When you plow many hundreds of millions of dollars into building new stadiums – whether they were needed – you envision fabulous returns. After all, when you move into a new house, the mortgage comes with a dream. Happiness, success, the making of reel upon reel of warm memories – that is what you expect your new key to unlock.
At this stage, sad to report, our new buildings are grossly under-performing on those fronts.
SunTrust Field is a good-enough concept. The amenities are first rate. And, honestly, the predictions of a traffic catastrophe (many of them offered in this space) never came true.
But in their first season of occupancy, the Braves did not decorate the place with anything special or surprising. After Ender Inciarte turned opening night there into a masterful solo performance – recording the first-ever putout, hit and home run in a 5-2 victory over San Diego – matters on the field became ordinary extraordinarily quickly.
The Braves were only marginally better at home this first season at SunTrust (37-44, .457) than on the road (35-46, .432). They drew only a trace element of inspiration from their new surroundings. As the Braves slid into irrelevance, the buzz around their stadium was downgraded to a low hum.
But so far, it’s the Falcons performance at Mercedes-Benz Stadium has been a real puzzler. Your defending NFC champion has just lost two consecutive home games to the AFC East. It was favored by eight and 12 points respectively in those games. Its record beneath the halo board and the stubborn roof in 2017: 1-2. On the road: 2-0.
There has been no advantage to this home. No reason given for any visitor to fear playing here. Opposing offenses have not gone deaf in Atlanta – underscored by the fact that Jay Cutler has as many victories at Mercedes-Benz Stadium as does Matt Ryan.
The Falcons ran afoul of the NFL by pumping artificial crowd noise into the Georgia Dome. But after moving next door, they have given the real crowd no reason to sustain a decent din since an exciting opener against Green Bay.
This is a warning people. Don’t make them cheat again.
At least the soccer team has established a winning identity at Mercedes-Benz. Atlanta United skipped not a single heartbeat after moving from Bobby Dodd Stadium, going 5-1-1 at the new place. The five wins have been by a combined score of 19-0.
You get a feeling that given the slightly magical run this expansion team is on, it could manage at least a draw playing on a weedy patch alongside the Atlanta BeltLine. Still, it is up to the new team in town, the guys in short pants, to show how you are supposed to transplant a home field advantage into a new stadium.
Otherwise, some impressive new construction has been wasted on some pretty unimpressive performances. We are reminded once again that it is still the game that matters, not the building. The reputation of both SunTrust Field and Mercedes-Benz Stadium ultimately will be determined by the human activity on their green floors. So far, so blah.