SBJ/April 17 - 23, 2006/This Weeks News

Another round of Busch for St. Louis

Major League Baseball’s latest and greatest knothole gang stretched along an iron fence at St. Louis’ Busch Stadium, from left-center field on Clark Street to straightaway center, around the corner on Broadway. Dozens of crimson-clad fans peered through the fence last Monday, wondering how it would feel to be among the 41,936 paying customers inside the Redbirds’ new $365 million ballpark for the home opener.

The new $365 million home of the Cardinals is
already close to sold out for the season.
Should those die-hards find their way into the building, already close to sold out for the season, they’ll experience a ballpark that’s a far cry from old Busch Stadium, among the last of the multipurpose cookie-cutter outdoor facilities to fall to the wrecking ball.

They’ll also be pleased to discover, especially if they settle into the upper deck down the third-base line, new Busch’s grand view of downtown and the Gateway Arch. The perch provided a Kodak moment last Monday for many shutterbugs, something missing for the past 40 seasons at old Busch, a circular structure where the concrete arches overhead kept a lid on the St. Louis skyline and prevented baseball fans from enjoying one of America’s most recognizable monuments.

Everything inside the new Busch, including the scoreboard, was designed and positioned to provide a clear view into the heart of a city where baseball rules, said Bill DeWitt III, Cardinals senior vice president for business development and the son of team chairman and general partner Bill DeWitt Jr.

“In the past, our ballpark never really felt like it was part of downtown, it was simply just located downtown,” said Mark Lamping, Cardinals president.

The Cardinals looked to PNC Park in Pittsburgh and AT&T Park in San Francisco and their travelogue shots of the Allegheny River and Pacific Ocean for inspiration to develop a postcard look for their ballpark. Building a sunken bowl was a nod to Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia.

Seats on the left-field line provide the best view of
St. Louis’ famous Gateway Arch. The old stadium’s
design kept a lid on the view.
“We wanted the best possible vista for fans,” the elder DeWitt said. “It makes you realize where you are and not just in another ballpark.”

Ballpark designer HOK incorporated traditional brick arch and charcoal steel design elements from three St. Louis landmarks, including the 116-year-old Wainwright Building, a Louis Sullivan design and considered to be America’s first skyscraper.

Busch Stadium’s uniqueness extends to the 61 suites stacked right above the lower bowl in the ballpark on two levels between first base and third base, 32 rows from the field. It’s the first MLB facility to have all skyboxes framed within the infield, said Earl Santee, HOK Sport’s senior principal. Santee worked with HOK colleague Jim Chibnall, Busch Stadium’s senior project designer and a St. Louis native and lifelong Cardinals fan, to plan the building.

“The suite market is starting to dry up, and it’s tough to sell suites down the foul lines, especially when it comes to renewal time,” Santee said. “Ten years ago, this ballpark would have had more suites.”

It took only about a year for the team’s marketing staff to sell all of the suites, all on 10-year contracts. The Cardinals opted to sell strictly long-term deals to secure a AAA rating for the $200.5 million in bonds sold to help finance construction.

“There’s nothing that says you can’t create a staggered renewal process,” Lamping said. The Cardinals could start renewing suites in five years, he said.

One seating product new to Cardinals fans is the Redbird Club, the 3,040 seats on the ballpark’s third level attached to a 25,384-square-foot lounge wrapping around the infield. Tickets cost $46 to $48 and Delaware North Sportservice can whip you up a fresh spinach and artichoke wood-fired pizza, the only place in the stadium where pizza is served, said Rolf Baumann, the concessionaire’s corporate chef. Food and drink is an additional cost.

“People will really see the full benefit of this club in June, July and August when it really gets hot here in St. Louis,” said Joe Strohm, Cardinals vice president of ticket sales.

A shop on the lower concourse offers a mascot
version of the Build-a-Bear Workshop.
Anheuser-Busch, the team’s No. 1 sponsor, acquired naming rights to the ballpark, then took a step beyond its usual conservative approach to title sponsorship by installing a Bud Light sign on the back of the scoreboard facing Broadway. It marks the first time the brewer has advertised on the facing of a Cardinals ballpark, this being the third in town known as Busch Stadium in the past 53 years.

Bank of America bought naming rights to an all-inclusive indoor/outdoor club along the third-base line on the ballpark’s third level, near the Redbird Club. Tickets are $90 to $110 depending on the game and cover food and drink and the club is targeted to the single-game ticket holder who desires a club-style experience in air-conditioned comfort, DeWitt III said.

