Coolray Field
Lawrenceville, Georgia
Year Opened
2009

Current Team
Gwinnett Braves

Affiliate
Atlanta Braves

League
International League

Capacity
10,000

Location Map

My Grades
Stadium B+ Atmosphere C- Concessions A-

Photos taken in 2009
The new Gwinnett Ballpark (now known as Coolray Field), located about 30 miles northeast of Atlanta, represents a lot of what I don't like with where the minor leagues are headed today. It is a great example of how a minor league ballpark is now more of a playground for spoiled suburban kids than it is a place to watch a baseball game. The ballpark itself is fine, but the atmosphere and setting will leave most baseball fans disappointed. Located in Lawrenceville, just a couple miles from the Mall of Georgia, the ballpark was built on a empty plot of land in a booming commercial area. A large parking lot surrounds the park (the team charges $3). Because there is only a single lot where everyone parks, egress after the game can be slow. The exterior of Gwinnett Ballpark is made up of a combination of concrete, brick, and glass. Strangely, the name of the ballpark is nowhere to be found, perhaps because they are awaiting a corporate sponsor (which they got in 2010 with Coolray). Inside the ballpark doesn't vary too much from the standard template. Fans enter onto a wide concourse that overlooks the field, so you walk down to your seat, no matter where it is. A second deck features luxury suites and some group picnic areas. The seating here consists of all blue fold down chairs, just like those found in Turner Field. Sightlines are pretty good as the outfield sections are angled slightly towards the infield and the seating bowl is has a steep pitch to it. A large grassy berm extends from center field all the way to the right field line, providing plenty of space for those spoiled kids to do everything except watch the game. Like most other new parks, the concourse wraps all the way around, though the walkway behind the left field fence is a bit narrow. One strange thing about the concourse is that it seems a bit uneven in places – not sure if this was intentional or if its just poor construction. Concessions are definitely a highlight here. The variety of food options is outstanding and the quality is top notch. Some of the selections include BBQ, brats, Mexican, Chik-Fil-A, and various hot dogs. Prices are a bit on the high side, but that's to be expected in a suburban market. Also, there is “Niekro's Bar” located along the concourse behind home plate which is open to the public. As mentioned earlier, the atmosphere is the part of Gwinnett Ballpark that I disliked the most. Usually triple-A parks do a good job keeping the focus on the game, but not here. To me it felt more like the atmosphere you'd find at a single-A game. Lots of music and sound effects were played and numerous between inning games were contested. These included the eyeball race, musical chairs, and race the mascot. Everything about the atmosphere just felt “done before”, right down to the singing of “Sweet Caroline”. I wish teams would try to come up with their own traditions rather than just copying from everyone else. Gwinnett Ballpark features one of the largest play areas I've ever seen. Along the top of the right field berm, there are about ten inflatables for kids to jump around on. Is this an amusement park or a ballpark ? One other small complaint I have is with the scoreboard. There is no place where the linescore is permanently displayed – this is something that every park really should have. Also, the lack of any auxiliary scoreboards is a glaring omission, but hopefully something that will be corrected in the future. Gwinnett Ballpark is certainly not one of my favorites among new ballparks, mostly because of the atmosphere. It is comfortable enough and I'm sure many locals enjoy it quite a lot, but to me, this isn't what minor league baseball is supposed to feel like.
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