Joshua Stewart | Words
Jess Hunt-Ralston | Photos
This summer is a history-making one for baseball in Atlanta.
It’s the last of the hometown Braves’ two-decade run in Turner Field. By next season, the team will have moved a few miles north to Cobb County, where a flock of construction cranes is helping draw a new 41,000-seat stadium and entertainment complex out of the ground near the junction of Interstates 75 and 285.
Some School of Civil and Environmental Engineering alumni have had a direct hand in the new legacy under construction on what was more than 60 acres of mostly empty land.
Adam Karabenli and Kyle Manweiler are engineers with structural engineering firm Walter P Moore. Adam Cobb is the project manager overseeing the ballpark’s interiors for American Builders 2017, the joint venture of four general contractors that’s putting the stadium together.
They offered us a sneak peek at what will be christened SunTrust Park in spring 2017 and told us about the work they’ve been doing to make a new icon of baseball in the Deep South.
A view of the under-construction new baseball stadium for the Atlanta Braves as seen from the upper level concourse behind home plate. The steel in the middle of the “field” will become part of the sun shade around the top of the ballpark.
Thrown into the deep end
Karabenli and Manweiler earned their bachelor’s degrees in 2013 and master’s degrees a year later. It wasn’t long into their careers when they were assigned to work on some of the ballpark’s most recognizable features.
In Karabenli’s case, that was the four outfield light towers. Those designs were his first project right out of Georgia Tech. For Manweiler, it was the main scoreboard looming over center field.
“I started in June, and then within that first month, they put me on that. It was the very first thing I did out of school,” he said. “That’s what Georgia Tech does: you hit the ground running.”
Running is what these three have been doing for the last couple of years as they worked to design and assemble a baseball stadium more quickly than has ever been done in the United States.
Keeping everything on track means Karabenli and Cobb, who earned his building construction degree in 2007, work together on-site almost every day.
“I’ve been out here full-time every single day working with American Builders 2017. If they have any questions, I’ve been answering questions on the spot so that we can cut down on the communication gap with them trying to call me or email me,” Karabenli said. “They can come ask me questions in person, and I can help them accomplish things.”
“That’s great for this project. It’s needed for this project,” Cobb said. “That’s not something you get to have on every construction project, to have the design team, like these two guys, at your disposal.”
Top: Kyle Manweiler, BSCE 2013, MSCE 2014, stands in front of the SunTrust Park scoreboard he helped design. It was the first project Manweiler tackled when he joined Walter P Moore as a structural engineer after graduation. Bottom: Adam Cobb, BSBC 2007, serves as a project manager on the ballpark with American Builders 2017. He’s responsible for the interiors in the new stadium. Cobb works for New South Construction, one of the four general contractors that make up the American Builders 2017 joint venture. Right: Adam Karabenli’s first big project out of graduate school was designing the outfield light towers for the stadium. Karabenli, BSCE 2013, MSCE 2014, stands in the middle of the under-construction park with the towers in the background on a recent afternoon. He is a graduate engineer with Walter P Moore.
It’s not lost on the group that they’re involved in shaping Atlanta’s history, an opportunity not often afforded to people who are all on the early side of their careers.
Cobb said his Georgia Tech education has gone a long way.
“To be as young as we are, in an environment like this, full of more senior people, more experienced people, they see us carrying ourselves well, speaking the vocabulary, and [they] understand that we have that education behind us,” Cobb said. “It comes with a brand recognition.”
“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Manweiler said.
“Something that’ll impact the city, something big? That’s why I got into structural engineering.”
“Every single day — you can ask anybody out here — you’re dealing with at least 10 challenges, maybe 20 some days. Not bad things, but just stuff you have to overcome in order to keep progress rolling,” Karabenli said. “That’s something that Georgia Tech taught [me to be able to do].”
Our tour group stands near where home plate eventually will be in SunTrust Park. Georgia Tech alumni Adam Cobb, Adam Karabenli and Kyle Manweiler are among the leaders on the project.
So will the next project be a letdown after years of working on a signature, high-profile job like this one?
“It just makes the next one easier,” Cobb said. “If we can handle this, we can handle a lot. That’s what I look forward to: the stepping stone this creates for us.”