseball, to have a park that is only for baseball. But I’ve seen a few commentators note that while one size didn’t really fit all, it meant that public monies only needed to be spent once for a park that could do everything. And that the ready demands for more revenue streams will keep forcing things than don’t fit into baseball parks. It’s a very different world now.

    • cackalackyank - Jan 28, 2014 at 5:27 PM

      I’m sure the NFL players whose careers were cut short by carpet seems in multi purpose stadiums are big fans of baseball only stadiums.

  9. Joe Vecchio - Jan 28, 2014 at 3:40 PM

    The congressional district in which Cobb County/Marietta resides is among the most conservative, gummint-hating districts in the country, which is prosperous because it receives more Federal money than pretty much any other congressional district in the US. Of course, they build almost exclusively, weapons for the US military which is very patriotic; if they got their money building high speed rail engines and passenger cars they’d call that socialism, or Communism.

    Bearing that in mind, they ought to build the stadium using a theme honoring the fallen soldiers who have made that part of Georgia so wealthy and so able to look down the noses of all those Northeastern, Left Coast and Chicago liberal types from whose money that prosperity primarily comes.

    All the symbols of nationalism should be on display, the numerous and grotesquely huge flags (and perhaps a few rebel flags which are popular there: after all, what’s patriotism without the occasional treasonous armed rebellion?), the blaring of patriotic themes such as “Dixie” and the assorted works of Lynrd Skynrd, maybe even bury a few dead soldiers in the outfield during pregame ceremonies while screaming “why can’t you be more like them?!” at the crowd.

    Also in keeping with the theme, they should build special seating, restrooms, and water fountains for “those people”, though that might be a moot point since one of the reasons for the move to Marietta to begin with is to keep those people away, unless of course they want to work serving the wealthy patrons who will undoubtedly flock to the stadium the better to yell in person at people who actually get paid a decent wage for the things they do. Yes, I remember how they treated that Union thug Tom Glavine.

    Now that would make the future Lester Maddox Field regionally appropriate.

    • cackalackyank - Jan 28, 2014 at 5:30 PM

      I thought it was Jeff Davis Field at Lester Maddox Stadium.

    • teambringitstrong - Jan 28, 2014 at 6:04 PM

      Might as well have John Rocker throw out the first pitch.

      • cackalackyank - Jan 28, 2014 at 6:08 PM

        Stranger things have happened.

  10. schmedley69 - Jan 28, 2014 at 4:03 PM

    I heard that the new stadium is going to be very futuristic. They are going to fill all of the empty seats with robots who hurl beer cans onto the field to produce that Atlanta playoff atmosphere all season long.

    • moogro - Jan 28, 2014 at 7:34 PM

  11. mattinglyschmidt - Jan 28, 2014 at 4:41 PM

    You all knock the Marlins stadium, but is actually a beautiful place to see a game. The sight lines are great – yes, there’s nobody there to block your view, ha ha – and with the roof it eliminates the awful summer heat and humidity. It’s a contemporary park, which, although not my style, is still very, very Miami. If they didn’t have that awesome monstrosity in left center there really wouldn’t be anything to complain about. Yes, yes, I know – my grand kids will still be paying for this someday. But it’s a quality place to see a major league ball game. Yeah – someday it would be nice to watch two major league teams play against each other there, I get it. You’re quite the comedian.

    • cackalackyank - Jan 28, 2014 at 5:31 PM

      Don’t you mean your great great grandkids?

  12. themanytoolsofignorance - Jan 28, 2014 at 5:04 PM

    So long as they have a roof on the durn thing I don’t care what they build so long as baseball is being played there.

  13. grattanstanford - Jan 28, 2014 at 5:32 PM

    So you want the braves to drop a spaceship in suburban Atlanta? Why do you hate bricks so much?
    If it ain’t broke don’t fix it.
    Stadium design is a science and one look around the league will show you that neither organizations nor baseball fans want to be represented by a novelty building that lacks decorum and taste.
    Miami is a good example of how a flashy “modern” design can take the focus away from whether or not the stadium addresses the needs of the city as a whole.
    This article is naive and pretty embarrassing.

  14. Brinke - Jan 28, 2014 at 8:14 PM

    There’s AT&T Park……and there’s everyone else.

  15. makeham98 - Jan 29, 2014 at 9:33 AM

    Put in a refrigerated track behind the outfield and teach those yahoos how to drive when there’s another 2″ blizzard.

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