Special Comment – 06/10/07

It’s been over a year now since the new Busch Stadium was completed. Since then the site where the old stadium previously stood has been neglected to the point where if someone unfamiliar with the situation came to visit from out of town they might think it was ground zero of a terrorist attack.

I’m normally not one to publicly criticize the Cardinals ownership. As far as sports team owners go, we could do a lot worse. This group has an established track record of fielding contending ballclubs year-in, year-out – and I’m grateful for all the aesthetic improvements made to the old stadium in the mid 90s that transformed a ‘cookie-cutter’ stadium into the majestic palace us fans remember so fondly.

Maybe that’s why I’m writing this – because the stadium we were just learning to love was taken from us a mere decade after it had been reborn. Just because some group of filthy rich businessmen gave Anheuser-Busch a pile of cash doesn’t give them the right to go tearing down culturally significant landmarks in our city. The decaying emptiness where old Busch stood for nearly 40 years disrespects the people of St Louis as well as the legacy and spirit of Gussie Busch – a man whose greatness can be measured by the fact that he has a number retired in his honor alongside the likes of Musial and Gibson. Gussie Busch and the people of St Louis built that stadium, and neither Gussie (wherever he may be) nor the citizens of St Louis will forget what the current Cardinals ownership have taken from us.

I’m aware that nothing lasts forever, and that the club was at a financial competitive disadvantage playing in a nearly 40-year-old crumbling concrete bowl while virtually every other club had a shiny new mallpark optimized to suck the maximum revenue out of its fanbase. I’m sure the purists bitched and whined when the club moved from Sportsman’s Park as well. I can live with the team relocating to a new stadium, but I’m not sure it was necessary to demolish one of the finest architectural structures in our city (you need a ballpark site, I can get you a ballpark site – there are ways – you don’t want to know about it, believe me – I can get you a ballpark site by 3-o’clock this afternoon with nail polish), but what’s done is done and no amount of ranting on the Internet is going to bring our stadium back.

Let me say this though: The 2006 World Series title on top of a decade long run of contending teams does not absolve them from these sins. This town had tasted World Series champagne 9 times before this group took over. Consistent winning requires contributions from players, management, ownership, and the fans. Everyone must keep up their end of the bargain or the system breaks down (see: the 1950s, the 1970s, and the early 1990s). The players must win the games. The front office must acquire the right players. We must show up and spend our money. The ownership must keep everyone happy, and they in turn get rewarded with higher revenues. Everybody wins when the team wins. While I’m personally grateful to have ownership that has (up until recently anyway) shown a commitment to winning, all they’re really doing is holding up their end of the bargain. I’ll say it again: The 2006 World Series title on top of a decade long run of contending teams does not absolve them from these sins.

I don’t want to hear another word about additional public funding for Ballpark Village until this ownership group earns back some credibility in this town. They created this mess, now they need to clean it up. At the very least level out the ground, lay down some sod, plant some trees, and leave it as green space until plans for further development can be negotiated. At this point, they’ve blown all credibility on matters pertaining to Ballpark Village. Time and again claims made by the Cardinals PR department about the new stadium and Ballpark Village have turned out to be nothing short of lies.

When Clark Street is “rebuilt” through the site after Busch Stadium comes down, fans and motorists traveling along Clark Street will be able to enjoy unobstructed views into the ballpark, including the playing field itself!
-Official Cardinals Web Site

Actual View:

It doesn’t get any more obstructed than that. I always thought this was a major selling point of the new stadium: that pedestrians walking by could check out an inning or two without paying for a ticket. You can do this at Wrigley, and I believe at other stadiums as well. Unfortunately the owners have opted to install additional rows of seating that make it impossible to see the field from outside the gate.

Every fan who comes to the Ballpark will also enjoy improved concessions, family entertainment options, and restroom conveniences that were impossible to provide in Busch Stadium due to its age and restricted configuration.
-Official Cardinals Web Site

When I go to the concession stand, my primary concern is that I be able follow the game while away from my seat. The old ballpark had TV monitors inside the concession areas that made it easy to follow the game while you waited in line. The new ballpark has the TV monitors outside of the concession stands making it impossible to watch the game once you get within 2 or so people from the front of the line. Also, it’s difficult to watch TV outdoors during the daytime because of the glare. For this reason alone, I view the new stadium concessions as inferior to the old stadium. I hope the ownership remedies this issue at some point in the future.

There are also a number of unique standing room and group gathering areas that will give fans limitless opportunities to roam the Ballpark and take in spectacular views of the action on the field.
-Official Cardinals Web Site

The part about limitless opportunities to view the action on the field is a crock of shit, and the worst part is that the old stadium had exactly what is being described here, with two circular walkways (one on the lower level, and one on the upper deck) that allowed anyone with a ticket to view the field from any angle high or low. The new stadium has no such walkways, nor does it allow anyone without privileged access to take in the view from dead center field. Additionally, the areas behind home plate have been roped off for the elites on every level other than the upper deck.

Behind home plate open access view in the old stadium

Behind home plate open access view in the new stadium

At the old ballpark I could roam anywhere in the stadium with the exception of the club level and the field boxes. In the new ballpark I’m restricted to only the highest and furthest most areas from home plate. It was infinitely easier to roam the ballpark and take in the spectacular views of the action on the field in the old stadium – especially the areas behind home plate.

In summation, they tore down our beloved stadium, didn’t keep their promises about the new stadium, and now they’re leaving a huge gaping eyesore in the heart of our city until John Q Taxpayer finances their next real estate project.

I can only imagine what Gussie Busch would say if he were alive today…

2 Comments for Special Comment – 06/10/07

  1. GINNIE Says:

    I am 82 years old and remember Sportsman’s Park very well. I went to Roosevelt High School, their football team played at the park. I was at the old stadium and I agree with these comments, why did they need to build a new one? Now downtown is ugly with the open space. We don’t need more buildings there, what about the homeless, the handicap kids. St. Louis is not keeping up with the rest of the country. Oh we have plenty of shootings though why not use the money to stop the shootings so people will come here to spend their money.
    A concerned old great grandma

  2. musial6 Says:

    I appreciate your comments Ginnie.

    I think the real problem is greed combined with a lack of leadership. Too many people in power are simply out to enrich themselves financially rather than doing what’s best for society as a whole.

    Why do you think the Occupation in Iraq is still going on? Or the ‘War on Drugs’ that has needlessly destroyed the lives of millions non-violent ‘offenders’ (not to mention their families) while fueling the organized crime machine? It always comes back to greed and lack of leadership from our leaders in both the public and private sectors.

    How bad do things need to get before people wake up and start demanding better?

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