COBB COUNTY, Ga. - It's opening day at SunTrust Park in Cobb County and the Atlanta Braves' new stadium is ready for its first real unveiling.
A sellout crowd will be watching when the Braves finally play their first regular-season game against San Diego on Friday night.
"It'll be fun," said catcher Tyler Flowers. "The city is excited. Of course we're excited. I think everyone is anxious to see the new stadium. We're excited to play in it."
HELPFUL TIPS BEFORE HEADING TO THE GAME:
- Game time is 7:35 p.m., gates will open three hours early at 4:30 p.m.
- Fans are being asked to be in their seats by 6:30 p.m.
- Ticket windows opened at 9:30 a.m. Friday for fans to pick up pre-purchased tickets
- Braves legend Hank Aaron will throw out first pitch
- Plan ahead: Parking passes must be purchased before the game
It will be the first real test of the suburban park's ability to accommodate Atlanta's traffic. The issue was complicated by a fire under an overpass that has shut down a section of I-85 for several weeks.
After only 20 years at Turner Field, originally built for the 1996 Olympics, the Braves moved north to Cobb County. A large complex around the stadium will include a hotel, apartments, restaurants, concert venue, office buildings and other businesses.
Commissioner Rob Manfred, who plans to attend Friday night's game, said the development is a game-changer for baseball.
"There has never been something this massive around a baseball stadium and it's really an amazing accomplishment," Manfred said last month.
The Braves see the complex as a place fans can be entertained before and after games. There will be staggered openings of businesses the remainder of the year.
The park handled its first test when many fans arrived early for an exhibition against the New York Yankees two weeks ago, but only season-ticket holders were invited. On Friday night, an expected crowd of 41,000 will double the demands on access and parking.
The Braves are asking fans to arrive early and say parking at lots controlled by the team must be purchased in advance at www.Braves.com/parking.
Braves management tried to fortify a rebuilding team for the first season in the new park by adding Matt Kemp and Brandon Phillips to the lineup and veteran Bartolo Colon, R.A. Dickey and Jaime Garcia to the rotation.
A strong finish to the 2016 season could not lift the Braves out of last place, but it bolstered hopes the 2017 team would be more competitive even as most of the top pitching prospects are still in the minors.
Atlanta is only 2-6 and again last in the NL East after beating Miami 5-4 on Wednesday night to end a five-game losing streak. Staff ace Julio Teheran will face Padres right-hander Jhoulys Chacin in the opening game of the four-game series.
"It's going to be fun," said Ender Inciarte, who hit two home runs in Wednesday night's win. "The fans are anxious to see what the new ballpark is going to look like. We are anxious to start playing games at home. It's a beautiful ballpark. Hopefully it's going to be a positive ballpark for us."
The Associated Press contributed to this article.