For the next few weeks, I’m going to try out some of the haunted houses and corn mazes vying for our time and attention this time of year. My first stop was Stadium of Screams, the new haunt at Gwinnett Braves Stadium in Lawrenceville.
It’s the first year for this attraction, developed by Spooky Shead Productions to fit into the underbelly of the new stadium. Here’ s a story and fun photos from the Gwinnett Daily Post about Stadium of Screams’ opening night.
Here’s what you should know before you go:
How it came to be: Alex Shead had a serious reputation for Halloween celebration. Since 1994, his home had become a haunted house, one that sometimes drew thousands of people and required a security guard, he said. (This is the first year that Shead’s daughters haven’t had a haunted house in their home.) When the Gwinnett Braves approached him to make some kind of Halloween activity in the stadium, the idea for a haunted stadium grew and grew — and eventually became the reality.
What you’ll get: Stadium of Screams can be as sweet or as scary as you want it to be.
On the non-spooky side: You run into the not-so-spooky side as soon as you set foot inside the stadium. The activities are in the open air, so make sure to dress appropriately, and be prepared to buy some hot chocolate. The games and activities were more than enough to keep kids — 8 and younger, I’d say — amused for a few hours. Chopper is great, “Thriller” dancers got a lot of attention and all the princesses, zombies and witches wandering around set the Halloween mood. “Monster House” turned on the scoreboard screen at 7:30 p.m., and while it was fine to have on in the background, it seemed too cold to sit still to watch. On the night I visited, it was busy, but not crowded. I suspect it will be much busier as we come closer to Halloween.
On the spooky side: Even on a chilly night last week, there was a line when the haunts opened at 7:30 p.m. A short wait isn’t bad for a haunted house. It’s like waiting for a roller coaster — anticipation only makes it more exciting. Visitors looked like parents with tweens and and packs of high school students. We were led down an elevator, through a corridor with a few surprises, then back outside to regain entry to the guts of the stadium. You can make it through these haunts in about 20 minutes if you’re moving at a skitterish pace, but it offers a lot of experiences — characters surprises, trap doors, gross-out realizations, confusing mazes. It got some laughs, too, when we made our way through a hallway strewn with size 100 tighty-whiteys. There’s not a clear narrative, but more a collection of actors in scare mode and recurring themes involving hospitals and horror movie-style insanity.
Best: This haunt does a great job of controlling visitors’ personal space. Organizers understand how scary it is to be forced into moving, even when you’re not sure where you’re headed, or what awaits you. A booby-trapped maze works well here and black, shape-shifting tunnels last just long enough to make everyone nervous, but not so long to make anyone rush from the emergency exits.
Worst: This haunt is limited by its own rookie status in the park. Organizers predict that it will be busier as Halloween gets closer. I hope that’s true, and that they’ll be back next year when they’re more familiar with the space. I think there are more nooks and crannies that can work to their advantage, and make it a longer haunt.
Would I go again? I wholeheartedly recommend the not-so-spooky activities for families that live nearby and want some less-than-terrifying Halloween activities. For those that live away from Gwinnett County, I wouldn’t spend hours on the road to get there — unless the kids are baseball fans who just want to see the stadium during the off-season.
For the spooky side, the $20 pricetag seems high. It’s a good haunt, but it’s a relative unknown. Admission includes a movie, but by 9 p.m., it seemed too cold to watch comfortably. The much-lauded Netherworld, down Interstate 85 in Norcross, also costs $20, plus $5 for parking. Stadium of Screams is a different type of experience — less intense, shorter wait, free parking, fun stadium locale — but if people can choose only one at the $20 price point, I suspect they’ll go with the known attraction. Still, I’d suggest this haunt first for families just venturing into the haunted house scene, especially if they’re trying to amuse younger and older kids; teens with a curfews; adults looking for a easy, fun night out with low risk of nightmares.
Want to go? Stadium of Screams, 7 p.m.-midnight Thursday-Sunday through Nov. 1. $20 for Corridor of Horror, Tunnel of Terror and movie, $13 for family fun area and movie, $35 for front-of-the-line access to all attractions, twice. Gwinnett Braves Stadium, 2500 Buford Dr., Lawrenceville. 770-995-6285, www.stadiumofscreams.com.