Crea Petty is a little embarrassed about how often she’s been to The Battery.
“Like, a lot. A lot,” the 31-year-old Atlanta Braves fan said. “Probably 100-plus times.”
Petty, who lives in nearby Smyrna, said going to The Battery, the ballpark district that surrounds the Braves’ stadium, is the hip thing to do, not just to see the local nine innings, but also to go out to dinner, shop, celebrate birthdays and, even, attend a wedding.
“There’s something for everyone,” said Petty, who was spending Saturday afternoon there before the Braves’ game against the Orioles. “It’s such a good environment.”
The Battery, which debuted alongside the stadium in 2017, is 10 miles outside downtown Atlanta, drawing an eclectic mix of people from the metropolitan area — from diehard Braves fans to families to young people like Petty.
The success of The Battery — 10 million visitors in 2022, according to the Braves — has intrigued Orioles Chairman and CEO John Angelos and Gov. Wes Moore, as both men have cited the district as a model for what they envision the area around Camden Yards can be.
As the club and the state continue negotiating over a new lease for Oriole Park, both sides have said they want to use the $600 million in public funding earmarked for Camden Yards to, in part, begin developing an entertainment district around the ballpark.
“I think Atlanta is the best example of what’s possible if you can do it, and I think that’s what we all aspire to do,” Angelos told reporters in February.
However, the economic benefit of The Battery to Cobb County, whose residents’ tax dollars helped fund the district, has been debated by economists, some of whom also say that subsidies that the Orioles, Ravens and other professional sports teams receive are bad deals for the taxpayer.
The Battery, of course, isn’t perfect. Traffic and parking can be issues, fans say, although both are better than they were at Turner Field, which was located downtown. And while it still attracts visitors in the offseason, it’s less lively than it is during the baseball season. The Braves in 2022 ranked fourth in the majors in attendance at 38,641 per game, according to Baseball-Reference; the Orioles in 2022 were 24th at 16,893.
Thomas Smith, a lifelong Braves fan, said The Battery has enhanced his game day experience for the approximately 15 games he’s attended the last several years. When he makes the hour-long drive from Calhoun to Atlanta for games, he plans his evening around spending extra time before the game in The Battery.
“I love The Battery being right there where you can have everything you need — shopping, food, hang out before the game,” said Smith, 20. “It’s pretty sweet having everything close together.”
However, unlike Petty, he’s never been in the offseason or on a day when the Braves aren’t playing, an aspect that is integral to the viability of a ballpark district.
In the years since The Battery was constructed, it’s been held up by many as the future of ballpark environments. MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said the entertainment district is “an amazing accomplishment.” Angelos said in February that creating a year-round, “live-work-play” environment around Oriole Park is going to be “a huge step forward for the next iteration of Camden Yards.” The Battery’s amenities include offices, hotels, restaurants and other venues ranging from a 4,000-person concert hall to a movie theater to a yoga studio.
Beth Smith, a 42-year-old mom who was at Friday’s Braves game versus the Orioles with her family, said the wide variety of offerings outside the stadium could be a model for other MLB stadiums, adding that it’s especially good for casual fans.
“There’s a bunch of people who would never go to a baseball game if they didn’t have The Battery to go to before or after,” said Smith, who lives in Newnan, a suburb of Atlanta. “Some people even just come and hang out. They’ve got activities out there, too, that don’t even have to do with the Braves.”
To get a feel for The Battery, Moore’s first out-of-state trip as governor came alongside Angelos to tour the district and determine what could be replicated around Oriole Park. That visit came amid negotiations for a new lease at Camden Yards between the Maryland Stadium Authority and the MLB franchise.
The Orioles in February declined a one-time, five-year extension of the existing lease, which is set to expire at the end of 2023. It’s believed to be unlikely the team would relocate, and both sides have said they’re committed to striking a deal to keep the team in Baltimore, but the upcoming deadline still looms. Once an agreement is signed, the stadium authority will receive $600 million from the state to renovate Oriole Park and the surrounding area.
In his first trip to The Battery, Baltimore native Josiah Petro was impressed. Petro, 23, now lives an hour outside Atlanta in Rome and was attending his first game at Truist Park on Friday to see his Orioles take on the National League-best Braves — a 9-4 Baltimore win. He enjoyed his experience in The Battery before the game as he and his friends ate at a pizza joint, and he thinks Camden Yards could benefit from something similar.
“I don’t want to say the entertainment [at Oriole Park] is lacking, because obviously the baseball product right now is great, but outside the park, there’s not a ton to do,” he said. “You have Eutaw Street and stuff like that, but you don’t have near what The Battery has to offer.”
However, the list of similarities between Baltimore, the Orioles and Camden Yards to Atlanta, the Braves and Truist Park is short. Atlanta is one of the largest metropolitan areas in the country, the Braves have been one of the best MLB teams the past three decades, and Truist Park and The Battery aren’t downtown. Baltimore’s population is in decline, the Orioles have just five winning seasons in the past 25 years (although their 22-11 record this year is the second best in the American League) and Camden Yards is in the heart of downtown.
But Petro is also skeptical that something like The Battery will ever be implemented in Baltimore, citing offseason drama — the feuding lawsuits among the Angelos family among them — that, at times, overshadowed the upstart Orioles this offseason.
“I think it would be great for the city of Baltimore, but it’s about the execution and willingness to actually do it,” Petro said. “[Angelos] has reiterated a lot of things that he wants to do with the team that he hasn’t followed through on, so it’s about if he actually follows through and does it.”