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Saturday September 23rd, 2017 1:26AM

Chilling: Braves' refrigerated cup holders help battle heat

By The Associated Press

ATLANTA (AP) — On a sweltering 90-plus degree summer day at the Braves' new ballpark, the Irvine siblings were armed with one option to battle the sun and unrelenting heat while sitting in the seats behind the right field wall: refrigerated cup holders.

"This is the way a game should be" enjoyed, said Olivia Irvine, who usually sits on the third base line. "The 'Koozies' are great too."

The "Koozies," as Oliva referred called them, are actually refrigerated cup holders that keep drinks chilled at 30 degrees. It's one of the popular new additions at four-month-old SunTrust Park.

Her brother Xavier also appreciated the ability to chill his beverage.

"Every now and then I just touch it, because it's super cold," he said.

The refrigerated cup holders are part of the expanded Chop House, formerly a restaurant at Turner Field and now a three-story venue that includes bars, restaurants and a bundle of connected seats where the Irvine siblings sat.

The Braves have basically threw in the towel on playoff run this season, but say ticket sales are expected to be up 500,000 from last season; the Chop House is sold out to season ticketholders.

Xavier Irvine said the tickets were a gift and that he attended the game more out of curiosity about SunTrust Park. But he said afterward that because of the experience, he plans to return.

"We were sitting here for less than five minutes I was like, 'Yeah, I'm coming back,'" he said.

That's what the Braves, and other professional leagues, like to hear as they try to enhance the in-game experience for fans.

The refrigerated cup holds just add to that enticement. Braves president of business Derek Schilling said the Chop House was already a success before the team moved into its new digs.

"One of the things we did early on knowing we were going to have this as one of the design element and prerequisite of SunTrust Park's design, is we wanted it all the way butted up against the outfield wall, so you could stand here and theoretically catch a home run ball."

It worked out for Chad and Candra Huckaby.

Chad corralled a long ball last month from the first row of seats with refrigerated cup holds. The couple made a pit stop to see a Braves game during a road trip from Nacogdoches, Texas to Orlando, Florida. The couple, who spent part of their honeymoon two years ago attending a Braves game at Turner Field, gave the seats a rave review.

"This is way better," Chad Huckaby said.

Sections of the Chop House can be rented out to groups. The lower deck is located behind a chain-linked fence at the right field wall.

"When you build a ballpark you try to create gathering spaces," Schilling said. "So having a gathering space at Turner Field that was already popular and had a known entity behind it, we really said 'well let's take that and amp it up more, let's make it even better.'"

The idea for refrigerated cup holders originated early in the stadium building process when brewing company MillerCoors, a sponsor, pitched it to the Braves.

"They said 'we think we may have found an ability to chill a beer while you're sitting there in the Chop House,'" Schilling said. "We were of course very curious and inquisitive."

The name Chop House is linked to the team's tomahawk chop, which is believed to have been introduced to Braves fans by former two-sport athlete Deion Sanders, a center fielder for Atlanta from 1991-1994. During a 1991 spring training game, he made the motion during an at-bat, which drew cheers from Florida State fans in the crowd. Sanders played football and baseball at Florida State, where the "tomahawk chop" has long been a fan tradition.

If an "A-List Member" season ticketholder decides to exchange their ticket, the Chop House seats with the refrigerated cup holders are priced between $32 and $65.

On a hot, humid Atlanta day, fans seem to think they're worth the money.

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