The task of going to an Atlanta Braves game at Turner Field used to offer several options–among them simply driving and parking, taking a MARTA Blue or Green Line train to the Georgia State Capitol station and walking, or taking any MARTA train to the Five Points Station and hopping on a free (for train riders) “Braves Shuttle”, which took riders directly to Turner Field and back to Five Points after the game.
This last option was probably the most popular of the three, Atlanta traffic being what it is and Turner Field parking costing as much as it does (although it is cheaper than many ballparks, I will grant). It was a rather simple, inexpensive way for Braves fans to get to a game.
Apparently though, as I write this, the Shuttle is no more. MARTA (Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority) has been losing money in a struggling economy, being funded by suburban counties that have lost considerable tax revenues. As a result, along with upwards of 300 MARTA employees being laid off, services like the Braves Shuttle are being cut. Needless to say, Braves fans are not happy about this development, and I’ve read a few angry comments on blogs suggesting that they will not be attending Braves games this year.
It’s understood the new dilemma that has been created. The latest I’ve read from the excellent Braves blog called “Talking Chop” is that the Braves are considering funding the shuttle, but this was in July, and I have not yet heard word since then. The Braves do still, however, mention the Braves Shuttle as a way to get to the game on their own website–and if it’s not going to be available, I would hope they would let people visiting Atlanta this summer for a game (myself, for instance) know well enough ahead of time.
And of course it causes me stress; not only was I going to use the Shuttle myself, but it is a key tip in the (coming in 2011!) Turner Field E-Guide. But Ballpark E-Guides never backs down from a challenge, and I will get on this and find alternatives as soon as possible.
One thought that comes to mind is the same thought I had when I heard that the Nationals were discontinuing the Nats Express from RFK Stadium–why not charge people a buck or two to ride the shuttle? Surely someone could figure out how much to charge to make the option break even or even be profitable. I am sure Braves or Nationals fans would pay a small fee to have a convenient avenue to get to the game, and in the case of the Braves Shuttle, MARTA would be keeping the Braves fans riding the trains to games as customers–which they need in times like these.
But working for a government contractor like I do, I know whether or not an idea makes sense is rarely a consideration for its implementation. All the same, I contacted MARTA and asked anyway.
In the meantime, Braves fans can either drive to the game and park at Turner Field, or make the rather lengthy walk from the Georgia State Station. Quite frankly, neither seems all that great, especially with presumably more folks needing them.
I’ll let you know what MARTA thinks of my idea.
UPDATE 2/12/2011: As expected, MARTA did not give my idea any consideration; I doubt they even read it. I was sent a very generic e-mail saying that the Braves Shuttle has indeed been discontinued. Well, heck, I already knew that.
In researching different ballparks, I’ve found that many of them these days, particularly the ones that host mediocre teams, offer “all you can eat” seats. Some of them, like Baltimore’s Camden Yards or Pittsburgh’s PNC Park, make this option available every night, while others, like Toronto’s Rogers Centre, make them available on certain nights of the week.
Sports Illustrated, in their new role as social critic, has taken issue with this, questioning whether it’s a good idea to be encouraging people to gorge on ballpark food in a nation with an obesity problem. (Included in their article is a link to the top ten minor league ballpark foods. Click on the link and the first thing you see is a huge photo of a four-pound burger smothered in chili, cheese and chips. I am not making this up.)
Baseball owners can’t win. They’re constantly criticized for the prices of everything, by the same people who criticize them for not spending money on top players. Now they’re giving fans too much food!
Still, with that said, I don’t recommend the all-you-can-eat sections, for different reasons. I sympathize with the health aspect of it, although I believe people are responsible for their own selves and if they keep this sort of thing in moderation they should be fine.
