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Murphy: Atlanta pro sports fans pampered with elite venues
SunTrust Park has all the modern accomodations for fans
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The clouds take on color over SunTrust Park as Los Angeles Dodgers third base coach Chris Woodward (45) stands on the field during the game against the Atlanta Braves on Aug. 2 at SunTrust Park in Atlanta. - photo by JOHN AMIS

The Battery brings top restaurants, attractions for Braves fans

The fan experience for Atlanta Braves enthusiasts is the most complete of any pro sports team. I’m sure the soon-to-be opened and elegantly designed Mercedes-Benz Stadium for the Atlanta Falcons will be just as memorable.

On Friday, I made my way down with a car-full of friends to watch the Braves at the exquisite surroundings of SunTrust Park in Cobb County.

Everything is so new, you can still smell the paint from the parking garage. Then there’s the open-air plaza known as The Battery with restaurants, bars and kid-friendly spaces to toss the ball around within reach of a Giancarlo Stanton homer from the plate.

For those who haven’t yet been to the new stadium, picture Atlantic Station connected to a flawlessly designed park for pro ball. Spread out around SunTrust Park are also phone-charging portals, which is about the most bougie thing I’ve ever seen despite being a big help when the battery on your phone is about to give out.

The product on the field for the Atlanta Braves is young, but given time will improve — with the right pitching acquisitions — and keep the seats packed for many years to come.

It’s true there’s not a bad seat in the stadium. Even with seats just to the right-field side behind home plate in the upper deck, it was a gorgeous view that left no doubt you were in a first-class ballpark, 10 miles from downtown Atlanta.

We decided to watch the game from the railing overlooking right field from the Chophouse. With a large crowd of young adults mingling in the area, it was still spacious enough where you weren’t constantly bumping into people, like at the old Turner Field. We felt so close to the action that we could see the mound of sunflower seed shells that collected over the course of the game where Nick Markakis patrols right field so efficiently for the Braves.

While I wouldn’t consider myself the biggest baseball fan, I do love going to as many pro baseball stadiums as possible. In my opinion, there’s nothing like catching a game in person. This marked my seventh pro stadium, and the second this summer after seeing a game July 4 at Coors Field in Denver.

The postgame Braves fireworks decorating the sky over the Smyrna area Friday were the icing on the cake to what I considered the ultimate pro baseball viewing experience.

I knew it was going to be a good day upon arrival. We went straight to the Fox Brothers Barbecue, located in The Battery, just feet from the outfield entrance to the stadium. The food at Fox Brothers was outstanding. If you like Brunswick Stew, give it a try. You won’t be disappointed.

Those in the restaurant, also inhabited by Terrapin Taproom, who were drinking also seemed to be having a great time.

It helped that the weather was nice for Friday’s game against the Miami Marlins. The temperature was reasonable, and the humidity was tolerable for August in Georgia. Even for those days that are sweltering hot, the concourses for fans at SunTrust Park to navigate the stadium are well ventilated with ceiling fans keeping cool air circulating.

Also, a big thumbs up to Cobb County’s finest for directing traffic and having cars moving at a reasonable rate with so many visitors unfamiliar with the local roads near the junction of Interstates 285 and 75.

With the Atlanta Falcons just days away from welcoming fans into Arthur Blank’s newest creation, the seats will be full every Sunday in the fall for the 2016 NFC Championship winners. The new dome stadium, right beside the “old” Georgia Dome, will keep the franchise based out of Flowery Branch playing its games in downtown.

Mercedes-Benz Stadium couldn’t be opening at a better time. Interest in the Falcons is probably at an all-time high, while Atlanta’s roster got even better during the offseason. With fancy accommodations for Matt Ryan, Julio Jones and Co., it’s going to bring a deluxe viewing experience to watching the most exciting offense in the NFL.

I was always a fan of the Georgia Dome, but I can’t wait to see a game from the climate-controlled Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

Hopefully, most fans can accept change is a good thing. These new stadiums are going to keep fans streaming through the gates at record rates.

I’ll always have fond memories of going to the old Fulton County Stadium as a kid. The Georgia Dome and Turner Field were great upgrades. However, fans in Atlanta now have premium spots to watch our pro teams play.

It’s worth the time and money to make the trip.

Bill Murphy is sports editor of The Times. He can be reached at bmurphy@gainesvilletimes.com

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