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Official Review by Conrad Klank, Stadium Journey Special Correspondent
The BB&T Atlanta Open is one of 41 ATP World Tour Level 250 Men’s Professional Tennis Tournaments. Held in mid-July, it is the first stop on the American hard court swing for the men’s ATP Tour. It’s also the first event on the Emirates Airlines US Open Series (EAUSOS) calendar leading up to the US Open in New York City in September.
Though the tournament has long roots in the city of Atlanta, it’s only been played in its current condition since 2010 when the tournament was purchased by the USTA Southern from Indianapolis, where the failing RCA Championships tournament was held for a number of years.
Since the start of the BB&T Atlanta Open in 2010, the tournament has been held at three different locations including The Racquet Club of the South, The Atlanta Athletic Club, and now, where the tournament is guaranteed to be held at least until 2016, Atlantic Station.
Atlantic Station is an outdoor entertainment district chock-full of great shopping, bars, restaurants, and activities for all ages. The tournament facilities have been uniquely nestled right above the parking garages next to the shopping areas.
The facility includes a total of six Deco-Turf hard courts, three of which are official match courts, and the other three are used for practice. Stadium Court is the largest and typically features the highest ranked players; it holds a total of 3,728, including 10 hospitality suites.
The other two match courts: The AJC Grandstand Court, and Court 1, have a nice bank of bleacher seating and have a much cozier, up-close feel. Tickets purchased for the tournament ensure a seat in Stadium Court, and all other areas of the tournament, which are general admission, first come, and first served.
The FANFARE scale is our metric device for rating each stadium experience. It covers the following:
Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
One of the unique things about going to tennis tournaments is the food court that is created. Instead of being forced to risk getting food all over your shirt in the seats, you have the option at tennis tournaments to enjoy your food without missing any of the action on the big video board provided. This option is no different in Atlanta as there is a wonderful little food court available with some great culinary options.
Let's start with the drinks, as with all of the tournament stops on the ATP World Tour calendar, it's ensured that you will have the choice to enjoy a Corona or Modelo product, as they are the official beer partners of the ATP Tour.
The beauty of it though, is the amount of perks that come with it: the delightful signature Corona beach house bar, the number of Corona beer carts and stands, the Corona Adirondack chairs and misting stations, and the Corona corn hole and table tennis areas. Corona surely goes all out to make it a great overall experience. A refreshing can of Corona or Modelo with lime is $5, Clos du Bois wine by the glass for $7.50, Coke products and water are available for $3, and if you're really looking to have fun, the Svedka bar serves vodka drinks that come in small buckets (see pictures) for $12 and come with a spin on their prize wheel. This is my recommendation, but pace yourself as it gets hot and one or two can catch up to you quickly. Cheers!
Once you've found a drink that tickles your fancy, make your way over to the concession stand, which offers a great variety for most any taste or diet. Warning: This is not your typical stadium concession. Options include a shrimp po-boy basket, chicken Caésar salad wrap, smoked chicken salad wrap, smoked turkey club sandwich, BBQ pulled pork/chicken sandwich, chicken tender basket, BBQ pork nachos, and of course what would a concession stand be without a hot dog, cheeseburger, and French fries?
Each of the dishes mentioned come as a combo including a side of fries or chips, and a signature southern sweet tea ranging from $10-$12. Additionally, the concession stand offers a very unique dessert, the homemade chocolate peanut butter trifle ($5) which is to die for.
While there may only be a handful of bars and one concession stand on site, there are plenty of quality options to keep you satisfied even if you attend the tournament on numerous days.
The BB&T Atlanta Open may be a young tournament at a fairly new location, but they have done a fantastic job creating a fun and exciting tennis atmosphere. The buildings all around Atlantic Station have banners, signs, and images of players to really create that excitement when approaching the tournament site, as well as once you are inside the grounds.
Additionally, the sponsors have done a fantastic job in aiding to the overall atmosphere, namely Corona, Lexus, and the USTA Southern with their displays and activities including miniature court tennis for kids and "big" kids, video games, photo booth, and prize giveaways. No matter what your age, you'll surely leave with a few goodies to add to your collection.
Generally, when considering where to sit within a tennis stadium, I always recommend corner seating, if it fits in your budget of course. There's nothing worse than a long day of moving your head back and forth tracking the ball if you're seated at center court. I also think that for pure tennis fans and critics, that seating behind the baseline, also considered end zone seating, is one of the best places to really see points develop and learn about the movement of players and shot placement.
Before purchasing tickets you should consult the stadium seating map. My recommendation is to sit in one of the sections between 108-112 as those sections are in the northeast corner, and not only have the best view of the court, but also of the Atlanta skyline in the background.
Keep in mind that your ticket to Stadium Court also entitles you to access all other courts of the tournament including the practice courts which are on the other side of Atlantic Station, see the site map for more details.
Generally, the seats are comfortable, until the finals weekend approaches and the stands become more crowded which make the seats feel tighter. The majority of the stadium seats are bleachers with built in seat backs, which do provide some amount of reserved real estate, but they still get a little squished when the crowds pack in.