First off, count on all-you-can-eat seats being the worst in the park. In Baltimore, they’re the left field club seats; in Toronto and Atlanta they’re deep in the outfield; in Pittsburgh they’re in right field. In Baltimore and Pittsburgh particularly, these seats preclude a great view that makes the place special. Part of the reason this deal is offered is precisely because teams can’t sell these seats, especially to watch a bad team.
Second, it isn’t all that much of a bargain. Say you pay $17 extra for an all-you-can-eat seat (in Toronto, a 200-level outfield seat costs $22, on all-you-can-eat nights it’s $39). You’re essentially paying $17 for a low-level buffet of hot dogs, nachos, peanuts, and popcorn. Would you pay that much at a Golden Corral for such a limited menu? I wouldn’t pay that much at a Golden Corral period, but that’s not the point. Buffets in restaurants rarely feature anything gourmet-level; this is doubly true at the ballgame.
Third, none of the ballpark all-you-can-eat sections include local favorites that are featured in ballparks these days. Almost all ballparks feature a popular local delicacy, and if you don’t mind spending the money you’d be remiss to miss out on some of the civic pride of a town. It’s ultimately cheaper (see my second point), and it’s part of the ballgame experience. You should have a Primanti Bros. sandwich at PNC Park, or Boog’s Barbecue in Camden Yards, or a Georgia hot dog from the “Frankly My Dear” stand at Turner Field. Don’t waste $17 on the low-end unexciting grub because you get more of it.
This isn’t to say I don’t think people shouldn’t ever take advantage of the deal. If you don’t have time for dinner before the game, and you don’t care where you sit, you can have a couple of dogs, peanuts, some popcorn and a soda without worrying about how much extra it costs. It’s fine if you’ve been to the ballpark before and are just going to the game.
But SI’s social concern notwithstanding, it’s Dr. Ballgame’s opinion that you’re shorting yourself of the best possible ballpark experience with the all you can eat seats. And even health reasons aside, it really isn’t worth it.
Stick with me; there’s other ways to save money on food at the game.
The cost of baseball games has never been relatively cheap. People my age tend to wax reminiscent about how the whole family could go to the park on game day and get four tickets for $5. Of course, back then you worked for about three hours to earn $5, and people moaned about how overpaid ballplayers were then.
That isn’t to say that the price of baseball games in major league parks hasn’t become unreasonable, especially when star minor leaguers want an $11 million signing bonus before seeing a single major league pitch. When the Yankees cut their Legends Suite ticket prices in half last season, the price of a seat went from utterly insane to still pretty nuts.
But the Atlanta Braves, a team that many think will be competitive this season, have been countering that with bygone-era ticket pricing in what they call “Skyline Seats”. These seats, on game day, are going for the 1950s price of just $1 a game.
Of course, these aren’t exactly “club” or “legends” or “royal box” or whatever such seats are called in most ballparks these days. The SkyLine seats are in Section 422 in left field and in Section 437 in right field. They are the outermost sections in the upper deck and have only 3-4 seats per row. You might see Bob Uecker up there. Even so, from what I’ve read, the Braves aren’t particularly tough on seat poaching. After a couple of innings, if you don’t get greedy, you should be able to move to a much better seat with no problem. The Braves haven’t sold out many games in recent years. My first Braves game was in 1999, in their heyday, and I was able to move from an outfield seat to an upper deck seat near home plate in the 4th inning.
If you’re an honest sort who stays in his or her purchased seat (a respectful position with which I admire), you need to know that the Hotlanta sun bears down on the right field seats until well into the evening, while the left field seats are in the shade early. And Section 422 is still in foul territory, making it a slightly better view.
Or you can scrap the seat altogether and see the game in the party atmosphere of the Turner Field Chop House in center field. And buy a meal with the money you’ve saved.
The tickets are put on sale 2.5 hours before gametime at the ticket office near the Braves Museum. You can only buy one at a time and must enter the park immediately after buying the ticket. You should get in line early because they go fast.
It requires a little thought and advance planning, but you can’t beat going to a ballgame with your pocket change.