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Volume 21 No. 1
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Ballpark Village venue will host studio

The Ballpark Village in St. Louis pushes the bar higher for entertainment districts tied to sports facilities, according to project officials.

The project’s first phase, a $100 million development across the street from Busch Stadium, officially opens its doors April 7 for the Cardinals’ home opener. It is a partnership between the Cardinals and The Cordish Cos., the Baltimore developer of entertainment destinations next to arenas and stadiums. It follows the Kansas City Power & Light District and Xfinity Live!, two Cordish-driven developments next to Sprint Center and the South Philadelphia Sports Complex, respectively.

Fox Sports Midwest will produce game-related shows for the Cards and others from the site.
The Cardinals and Cordish advanced the concept by signing a deal with Fox Sports Midwest, the team’s local broadcast rights holder, to build a permanent studio inside a 20,000-square-foot indoor/outdoor entertainment space at the Ballpark Village. The title of that space, Fox Sports Midwest Live!, reflects a long-term naming-rights deal valued at seven figures annually, officials said. The studio’s perch overlooks both the ballpark and the atrium below where most of the venue’s activities will take place.

“It’s a perfect partnership because their studio is in the catbird seat of the district and it will also help drive people down there when they see what that looks and feels like on camera,” Cardinals President Bill DeWitt III said.

The studio component alone marks the first time a regional sports network has made a commitment to produce most pregame and postgame shows for a major league team at a Cordish project, said Chase Martin, the company’s development director for Ballpark Village.

“This is the next evolution for a vision that the Cardinals have had for a long time,” Martin said. “The Fox naming-rights deal provides for multimedia exposure and team affinity on a year-round basis.”

Previously, Fox Sports Midwest sets for Cardinals home games were on the suite level at Busch Stadium. For the team’s road games, the network used a studio at the local PBS affiliate where Fox rents space, network spokesman Geoff Goldman said.

That all changes now when Ballpark Village opens, eight years after the stadium debuted. In addition to the Cardinals, Fox Sports Midwest will use its new studio for programming connected to about 35 St. Louis Blues road games starting next season, Goldman said. Pregame and postgame shows for Blues games will continue to be produced at Scottrade Center.

All told, Fox Sports Midwest will broadcast about 150 Cardinals games plus the Blues games at Ballpark Village as project developers position the complex as the home for St. Louis sports, Martin said.

Developers hope Fox Sports Midwest will become St. Louis sports fans’ home base for away games.
“We’re creating a venue with the pageantry and programming and extending it from the stadium on game days to all the games the network covers,” he said. “It creates a ‘clubhouse opportunity’ for fans that have no real tangible place to go to for road games. It started with Xfinity Live! and Comcast in the first iteration and this takes it another step further, specific to baseball.”

Fox Sports Midwest Live!, the centerpiece of the development, extends to a 200-seat restaurant/bar and can accommodate up to 2,500 for concerts in a stage setup. The digital signs framing the space, including a 40-foot-high Daktronics video screen and LED ribbon boards, bring a piece of the ballpark experience into the facility. It all sits underneath a 100-foot-long, retractable glass roof, another new twist to the Cordish development model.

Entertainment Consulting International, a separate company whose principals include Reed Cordish, a Cordish Cos. vice president, will operate Fox Sports Midwest Live! ECI is charged with booking special events at the venue in addition to the broadcasts tied to Cardinals, Blues and University of Missouri sports carried on the network. To date, there are about 300 events on the books through November 2015, including events tied to the NFL and NHL drafts, Cinco de Mayo, World Cup, St. Patrick’s Day, Movie Mondays and Rally Nights for big Cardinals series.

“The whole idea behind it from a development standpoint is to create activities on non-game days,” DeWitt said. “For 81 days a year, we don’t need to prime that pump. We’re going to have 3 million people down here for Cardinals games. That’s not the issue, [but] it’s all those other days.”

The Ballpark Village’s first phase also covers Cardinals Nation, a building containing a museum, hall of fame and restaurant, and the Budweiser Brewhouse, an eatery themed after the St. Louis-based beermaker.