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Minor league baseball comes to our backyard, but you dont have to be a fan to have a good time
The ticket booths at Gwinnett Stadium are adjacent to the entrance.

Gwinnett Stadium

Directions: Take Interstate 985 south to Exit 4 onto Ga. 20/U.S. 23 south. Take a left onto Ga. 20. Drive under I-85 and take a right onto Technology Center Parkway, which is the entrance to the stadium.

More info: Gwinnett Braves or 678-277-0300

Special events: For each Tuesday game, the Gwinnett Braves and 12Stone Church host 12Stone Tuesdays, a charity evening that highlights local nonprofits. Wendy's presents Wendy's Wednesdays, where fans will be able to redeem their ticket stub at participating Wendy's for a special offer. Every Sunday kids will have the opportunity to run around the bases after the game with the RaceTrac Race Around the Bases. After running the bases, kids and their parents have the opportunity to play catch in the outfield with the Chick-fil-A Family Toss.

Spending the day at the ballpark watching the pros just got easier for Northeast Georgians.

Now, after a quick ride down Interstate 985, locals can watch the future of the Atlanta Braves in neighboring Gwinnett County.

The Gwinnett Braves, a Triple-A minor league affiliate of the Atlanta Braves, kicks off its inaugural season on Friday night against the Norfolk Tides at the brand-new Gwinnett Stadium.

And the new facility gives us a place to go for inexpensive, family-friendly entertainment.

"I think that one of the coolest things about our ballpark is just how fan friendly it is. We really try to cater to every fan," said Courtney Lawson, community and public affairs manager for the Gwinnett Braves. "You've got the people that want to sit in the seats and watch the whole game and scout the game; you have the kids that want to run around and not sit down, and there's the berm area."

The berm, or lawn area, is behind center field and is good for family picnics.

"We have different picnic and party areas for people that want a more social networking type thing. The suites cater to higher-end business clients ... From the casual fan to someone who knows nothing about baseball to someone who is seriously trying to scout the future Atlanta Braves and see what's coming - we want to make sure to hit all of those levels."

Lawson said in addition to the themed nights and events at Gwinnett Stadium there will be a kids' zone with inflatables and games.

The Gwinnett Braves are scheduled to play 144 regular-season games in 152 days this season and individual ticket prices range from $5 to $15.

After parking in the new and spacious parking lot, visitors walk up one flight of stairs to the main stadium level. Once your ticket is taken by the attendant, a short walk through the gate takes you to an open view of the field behind home plate.

Any seat offers you a good view of the field.

From either side of the entrance there are concessions and bathrooms. Signs and attendants direct you to your seats and to a view of the 30-by-40 foot television screen.

The stadium itself is the anchor for a mixed-use entertainment district in Lawrenceville. It seats 10,000 baseball fans - 7,500 actual seats and 2,500 berm or lawn seats.

The berm feature of the stadium is unique to minor league baseball, according to Lawson.

"Fans are allowed to come out and bring blankets, towels and go sit out there," she said. "It's a great environment, especially for large groups. ... At their whim anyone can come out - the tickets are $5 and $6 - so they can come out. And everyone can still sit together and it's fun and you don't feel the pressure of having to sit in your seat, especially if you have kids that want to run around."
Two of the biggest draws to the new stadium are the ticket price and the stadium's proximity, said season ticket holder Tim Grizzle.

"This is nearer to home and is convenient and relatively inexpensive entertainment," said the Buford CPA. "There's not a bad seat in the house."

The stadium also offers concession choices ranging from the traditional ballpark fare like hot dogs and burgers to sit-down restaurants offering Knuckle Ball sandwiches and garlic fries.

"We've got really great food here; we've got a Mexican restaurant, we've got barbecue, burgers" said Blake Bentley, a stadium operations trainee.

Food options at the stadium include Phil Niekro's sports bar, which offers the signature Knuckle Ball sandwich, the Blazin' Cajun Burger and the Meatball Grinder. The Berm has burger platters, chicken tender platters and sub sandwiches, and La Taqueria has nachos big enough for the whole family, along with tacos and churros.

"The Knuckle Ball is the signature sandwich there," said Lawson, about the pulled pork with caramelized onions sandwich. "It's definitely not something you eat with your hands. ... That is a full-service, sit-down sports bar, TVs everywhere."

Other concession areas include Chopper's Corner, named after the Gwinnett Braves' groundhog mascot, which has pizza, burgers and corn dogs; the Catcher's Mitt features fish sandwiches, garlic fries, fried Twinkies and Oreos; and at Georgia 44, fans can pick up a Philly cheesesteak, grilled sausage with onions and peppers or a grilled chicken sandwich.

There are plenty of beers on tap, too, including Yuengling, Bud Light, a Braves-themed Tomahawk beer and Sweetwater 420, along with more varieties in bottles.

The design of the stadium allows guests to get up and grab a bite without missing the action, Lawson said.

"We do have a 360 concourse so pretty much you can walk and get some food at the concession stand, grab a hot dog and walk around the park and still see the game," Lawson said. "There will be good play on the field because a lot of these guys you will probably see in Atlanta at some point, but at the same time you could probably ask a fan in the seventh inning what the score is and they might not know but they are still having a blast."

Teams in the Triple-A league are one step away from the major leagues. It's even possible that you could see a game one week and, next week, one of the players is on the Atlanta Braves' roster.

But just because it's a minor league team doesn't mean it's any less exciting. One aspect of minor league baseball games is the events planned for each game.

For example, each of the Gwinnett Braves' home games will have a theme, like College Night on April 23 or Bark in the Park on June 11 - when fans are allowed to bring their four-legged friends to the game

There's also '70s night on June 25 and '80s night on July 25.

"There's just a lot more interaction (at minor league games)," Bentley said. "There is something going on every inning, getting fans on the field, playing a game of tug-of-war or whatever. It's very good entertainment."

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