The first two rows from the court are the Lexus Inner Circle seats, which are padded and are the most expensive seats besides the suites. These seats also entitle you access to the exclusive Lexus VIP lounge which is a great amenity, especially on hot or rainy days or when you just need to get away from the action for a few minutes.
One of the fantastic things about the tournament being located in an outdoor restaurant and shopping district is the proximity to entertainment outside of the sporting event itself. Fans, players, and tournament and tour representatives all seem to agree that time spent outside of the tournament is well spent around Atlantic Station.
Be sure to visit either Yard House or Rosa Mexicano for dinner and drinks after the matches. The best place to stay is the Twelve Hotel located within walking distance of Atlantic Station. All walking around Atlantic Station is very safe and secure.
Within a short drive or MARTA train ride you can visit the World of Coca-Cola, attend an Atlanta Braves baseball game at Turner Field, or visit the beautiful Centennial Olympic Park, the site of the 1996 Atlanta Summer Olympic Games.
While the general sports fans of Atlanta get a lot of criticism for not being as loyal or diehard as other large market sports cities, it couldn't be more opposite when it comes to tennis. The tennis community in Atlanta loves this sport and it shows with the fan turnout. The United States Tennis Association has reported that over a quarter of all of their membership is based in the USTA Southern region. That stat makes it very clear why the tournament is able to receive the amount of support that it does.
International players beware, as it can be very hard to play against one of the many Americans in the tournament each year with the amount of fan following that they receive. Just look at who's won the championship in each of the first four years, all Americans!
Atlanta tennis fans are a very knowledgeable, friendly, and welcoming group of people who unconditionally love tennis. I was even lucky enough to be a part of the wave during my visit in 2013!
Overall, The BB&T Atlanta Open tournament has pretty good access, but not without a few abstract speed bumps along the way. The first being traffic, as at any time of the day it seems to be an issue around downtown Atlanta. It is smart to factor in some extra time when traveling to the tournament by car. The tournament is located right off of I-75/I-85, and parking is just a couple of blocks off of the exit. Signs will direct you to your designated lot, but it may be wise to familiarize yourself with the tournament directions and parking map ahead of time.
If traveling to Atlanta by air, you will want to plan your trip through Hartsfield-Jackson Airport, which is one of the largest in the world.
Another great mode of transportation option to get to the tournament is MARTA, the public transit system of Atlanta. Depending on where you are coming from, transfer to either the Red or Yellow line, exit at the "Arts Center" stop, and board the tournament shuttle which takes you directly to Atlantic Station. While there is a cost to MARTA and the shuttle, it may be well worth it when compared to gas prices and the traffic situation. Be sure to consult the MARTA Map.
Once you have arrived at Atlantic Station you will find the grounds to be very pleasant and easily accessible. Restrooms are located on the west side of Stadium Court in temporary buildings and as expected get very crowded between matches, so it is recommended to visit them on changeovers before the matches are over if your bladder permits. The tournament is handicap accessible, with the designated elevator and seating located at the top of the west stands.
When taking everything into consideration, this tournament ensures fans a great bang for their buck. Bearing in mind that the tournament annually plays host to multiple top 30 players in the world, and that the prices for this experience are relatively low in all categories (tickets, concessions, souvenirs, and parking). While tickets do have a very wide range in pricing, it is possible to get in the gates for under $10 during certain sessions. As with all tournaments, the prices gradually increase as the tournament continues on towards the championships. Tickets can be purchased online ahead of time, or on the day of at the box office.
The BB&T Atlanta Open definitely deserves a few extra credit points. Certainly the most important extra point is given due to the fantastic location at Atlantic Station. Not enough praise can be given for the great setting that the area provides for the tournament.
Other extraordinary aspects of the tournament include outstanding customer service by representatives located around the grounds, tremendous sightlines, and the wonderful stadium, as most tournaments at this level aren't nearly as nice.
While the BB&T Atlanta Open may not be an international tennis destination such as the Grand Slams, it's without a doubt a wonderful little tennis getaway with brilliant on-court action, tasty food and drinks, a relaxed but exciting atmosphere, with a ton of friendly and welcoming people.
Top 5 things to make sure you do while at The BB&T Atlanta Open at Atlantic Station:
• Visit the exhibits around Atlantic Station including the USTA Family Zone
• Go to the top of the stands to get the best views of the stadium court and the city in the backdrop
• Get autographs after the matches and at the practice courts
• Watch a match in each stadium court for a different atmosphere
• Shop the boutiques before entering the tournament site
Things to keep in mind when attending The BB&T Atlanta Open:
• Be sure to pack a small bag to take into the tournament to store your extra-long sleeves, sunscreen (aerosol sunscreen cans are prohibited), and hat since the weather varies (small bags are allowed in the tournament after a brief inspection, of course)
• Bring a camera and autograph pen (necessities when your favorite player is on the practice courts)
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261 19th St NW
Atlanta, GA 30363