After spending more than twenty years playing home games in the iconic Turner Field, the Atlanta Braves of Major League Baseball announced they would be transitioning to a new playing facility prior to the 2017 season. The announcement of this move predictably caused a bit of stir amongst legions of Braves fans upset that their team was leaving their longtime downtown home. Understanding this dramatic move would come with an adjustment period, the Braves top brass felt the need to create a fan experience just as powerful as the one found at “The Ted,” Atlanta’s colloquial nickname for Turner Field. Above all else, baseball is a game rooted in tradition, and this fundamental nature of the sport left the Braves facing a unique challenge: How do you embody decades of team history into a facility that is brand new?\
The Braves new home is called SunTrust Park and while the ballpark itself is resplendent, today’s fans require more than just baseball to wrestle them away from their televisions. Following the example of innovative teams like the New England Patriots, the Braves helped facilitate the construction of an entire fan experience village in the shadow of SunTrust Park. This emergent community is called the Battery at SunTrust Park and it bustles with bars, restaurants, apartments, and shopping, along with the regional headquarters for Comcast and a towering Omni Hotel. Despite these countless attractions, the Battery lacked a true focal point. The team wanted to create a brilliant central feature where the team could hold promotions and fans could gather prior to entering the stadium. To cater to younger fans, the team knew they wanted this centerpiece to be made with state-of-the-art digital technology, but they faced multiple challenges on that front. First, the area was completely exposed to the sun, and thus other elements as well. Second, the feature would likely be seen by around 50,000 fans on game days, meaning serviceability and performance were of the utmost priority. Third, the feature had to be consistent with the Braves image and team history. Together these obstacles presented a tall task for the team.
One of the ways the Braves were able to instill some local flavor into their resplendent new fan village was by working closely with Atlanta-area manufacturers. Several of the restaurants in the Battery are new branches of existing city favorites and the entire area is adorned with team colors. Sticking with this strategy, the Braves turned to the LED display providers from Nanolumens to create the Battery’s digital centerpiece. Headquartered in nearby Peachtree Corners, Georgia, Nanolumens has developed a reputation as an industry leader in unique visualization solutions. Together, the Braves and Nanolumens decided to create a 360 degree curved LED display feature in the shape of a baseball and to suspend it high above the crowds so that fans could see it from great distances and navigate their way towards it. Beyond their Atlanta roots, the Braves chose Nanolumens because their technology can be built to any size, shape, or curvature, for both indoor and outdoor use, and it is brighter, lighter, and thinner than the products of their competitors. This flexibility was key to wrapping the baseball-shaped design, while the brightness and outdoor abilities allow the feature to showcase content at any time of day in any weather. Staff can quickly service the display quickly with just a ladder or cherry picker, and Braves fans can see the display from over 100 yards away in every direction.
Suspended 40 feet above an in-ground spray fountain popular with the youngest Braves fans, the Nanolumens display measures 69 feet wide by 7 feet tall and wraps 360 degrees around a metal baseball frame. Built with a 9.5mm pixel pitch, the display runs 24/7 and can shine with up to 7,000 nits of brightness. An internal ambient light sensor adjusts the display’s brightness as the day goes along and content software splits the display into four sections that each display a standard 16:9 aspect ratio video feed. Right beneath “the Baseball,” as it’s come to be known, Fox Sports has secured broadcast rights to host pregame and postgame shows, giving the attraction an even greater local profile. The team uses the display to showcase team-centric images, graphics, and live video footage, while a half-mile long fiber optic cable connects the display to the control room inside the ballpark. In recognition for the tremendous job done by each member of the team, “the Baseball,” was awarded the 2018 Digital Signage Award in the category of Music, Sports & Entertainment at ISE 2018. This installation reinforced the decision by Sports Illustrated to name the Braves among their Top 25 most tech savvy sports teams in 2016.