About two weeks ago, my parents made the decision to come and visit me in Atlanta for the March 31 weekend. My family, being the sports fans we are, decided to get tickets to the Atlanta Braves-New York Yankees exhibition game at the Braves’ brand new stadium, Suntrust Park. I was interested to see how traffic would be coming from the Buckhead area, but I figured if we left early enough it would be fine.
Little did I know when my power went out Thursday evening that less than a mile away from me, one of the biggest traffic disasters in Atlanta’s already bad traffic history was about to take place. Part of I-85 North literally collapsed after a huge fire erupted below the overpass.
BRIDGE COLLAPSE: GDOT says it will take 'several months' to rebuild I-85: https://t.co/5GaPevzUkx The latest starting at 4 pic.twitter.com/DDzJH4Sik3— WSB-TV (@wsbtv) March 31, 2017
This all happened just up the road from me. Friday traffic is already horrendous in Atlanta, and getting to Suntrust Park — which is 7.5 miles northwest of me — was looking like it was about to get a whole lot worse.
Before we get into my commute to the stadium, here’s a representation of what the roads look like around near my apartment — basically every entrance to a major interstate is blocked off:
My parents and I decided we were going to be strong and brave (no pun intended) the elements Friday afternoon to go see the Braves and Yankees play. Around 5 p.m., my parents headed to my apartment — they were staying about 2.5 miles south of me.
I knew it was a bad sign already when it took them approximately 30 minutes to get from their hotel to my apartment. By the time they got there, we decided to head out around 5:35 to the stadium. Somehow, my GPS told me it would only take us 30 minutes to get there, so I was skeptical as we hit the road, ready for the seven and a half mile trek.
The side streets we took to get to I-75 (we took Northside Drive to I-75 North, for all you Atlanta residents) were pretty backed up, but nothing that wasn’t typical for Friday afternoon traffic. We got on 75 and, amazingly, the freeway was wide open both north and southbound. There weren’t many cars on the road — probably since I imagine most people avoided going anywhere much the day after the collapse — but it was surprising to see at the least.
We then merged onto I-285 West, and there wasn’t much traffic either, but the Eastbound side of the highway was pretty jammed up — 285 and I-20 was pretty heavy all day, thanks to that being a main alternate to I-85.
Anyway, the ride to the stadium was very easy, we were only on 285 for about a half mile before we hopped off. About a mile later, we could see signs to Suntrust Park — it took us all of 32 minutes to get there, a seemingly impossible feat on Thursday night. We still had to meet the other person we were going to the game with at a restaurant on the other side of the stadium, so that added about another 15 minutes. By the time we finally made it to our parking lot which was just across the street from the stadium, it was 6:35 p.m., so about an hour total in commute time considering all the stops we made. Not bad at all.
The view from outside the stadium is gorgeous. The design of the park is clean, and the area around the stadium is all new as well, so it made for a nice feel walking into the park.
Once we got inside the park, we headed to our section 116. Now it’s important to note here that there were only 20,000 tickets given to fill up the 41,500-capacity Suntrust Park, so it wasn’t as crowded as it could have been overall inside.
Our group stopped to get a beer as we walked to our seats — the selection includes a couple of Terrapin beers on draft, a really tasty Leinenkugel grapefruit shandy (which was my parents’ personal favorite), Blue Moon, Coors Light, Leinenkugel lemon shandy, and a Crispin on-tap. Can optioned included a good amount of the same, with the exception of one of the Leinenkugel and some other options. Craft beers went for $9.50 each, and domestics were $8 — a little pricey, but pretty standard rates, especially given the craft beer options. The one thing I did notice is that from where we were sitting, there weren’t very many stand-alone beer kiosks, and given the long food lines, there weren’t that many time-efficient options for those looking for just drinks.
After getting our refreshments, we headed to our seats. On our way, we passed the Monument Garden, which features various memorabilia from different players on display, along with a huge statue of Hank Aaron, and a projector TV to not miss any of the game.
Finally we got to our seats, in section 116. These were great, and the park as a whole looked pristine. The perfect weather didn’t hurt, either.
The crowd looks a little sparse here, but again, the allotment was only 20,000, and it’s likely that the full tickets sold showed up on Friday given the traffic routes, and whatever else people decided to do this night.
After an inning or two, we headed to what is now to my favorite part of the stadium: The Chop House. This is a big bar area that’s located in right field, and it is seriously awesome.
So, there are three levels to this thing (the top and bottom were closed off for a private event Friday night) but the one that we could get to the middle one, is very cool. It has an open air standing section, where you can watch the game from right field, and it’s a sick view.
It was pretty packed in this whole area, but there were a ton of waiters around to help out — it probably would have been easier for us to get a standing table and food and drink if we had a bigger group instead of just the two of us who went.
Inside, there is a seating area, as well as a huge bar with ample seating and standing room, and tons of TVs. The design had a warm feel on the inside, and I highly recommend checking this place out if you make it to Suntrust Park.
This place was a little too packed and looked like it would be a long wait to eat, so we decided to grab something from the more traditional stadium food places for dinner. We decided to go to Smokey Q, a barbecue place. The one thing I did notice here, and from a friend I ran into, is the food lines were incredibly long. We waited a whole 20 minutes in line before we ordered our food. But, we didn’t have anywhere really to be, and once I got my pork sandwich and mac-and-cheese, it was completely worth the wait. Everything was delicious, including the sauce they put on the sandwich.
After eating, we finally sat down and enjoyed the rest of the game. The atmosphere from the fans around us was one of buzz and excitement, as we all discovered the newness of Suntrust Park. Not to mention, it helped that the Braves got to break in the new park with an 8-5 win over the New York Yankees.
We left in the seventh inning, and traffic was a little heavy getting out of our parking garage, but we were on the road in about 10 minutes.
All in all, my experience at the new Suntrust Park was a great one, and I got really lucky with the traffic getting there given the fact that an interstate collapsed less than a mile from me.