Building a branded club on the mezzanine level is unusual, Santee said.

Batting cages keep fans swinging at the U.S. Cellular
Family Pavilion; space and comfort in a luxury suite;
the Ford Plaza beyond center field welcomes
fans to the ballpark.
DeWitt III said, “There was a spot for it because of the way the bowl was splitting from home plate seating to the pavilion area in left field.”

Coke bought a significant amount of center-field real estate to develop the Coca-Cola Scoreboard Patio and Coca-Cola Rooftop Deck, two all-inclusive areas, which showcase its product lines. Coke reserves the rooftop deck for about 30 games to entertain employees. The four-tiered scoreboard patio contains 240 seats, and the $80 to $100 tickets include a picnic-style buffet and beer (Bud and Bud Light, of course).

Scoreboard patio ticket holders sit directly in the sun and dine on stainless-steel tables during day games, which could get uncomfortable in the summer. The temperature reached 74 for the opening game, and many of patrons in the area appeared to have escaped for cooler climes one floor below at the field-level U.S. Cellular Family Pavilion, the obligatory kids interactive zone that features more table space and an outfielder’s view of the game.

“The Coke areas will be hot. … That being said, we had similar areas in the old ballpark that were directly in the sun and received very few complaints,” Strohm said.

The children’s play area is situated off Ford Plaza, a big open space behind center field designed for pregame entertainment and to display the sponsor’s latest vehicles. The plaza features baseball diamond-shaped brick artwork and allows fans to get out of the main bowl and stretch their legs.

Fans without tickets still have a view through
a fence beyond the outfield.
The Cardinal Club satisfies the well-heeled fan who desires a fine dining experience in a formal atmosphere. The 14,300-square-foot restaurant serves the 666 people sitting in the ballpark’s most expensive seats directly behind home plate, priced up to $180, not including dinner, and distinguished by their green color among a sea of red chairs.

Casino Queen, a local gaming riverboat, and Best Buy, the electronics superstore, sponsor themed areas in the left-field portion that remain under construction because that portion of the park overlapped the site of the old Busch Stadium, whose demolition delayed the work.

The Blackjack Bar, a casual dining space in back of the Casino Queen Party Porch, was originally planned as a “white tablecloth” establishment, but the Cardinals changed their mind after team officials and HOK discussed the idea at length, Santee said.

“Stadium clubs [premium restaurants] are the most expensive areas to build out, and teams don’t get the value in return,” he said.

Eight years ago, HOK Sport told the Cardinals that they needed to look no further than the parking lot across from their existing ballpark to build their facility, and they could use the old site to develop 10 to 12 acres of retail, entertainment and residential elements.

The Cardinals hired The Cordish Co. to develop what the team is calling the Ballpark Village, and the master plan includes two 25-story residential towers looking down on Busch Stadium, DeWitt III said.

DeWitt Jr. said, “It gives us a great and unique opportunity to have that kind of game-day experience that you have in other parks like Camden Yards, Wrigley and Fenway.”


Busch Stadium

City: St. Louis
Tenant: St. Louis Cardinals
Owner: St. Louis Cardinals
Operator: St. Louis Cardinals
Project manager: John Loyd
Architect: HOK Sport
Construction manager: Hunt Construction
Projected cost: $365 million
Funding: $200.5 million in bonds; $111.5 in equity, including $41 million in upfront seat deposits, from Cardinals Ballpark LLC; $45 million loan from St. Louis County; and $8.5 million in construction period interest
Suites: 61
Club seats: 3,706
Naming rights: Anheuser-Busch
Pouring rights: Coca-Cola
Other primary sponsors: Ford, Bank of America, U.S. Cellular, AT&T, Casino Queen, Best Buy, American Airlines, ConocoPhillips
Food and retail concessionaire: Delaware North Cos. Sportservice
Scoreboard provider: Daktronics
Seat provider: American Seating Co.

A tale of two Busches

New ballpark Old ballpark
Opened 2006 1966
Seats 39,748* 50,345
Bleacher capacity 3,661 2,235
Party rooms 42 29
Square footage 1.5 million 900,000
Construction cost $365 million $28 million
Public elevators 13 2
Public escalators 9 0
Public restrooms 77 54

* Capacity before July 2. Increases to 43,975 after that date.
Source: St. Louis Cardinals

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