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Big Air is coming to the home of the Braves

September 6, 2019
U.S. Olympic snowboarder Kyle Mack reacts as he is introduced to the crowd before announcing Thursday, Sept. 5, 2019, that SunTrust Park in Atlanta will host a Big Air competition. The high-flying ski and snowboarding event will be held Dec. 20-21 at SunTrust Park, bringing some of the top athletes from the United States and around the world to compete off a 15-story-tall tower that will be built in the center of the 41,000-seat baseball stadium. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
U.S. Olympic snowboarder Kyle Mack reacts as he is introduced to the crowd before announcing Thursday, Sept. 5, 2019, that SunTrust Park in Atlanta will host a Big Air competition. The high-flying ski and snowboarding event will be held Dec. 20-21 at SunTrust Park, bringing some of the top athletes from the United States and around the world to compete off a 15-story-tall tower that will be built in the center of the 41,000-seat baseball stadium. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

ATLANTA (AP) — Big Air is coming to the home of the Braves.

The high-flying ski and snowboarding event will be held Dec. 20-21 at SunTrust Park, bringing some of the top athletes from the United States and around the world to compete off a 15-story-tall tower that will be built in the center of the 41,000-seat baseball stadium.

The Braves joined the U.S. Ski & Snowboard federation in making the announcement Thursday from the plaza beyond the center-field seats, shortly before the start of Atlanta’s game against the Washington Nationals.

It was hardly a winter-like day.

The temperature climbed to 93 degrees.

“Coming to Atlanta, Georgia is a gigantic ski jump,” said Derek Schiller, president and CEO of the Braves. “Where these competitors will take off will be as high as the (center field) video board, if you can believe that.”

Big Air made its Olympic debut at the 2018 Pyeongchang Games with a snowboarding competition. Freestyle skiing will be added for the 2022 Winter Games in Beijing.

This won’t be the first time Big Air has been held in a baseball stadium — Boston’s Fenway Park hosted an event in 2016 — but it will be its debut in the Southeast. Snowmaking could be a bit of a challenge, particularly if the winter temperatures are unseasonably warm.

But the sport is eager to expand its appeal beyond tradition winter venues, picking Atlanta to host an event on the upcoming World Cup schedule.

U.S. Olympians Kyle Mack and Maggie Voisin were on the hand for the announcement. Each was presented with a Braves jersey.

“It’s an amazing opportunity for us to bring our sports and our world-class athletes like Maggie and Kyle to a venue in the Southeast,” said Tiger Shaw, the president of U.S Ski & Snowboard. “I know everyone is wondering how we’re going to get snow into that ballpark this winter. But we will. Somehow we’ll do that. It’s going to be amazing.”

Voisin, who was attending her first baseball game, got a change to go on the field beforehand to watch the Braves take batting practice.

Her thoughts turned to what’s coming in December, when skiers and snowboarders will fly through the air, looking to throw down the best single jump.

“I was just envisioning how the jump would be and the crowd would be,” said Voisin, a two-time Olympian. “It’s going to be an incredible event.”

Mack was a silver medalist at the inaugural Big Air event in Pyeongchang. He looks forward to expanding the sport’s horizons in Atlanta, where officials hope to draw up to 20,000 fans for each of the two days.

“Snowboarding is my passion,” Mack said. “To be able to show what I get to do and what I love to people that don’t get really get to see it every day, is always an honor. It’s something I live for. It’s why I love to do this.”

Schiller said the Braves were eager to bring offseason events to their 3-year-old ballpark, which anchors a development known as the Battery Atlanta that also includes apartments, offices, restaurants and a hotel.

It has already hosted concerts and college football.

Now, it’s Big Air.

“This is a venue that we built to host all kinds of different entertainment activities,” Schiller said. “Of course, our primary business is playing baseball games. But when we’re not playing baseball games during the winter time, we thought, ‘What would be the coolest event that you could possibly host here at SunTrust Park?’ I think this definitely fits the bill.”

The team also had a connection with the Winter Olympic crowd. Mike Plant, who is president of the Braves Development Co. and a prime force behind the building of SunTrust Park, was a speedskater at the 1980 Olympics and is a former president of U.S. Speedskating.

Shaw also noted that Atlanta hosted the Olympics in 1996, though that was the summer variety, of course.

“In a way, we’re bringing the Olympics back to Atlanta,” he said. “There could not be a better city in America to do this. We’re super excited.”

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More AP Olympic coverage: https://www.wintergames.ap.org

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