KENNESAW — While the Atlanta Braves are playing a shortened season without fans in the stands, guests are still flocking to the area surrounding Truist Park.
On Wednesday afternoon, an Atlanta Braves executive delivered the keynote address at the Cobb Chamber’s Northwest Cobb Area Council gathering. Jeremy Strife, the executive vice president for development with the Braves, addressed how The Battery Atlanta, the commercial area surrounding the Braves’ home ballpark, adapted to the 2020 baseball season amid the coronavirus pandemic.
During the lunch meeting at the Governor’s Gun Club in Kennesaw, Strife touted the success of the team on the field before turning his focus to ongoing developments at the Battery in Cumberland. The 2-million-square-foot complex houses office, residential, hotel, retail, dining and entertainment spaces — the type of hospitality facilities the pandemic hit the hardest.
“We’re very proud of the mix that we’ve been able to curate there,” Strife said. “We’re not just a direct landlord. We’re a professional sports team and developer, and we’ve been able to leverage that dynamic background in coping with what we’re dealing with right now.”
Strife said the Battery was setting records for traffic, gross sales and total events before the coronavirus pandemic gripped the nation.
“It was just on an unbelievable trend before March,” he said. “As we saw COVID kind of take over, we had to sit down with a lot of our businesses and understand their unique perspective.”
Strife led a coronavirus task force for the Braves, working with Major League Baseball and Cobb-Douglas Public Health to implement virus mitigation protocols at The Battery Atlanta. The Braves executive said the club negotiated deals with surrounding businesses and kept “every tenant that was intended to be kept.”
Strife said the Battery put safety protocols in place by late April, allowing many businesses in the development to reopen.
“We wanted to be an active partner in really supporting that local business,” he said. “We are here as a legacy investment, 40 years-plus.”
Resurgence at The Battery
This year, as other businesses are closing their doors because of the economic fallout caused by the pandemic, The Battery Atlanta is collaborating with business partners to open 93,000 square feet of “new concepts.”
“Everyone who was supposed to open in ’20 is opening in ’20,” Strife said.
The new businesses that opened or plan to open at the development this year include Silverspot Cinema, Jeni’s Ice Cream, River Street Sweets and more. As businesses are opening, guests are returning.
“If you compare our traffic … between pre-COVID numbers and this last month of July, is down 19%,” he said. “That’s a recovery of being down 86% in the heart of it in April, and our guests have really surged back.”
Strife attributed the resurgence in traffic to virus mitigation guidelines such as mask recommendations and regular cleanings. According to Strife, guests know the Battery is clean and safe.
“People are extending their stay,” he said. “They are coming back more frequently. They are comfortable being on campus, and we are proud to be able to provide a safe and healthy environment for them to enjoy.”
Strife said The Battery Atlanta has seen heavy traffic during Braves games and other events.
One guest at the Cobb Chamber lunch asked Strife how the Battery is marketing itself to guests even while the Braves continue their season without fans. Strife said the campus has to strike the right balance where guests can be safe and enjoy themselves.
“We have to toe that line very carefully of ‘come on out and gather and all this,’ and trying to be as responsible and abide by our guidelines and our self-imposed protocols that we feel right about doing,” he said. “So far, it’s been a fantastic response.”
Guest traffic is already returning to the area surrounding Truist Park, and that traffic may grow exponentially if the Braves allow fans into home games this year, a topic that Strife said “is constantly being discussed.”
“We are hopeful that fans will be possible this year at some point. What form that takes, I wouldn’t even venture a guess,” he said. “But we will be ready.”
Strife called on the Cobb Chamber to voice feedback and let the Braves know how they can innovate at The Battery Atlanta.
“We’re here for you,” he said. “We just hope that you trust us and that you keep coming.”