Early reviews on Atlanta Braves new park are coming in

Last year saw the ‘soft open’ of Cool Today Park. Now it’s ready to rock with a full slate of Spring games for the Atlanta Braves. So how’s it going?

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NORTH PORT, FL: A general exterior view of CoolToday Park prior to an Atlanta Braves Spring Training game on February 23, 2020 in North Port, Florida. . (Photo by Mark Cunningham/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

Most of the news coverage for the Atlanta Braves new Spring home has actually been rather fawning, while only giving a passing mention to a few (unspecified) ‘glitches’ as being normal for a new facility.

While that latter note is almost universally true, we thought it might be worthwhile to seek out some ‘user reviews’ that are starting to come in about the place and how fans may be responding.

As for the players… they appear to love the space, the facilities, the amenities, and the entire atmosphere.

That, plus the reduced travel time to… anywhere else they need to be… is the review that’s most important for the team, but at the same time, the Braves certainly want to have a place that is welcoming to fans.

This is particularly true since the Florida Fire Frogs have unexpectedly been dropped in as a tenant for the 2020 season, and it would be nice to see some consistent turnout from the fans.

Let's see what some of these folks have to say... though it's noteworthy that people who write such reviews do so much more often to express complaints, so keep that in mind.

Yelp Reviews

These reviews come from the Yelp site.

This one, dated from February 22nd, came from a Courtney K. who hails from Annapolis, MD. It is quite detailed with Pros and Cons. Among them...

  •  She liked the work done to make the entrance attractive
  •  “Modern and [sleek] exterior… new and snazzy”
  •  Fans can walk all the way around the field and check out every angle… including the bullpens
  •  Huge scoreboard for a Spring park.
    •  A separate reviewer noted that the scoreboard was indeed useful/helpful… when it didn’t freeze up.
  • Compliments for the restroom facilities: big, with no waits. Also ‘family’ restrooms.
  • Compliments to the staff for being friendly.
  • Lots of shade over the seats, despite the 1pm start time.
    • A separate reviewer suggested avoiding section 105 for sun reasons… 106 and up? Those were okay.

But Wait, There's More...

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NORTH PORT, FL - FEBRUARY 22: Atlanta Braves coaches sit behind a screen as they look on during a Grapefruit League spring training game against the Baltimore Orioles at CoolToday Park on February 22, 2020 in North Port, Florida. The Braves defeated the Orioles 5-0. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

Now here’s her “kinks” and Cons list:

  • Traffic was bad getting in. Her experience was 20 minutes to get parked, but heard from others that an hour wasn’t unusual (she arrived 90 mins. before game time).  This is going to be a recurring theme.
  • Inside the park, the décor was too ‘generic’ and looked ‘unfinished’. Suggested more striping, color, team logos… something to dress things up.
  • Some seating sections appeared to be unlabeled. Noted section 119 in particular and that her party had to ask for an usher’s guidance to find it.
  • Extremely long lines for concessions. If this story is true, there really needs to be a fix done soon:
    • ”We were fourth in line at the Chicken Coup and it took 35 minutes to get chicken fingers and fries. Volunteer working concessions kept telling people he couldn't accept credit cards with a chip.”

Other reviewers had mixed reviews on the food. Some liked it; some thought it ‘cold and horrible’.  That pretty much is typical for such reviews at ballparks, I’d have to admit.

One item of note: if you’re looking for vegetarian options… you could be out of luck.

CourneyK also noted very loud music at the security checkpoint, which made it nigh-impossible to hear directions given from security staff members.

Overall, her conclusion was being ‘underwhelmed’ by the stadium.


More Review Traffic... about Traffic

Another review – Michael K from Portland, Maine – notes that it took him 90 minutes to get into the parking lot on the same day (2/22).  In his anger, he suggests that the stadium be closed until “the traffic nightmare” is fixed.

There was a fireworks event held last July 4th, and a reviewer from that time had some interesting notes:

  •  “Easy access to seating”, though also mentions “Huge problem for persons with disabilities"
  • The problem?  A “very small VIP entrance to access via elevator” for those who can’t handle stairs. That is a problem since demand for that elevator is (obviously) going to be high at the start and the finish of any stadium event.
  •  A separate reviewer also noted a lack of handicap parking and seating options.
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NORTH PORT, FL: General view of the ballpark during a Grapefruit League spring training game between the Atlanta Braves and Baltimore Orioles at CoolToday Park on February 22, 2020 in North Port, Florida. . (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

Tripadvisor had many more reviews on its site here... here's an overview of them:

Written on the 25th, another review pointed to the parking and traffic issues.

  • Jng1234 claims is required “a full hour” to get into the park once turning off Tamiami Trail.
  • This writer then suggested that a better way to get in might be to “ignore signs and turn in at West Villages Parkway”.

Breakevenclub liked the facility itself (“no bad seats”), but… yes… there was a concern about the traffic and parking.

  • In this review, though, there was a note about a possible cause: credit card acceptance for the $10 parking fee.
  • This person suggests separate lines for cash and cards (at least 3 for cash).
  • S/he also suggests moving those collecting the fees back… into the parking lots themselves, while also widening the north entrance to 2 lanes.

That sounds like good and practical advice for helping to move 6000-8000 vehicles into any facility… multiple lanes for the win!

Multiple reviewers liked the Tiki Bar area… including at least one that liked it simply for the view.


Getting the Picture

If you haven't been to the new field and are planning on doing so, here's a couple of practical tips that we can recommend based on these reviews:

  • Review the map to figure out exactly where you're going beforehand.  This satellite view from Google can't hurt, either.
    • Looking at that map, it appears there could be a couple of ways to sneak in from the south/southeast and the west of the park
  • Bring cash to pay for things, starting with a $10 bill for parking.
  • Arrive early.  Way early.  This will give you a chance to figure out the 'lay of the land' as well.
  • Bring your patience with a mindset to enjoy the day, though perhaps not the moment.
  • Review stadium policies on accessibilityalcohol sales, outside food and drink, and more via this link.

The Atlanta Braves need to be paying attention to these 'glitches', for surely some of them can be fixed before the end of this Grapefruit League season.  It would be a shame to see fans start to ignore this impressive - and expensive - venue for the sake of some convenience problems.

Next: Ian in or Ian out in 2020?

Hopefully your experience will be a good one!