Posted by: stlouisscott | April 9, 2010

Busch Stadium – Baseball heaven in St Louis

Here in St Louis we are blessed to have one of the great sports franchises in the St Louis Cardinals.  In 2006 the Cardinals completed construction on their new home Busch Stadium… or as we like to call it, baseball heaven in St Louis.

Busch Stadium is actually the third stadium to carry the name Busch.  The first stadium was Sportsman’s Park, but was renamed to Busch Stadium after Cardinals team owner, Gussie Busch.  It closed in 1966 and Busch Memorial Stadium was built to house both the baseball Cardinals as well as the National Football League St. Louis Cardinals.  That didn’t work out real well as most football fans know.

The “new” Busch Stadium was opened in April 2006 after a long battle to see it built.  The Cardinals owners started lobbying for a new ballpark in downtown St. Louis in 1995, but funding was inaccessible for several years.  An agreement was reached in 2001 with the State of Missouri, but nearly a year later the funding bill was struck down.  Team owners sought locations away from the downtown area, until the city of St. Louis came up with a financing plan to get the ballpark built in downtown.  Private bonds, bank loans, funding from St. Louis County as well as team owner investments totaling $346 million finally came together and the dream of a new stadium was realized.

The new Busch Stadium was designed by HOK Sport and constructed by Hunt Construction in three major phases:  first was construction of the south side of the new stadium, followed by demolition of the old Busch Memorial Stadium in the winter of 2005, and lastly the construction of the north side of the stadium.  The field and terrace level seats and bleachers were completed in time for opening day with a capacity of over 37,000.  By late May, the seating area construction was completed including party rooms and suites, increasing total stadium capacity to over 46,000.

The new stadium has an open-air design with a panoramic view of the downtown St. Louis skyline, including the Gateway Arch.  The traditional green fences and red seats remain part of the design from the old stadium.  While a new electronic scoreboard is used, the old scoreboard is on display as a monument to the old stadium as well.  Additional homage to the old stadium holds true in the statues of previous Cardinal players appear outside the entrances, including Stan “The Man” Musial.

In the 2006 season, every game was sold out, resulting in 3.4 million attendance for the season, which was the second largest season in team history.  In October 2006, Busch Stadium hosted its first playoff games with the Cardinals defeating the San Diego Padres with three games to one in the series.  The Cardinals went on to win the 2006 National League Championship in seven games.  Busch Stadium hosted its first World Series games against the Detroit Tigers with the Cardinals winning all three games on their home turf, and went on to win their 10th World Series Championship with a win of four games to one.

New Busch Stadium was designed by Populous (then known as HOK Sport) and built by Hunt Construction with an estimated cost of $344.8 million, which proved too low by $20.2 mil. to its final cost of $365 mil.  The field level (16,880 seats), terrace level (9,150), and bleachers (3,661) were completed in time for opening day, with total capacity on that day of 37,962, not including up to 2,751 standing room tickets.

Construction on the seating area was completed in late May increasing the capacity for the May 29, 2006 game vs the Houston Astros with finishing touches performed throughout the year.  Including all 2,886 standing-room-only tickets for the general public and the suites and party rooms, the stadium’s total capacity is 46,861.  Natural grass turf was installed in March 2006.

By virtue of the Cardinals winning the World Series in 2006, New Busch Stadium joined a very short list of ballparks whose occupants won the Series in the ballpark’s inaugural year.  The last previous one had been the original Yankee Stadium, in 1923.  The Cardinals are also the first team to win a World Series at home in the inaugural season of a stadium since the 1912 Boston Red Sox (Fenway Park).  In 2009, the New York Yankees again won a World Series title in their first season at a Yankee Stadium.

The stadium hosted the 2009 Major League Baseball All-Star Game on July 15, 2009.  The American League defeated the National League in that game, 4-3.  Tampa Bay Rays outfielder Carl Crawford won MVP after making a spectacular catch to rob Colorado Rockies outfielder Brad Hawpe of a home run.  President Barack Obama threw out the ceremonial first pitch.

On June 7, 2008, the stadium hosted its first-ever concert, with Dave Matthews Band playing to a crowd of approximately 35,000.

The Eagles and The Dixie Chicks will perform a concert on June 24, 2010

The Gate 3 entrance on the west side of the stadium is most iconic, with a large “bridge” resembling the Eads Bridge arching over the entrance.  Outside this entrance also stands a bronze statue of Cardinals legend Stan “The Man” Musial.  Other Cardinals statues that previously surrounded Busch Memorial Stadium are now displayed at the corner of Clark and Eighth streets, outside the Cardinals’ team store.  The exterior contains historical plaques of Cardinals logos, the STL insignia and a Busch Stadium logo behind home plate.

The planned Ballpark Village residential and entertainment complex was to be built on the site of the former Busch Memorial Stadium across the street from the new ballpark.  Plans have not materialized and the Cardinals in March 2009 decided to temporarily use the land for parking and a softball field.

You might guess that Budweiser holds the beer contract for the stadium as one would expect, but most recently the smaller Saint Louis Brewery has been making inroads, selling Schlafly beer in bottles at a growing number of concession stands.  Tickets for five all-inclusive areas are sold on a single game basis, with amenities running the gamut from the ritzy Champions Club (offering a multiple-course buffet, plasma televisions, a chance to get on television or radio as a broadcast booth is located inside the club, and a full bar) to the more family-oriented Scoreboard Patio (with table seating for four in center field and a more traditional selection of food).  Cardinal management also allows outside food and drink (including soft-sided drink coolers); as a result, it is not uncommon to see vendors selling discounted bags of peanuts and bottles of soda and water, or even scalpers including a box of Cracker Jack with tickets.

One of the more welcome developments in the new stadium is the expansion of the food options.  Of course the standard baseball staples are still around – hot dogs, brats, nachos, pretzels, soda and beer, but you’ll also find garlic fries, St. Louis seasoned fries, chili cheese fries, nachos supreme, stuffed cream cheese nachos, stuffed chicken nachos, margaritas, asian stir fry, BBQ pulled pork sandwiches, turkey legs, grilled chicken sandwiches, cheeseburger sliders, pizza, toasted ravioli, tacos, super burritos, beef or chicken quesadillas, and beef brisket.

The St. Louis Cardinals are greening their operations, from recycling and waste reduction to energy efficiency and the use of recycled materials.

The Cardinals began the “4 A Greener Game Program” at Busch Stadium in the 2008 season in collaboration with StLouisGreen.com and its volunteers. What began as a two month pilot program grew into a volunteer program that spanned the entire 2009 baseball season and averaged 20 volunteers at each game.

Since its inception, the program has diverted over 540 tons of recycling and over 280 tons of yard waste from the stadium trash disposal and local landfills. The program’s success can be partially credited to 550 conveniently placed recycling bins around the stadium, making it easy for fans to recycle when they come to a baseball game. Success is also due in large part to volunteers who collect recyclables during games, and the maintenance staff who separate additional recyclables from the trash after a game.

Here’s a link to the official Busch Stadium webpage on the Cardinals website.

http://stlouis.cardinals.mlb.com/stl/ballpark/index.jsp

Here’s a link to current pricing for a Cardinals game.  If you visit St Louis, a Cardinals game is a must do event.  Kid’s tickets start at $7.

http://stlouis.cardinals.mlb.com/stl/ballpark/seating_pricing.jsp

Here’s a link to everything you’d ever want to know about Busch Stadium… and more.

http://stlouis.cardinals.mlb.com/stl/ballpark/ballpark_guide.jsp

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