For more than 70 years, Florida has been the destination for the Atlanta Braves Spring Training. The new North Port location in Sarasota County gives the team a 30-year lease on a purpose-built facility that mimics its home at Georgia's SunTrust Park. Built on 80 acres of previously vacant land, the new complex was designed by Fawley Bryant Architects (FBA) to create a state-of-the-art, comfortable and fun environment for players, fans and year-round events.
The $140 million complex, named CoolToday Park, centers around a 6,200-seat stadium and a three-story, 55,000 square-foot clubhouse with an athletic training facility and executive offices. FBA selected Rockfon's ceiling systems to meet the desired appearance of a contemporary training facility, the performance requirements of a hot and humid climate, and the high-traffic use of a sports and entertainment venue.
According to FBA's studio leader and project manager, Kirk Bauer, Rockfon provided ceilings for every building on the complex. This includes the clubhouse, locker rooms, major and minor batting areas, concessions, kitchens and in the stadium. He added that Rockfon's associates "were very helpful and responsive" supporting the value engineering efforts to produce an economical option and an optimal experience.
In addition to the price point, Bauer emphasized, "The lack of staining, the smooth white surface, and a single source provider were contributing factors. Moisture and humidity properties were serious considerations."
Rockfon's architectural sales manager, Amy Neumann, IIDA, RID, Allied AIA, CSI, elaborated, "Much of the complex is open to Florida's weather, so the ceilings had to be resistant to prevalent moisture and to prevent sagging, mold and mildew. It also needed to work within the limited budget to present a high-class appearance with minimal maintenance."
She continued, "Our extensive ceiling product offering was exactly what this project needed. We provided the acoustic ceiling tiles for enclosed spaces, metal ceiling panels for weather-sensitive areas, and combined it with our suspension grid and perimeter trim for a complete package."
The updated locker room uses Rockfon Artic acoustic, stone wool, 2-by-2-foot panels in a square tegular narrow edge coupled with a Chicago Metallic 4500 Ultraline 9/16-inch ceiling suspension system. Not only does this showcase an attractive reveal profile and clean, streamlined look, its smooth white surface also reflects 85% of light. Rockfon Infinity Perimeter Trim delivers the neat, professional edge.
Inset within the locker room's stone wool panels are Rockfon Planostile Snap-in metal ceiling panels finished in Satin Silver to accentuate their modern aesthetic and complement the team colors.
The locker room's private changing area also relies on the Rockfon Artic panels paired with Chicago Metallic® 4000 Tempra™ 9/16-inch ceiling suspension system. This same panel and grid pairing was selected for the clubhouse, stadium control room suites, kitchens and press box.
The 360-degree concourse's covered boardwalk encircles the stadium for views of the bullpens and access to multiple concession stands. This large shaded walkway allows for natural breezes, while sheltering guests from rain and sun. Looking up, there are no exposed pipes and wire to see. The plenum is elegantly concealed by a Rockfon Planar Macro and Planar Macroplus linear metal ceiling systems. The aluminum planks are finished in MetalWood Walnut to create the look of a wood ceiling, reminiscent of wooden baseball bats. The metal does not rot or warp, takes minimal maintenance and has been acoustically improved to keep fans focused on the sounds of the game.
In addition to the contemporary aesthetic and performance-driven design, Sarasota County Commission Chair Charles D. Hine noted sustainable attributes, such as reclaimed water, energy-efficient lighting and added, "We are very conscious on the recycling aspect of taking care of our communities."
Supporting these sustainable goals, Rockfon Artic panels are GREENGUARD Gold certified for low emissions, which is recognized by green building guidelines as contributing to healthier indoor environments. Rockfon's metal ceiling systems and natural stone wool panels also are manufactured with recycled content. The metal panels and grid are 100% recyclable at the end of their use on the facility.
The completed Atlanta Braves Training Complex at CoolToday Park officially opened on March 24, 2019 with a sold-out winning game. The grounds offer six full fields, shaded batting cages, more than 60 pitching mounds, a coaches' observation tower and the centerpiece stadium. It hosts more than 8,000 spectators in 6,200 fixed seats and air-conditioned upper level lounges, and on party decks, terraces and at numerous drink rails positioned around the panoramic concourse.
"CoolToday Park will be the trend-setter, the leading example of modern facilities... a showpiece for all of us to be proud of," praised Hine. The facility, he said, is "a baseball factory and it's also a component of the community. ...I think it's a win-win for all."
Construction manager, Tandem Construction, agreed and described it as "a project that is so much more than just a baseball stadium; it is a gathering place for community members and travelers alike to enjoy the Florida sunshine in a safe and gorgeous environment."
The complex is envisioned to become the heart of a planned "town center" commercial and residential district with year-round events including concerts and farmers' markets and extended spring training for minor league teams, Gulf Coast League and Fall Instructional League.