SBJ/October 3 - 9, 2005/Facilities

Stadiums' overlap builds time pressure into schedule

The St. Louis Cardinals aren’t used to sweating out deadlines, having won four of their last five division titles by double-digit margins. When it comes to their new downtown stadium, though, every moment is precious.

The official party line from the team is that the $346 million facility is on schedule for its slated completion in the spring — except for a section of left-field seating that holds between 2,000 and 3,000 seats. According to the construction schedule laid out in 2003, that area won’t be done until the summer.

An odd juxtaposition, perhaps, but the construction of the new Busch Stadium is itself something of an oddity.

The new ballpark must wait for its predecessor to be demolished before some work can start.
Located in the shadows of current Busch Stadium, the new ballpark must wait for its predecessor to be demolished later this fall for the playing field, much of the outfield seating and, ultimately, the adjacent Ballpark Village development to be constructed.

The Cardinals’ project shares a similarity with the new-ballpark development in Cincinnati, where Great American Ball Park was constructed on part of where the former Cinergy Field stood. In St. Louis, the physical overlap between the two stadiums is even more pronounced, heightening the time pressure and complexity of the project.

“We feel like we’re going to get there, that we’re definitely on track,” said Bill DeWitt III, Cardinals senior vice president of business development. “But we’re going to need some luck along the way over the next six months. We’ve had two good winters [for construction] so far. We’re going to need a third.”

The construction of the new stadium, which will help buttress the Cardinals’ on-field and economic competitiveness, ironically is being held up by the success of the club. Demolition of existing Busch Stadium must wait until after the Cardinals are done playing this season, which could be the final week of October.

When the time comes to tear down the current venue, the means by which it will come down will be different than previously designed. After spending months planning for a demolition, the 39-year-old venue will go down to a wrecking ball instead.

“It’s sort of strange how that ended up,” DeWitt said. “Implosion was just going to take too long at the front end and be a little too tricky given how much else is around the site. And this way, we can do this piecemeal. After a section is cleared out, we can get going on building that area back up while they move on to somewhere else.”

In the meantime, workers are busily finishing out the main seating bowl and upper deck seats along the two baselines. The concourses and luxury seats are still little more than concrete shells. In a matter of weeks, though, interior furnishings and decorations will arrive and begin to provide context and character to the construction.

“Right now, you still need to have a little vision to see what this will become,” said Tony Ponturo, Anheuser-Busch vice president of global media and sports marketing. The company last year extended its long-term partnership with the Cardinals to make the new stadium the third ballpark in St. Louis to bear the name Busch Stadium.

“I think everyone can see this will be an excellent, retro-inspired stadium,” Ponturo said. “We’re very excited.”

Construction on the adjacent Ballpark Village development will not begin in earnest until 2007, and the project won’t show significant completion until 2009. But while other cities with new ballparks waited for years for significant development to arrive, and in some cases are still waiting, the Cardinals are aiming for an accelerated creation of a mature ballpark complex.

“We’re the developer. To us, that makes a huge difference,” said Cardinals President Mark Lamping. “We’re not sitting around, hoping someone eventually decides to take a chance on this area. We’re already working to make that happen.”

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