In the spring of 2017, SunTrust Park in Atlanta, Ga., opened its doors, launching new chapter for Atlanta Braves fans and Major League Baseball.
The team’s owners originally wanted to renovate the existing stadium. However, high infrastructure costs, lack of adequate parking, and the inability to add a multiuse development at the original site led them to start fresh at a new location. They acquired a 60-acre parcel of land where they could build a brand new complex with 15 acres designated for the brand new, state-of-the-art ballpark.
Precast concrete architectural and structural components were chosen from the outset of the project to achieve the design goals, says Mark Palmer, a senior project architect for Populous. “The owners wanted an ‘authentically Southern’ exterior facade constructed with warm regional materials of brick and stone that could stand the test of time,” Palmer says.
His team knew that a hand-laid brick exterior facade with stone accents would be time- and cost-prohibitive. The stadium had to be completed in time for the 2017 baseball season, which meant there was no leeway in the schedule.
To optimize the facility’s longevity, exterior materials had to be easy to maintain and durable, says Zach Allee, associate principal for Populous.
All these challenges led the design team to choose precast concrete for the facade and seating platforms. “This choice ensured that SunTrust Park would aesthetically meet the desires of the owners while still accommodating the schedule, budget, and structural design coordination issues,” Allee says.
Every seat has a view
The stadium’s masonry facade features thin brick cast into architectural precast concrete panels. Complementing the brick veneer is limestone-colored precast concrete cladding with stone detailing. “The design team worked with the precast concrete producer to incorporate three colors of thin brick with buff-colored exposed concrete banding, panels, and accents to achieve the high level of detail expected,” Palmer says.
The design team used textured formliners for the wall panels to create the look of field-installed limestone at the base of the thin brick panels. Three of the four main entries were flanked with towers capped with highly detailed cornices constructed with the buff-colored precast concrete. “Using precast concrete for these cornice elements allowed them to be cast into fewer pieces and simplified erection, which saved time and still achieved the desired design,” Allee says.
To accommodate budget constraints, the design team developed repetitive precast concrete panels and worked with the precast concrete producer to minimize the number of them. The team also used a digital project delivery process that allowed the designers to complete decisions and deadlines in short intervals, ensuring the project stayed on schedule. Once cast, the panels were erected in a carefully engineered pattern to prevent the supporting structure from distorting too much.
“Being able to install the precast concrete panels in a timely manner once the structural frame was in place had a big impact on meeting the schedule established for completion of the project,” Palmer says.
Inside the stadium, Metromont produced all structural components, including four layers of precast concrete seating platforms supporting 41,500 seats, with overlapping seating decks designed to give fans the sensation of being right on top of the action. The precast concrete seating units were ideal for the ballpark due to their durability, inherent stiffness, and customized shapes, as well as the speed and ease of their erection.
The seating design required fabrication of a range of structural components because of the complex geometry involved. Producing risers and tub sections to accommodate variable heights required new forms for every level, which ensured great sightlines from every seat. The cantilevered design extends the front seating, which is closer to the field than seating in any other Major League baseball stadium.
The finished stadium is now the centerpiece of a new entertainment district, delivering an environment where people can work, live, and play in addition to attending games, Allee says. “SunTrust Park and the project as a whole has become a destination for fans far and wide and an economic engine for the area.”