Click HERE for venue profile for the old Busch Stadium
Back in summer of 2005, we made a final trek to the old Busch Stadium in downtown St. Louis, a
chance to say goodbye, to pause and reflect one last time on the magical and special moments that
happened in that venue, to soak in and share with the best fans in baseball all the aura and mystique
of their storied franchise, and to get a first glimpse of the new ballpark going up right next door. We
marveled at the statues of Cardinals greats surrounding the building, flags heralding the great
moments, gazed in awe in the panoramic centerfield display of flags representing each championship,
each pennant, each retired number. We sampled the tasty food, the signature toasted raviolis, the
exhibits and games in the center field area. And most of all, we asked "Why?". Why replace this
structure, this monument to baseball, which, save for lack of premium seating revenue, was a great
place to see a game and the last of the multi-purpose "cookie cutters" of a generation ago.
Well, we came back, we saw the *new* Busch, and we still are asking the same question -- Why?
Getting to the venue
Busch Stadium is easily visible off of I-64 as the building hugs the interstate's north side. Signs will
direct you off of the interstates.. I-57 going north and south or I-64 going east and west. Being a
downtown setting, most parking adjacent to the stadium is available at multi level parking ramps, as
well as some private surface lots mostly south of the stadium. Parking fees here run as high as $20,
although the stadium ramps charge $15.. Free parking is a tough call, as most street spaces are
restricted on game day or require a special permit. Your best bet to snag a free spot is south of the
stadium past the I-64 overpasses. The St. Louis light rail system is called Metrolink, and there is a
station right across the street from the ballpark. Being in the middle of a pretty bustling downtown,
streets tend to jam up on game days so allow enough time to get to the stadium.
Outside the venue
The new stadium was built a block south of the old venue, in such a way that a portion of the building's
footprint sits on the site of the old Busch Stadium. Directly to the north is the cleared site from the old
stadium, which will be developed into a mixed retail-residential "Ballpark Village". For now the old
Cardinals Hall of Fame and Bowling Museum still stands a block away. The area around the stadium
is surrounded by high rise hotels, condominiums and parking ramps, with most of the historical
buildings and of course the famed Arch a few blocks to the north.
One of the cool neighborhoods which we discovered is actually south of the stadium on the other side
of the I-64 overpasses. The area looks a little tumble down and lots of surface lots which lend well to
tailgating, but there you can also find a number of really neat taverns, many of whom create makeshift
patios on game days for outdoor libations and fun. We checked out Al Hrabosky's place which looks a
lot like a public works garage from the outside, but inside a treasure trove of memorabilia on the walls
and a great atmosphere.
Stadium Exterior and Concourses
Ah yes... that red brick facade, wrought iron gate, kelly green painted steel support formula that has
carried us so well since the dawn of Camden Yards almost two decades ago. St. Louis has carried on
that tradition by erecting the latest in the wave of retro cookie-cutters. Plenty of arched brickwork, a
signature arched entrance on the third base side, and "Busch Stadium" marquees adorn the building
at the home plate entrance and at each corner. The spaces on the sidewalk are much more congested
than the old "Plaza of Champions" at the signature entrance to the old place, but there is still more
work to be done on the Clark Street side of the building, where we understand that a new Hall of Fame
is yet to be built and what we also hope will be a more expansive public space.
The main concourse is high ceilinged, with "retro" signage and bright concession canopies. The old
AL and NL hand operated scoreboards were brought over from the old Busch and serve as billboards
along the first base side corridors. Behind home plate a series of short escalator rides will take you as
far as the club level and then you take the stairs the rest of the way up. A new escalator tower on the left
field corner will be open later in 2006 and will take fans all the way to the top.
A nice feature to the concourses is the large number of "viewing areas" where fans can walk right up to
the rail and get a panoramic view of the stadium and a glimpse of the action. Great for picture taking
and thankfully, the ushers here are friendly and laid back and won't give you a hard time or a sphincter
police moment. The upper concourse also sports a view of the seating bowl from most vantage points.
The area behind centerfield is called "Ford Plaza" and a stage offering pregame live music can be
found at this location.
For the most part, this is a three level seating bowl with two levels of suites directly above the lower
level on the infield, a loge level with premium club seating on the infield, and a two deck upper tier with
a break down the middle for views of the field. There is also outfield seating with a premium priced
rooftop party deck above the batter's eye in centerfield. The scoreboard here is your basic no-frills video
board with an accompanying dot matrix board, way below some of the dazzling new boards that have
gone into places like Cincinnati, Cleveland and Toronto in the last couple years. There are no auxiliary
scoreboards or stat boards along the balconies... if you're sitting in the corners or the outfield and want
to know the count, you must crane your neck all the way around. Ugh!
The main team store is located down the first side on the main concourse, and there is a second
memorabilia type shop in the outfield that sells game worn jerseys and field equipment at lofty prices.
Taking a page from Philadelphia, there is a "Build Your Own Redbird" stuffed animal shop near home
plate, popular with the kids.
Food items here are pretty good and varied - pulled pork and beef brisket sandwiches are awesome,
and the Hardee's stands, one downstairs and one upstairs sells a good hand dipped milkshake. The
freshest hot dogs with the sizzling onions are actually the kosher stands in the concourses. The rest of
it is your boilerplate ballpark dreck although pretty good and tasty. Oh, we also did find a WNY
specialty, our favorite "Red Osier" roast beef on the upper tier, but is was nowhere near the quality of
what we can get back home. And by the way, NO toasted raviolis... we looked and looked!
The Redbirds club is an indoor premium concourse, not carpeted but polished colored concrete
flooring and premium bar and serving areas. There is also a level of suites above the loge level
throughout the seating bowl and two levels of suites behind home plate. A separate Cardinals Club is
situated in the first few rows behind home plate.
The awesome pennant display of banners and retired numbers so great a part of the old stadium have
all been replaced by a small set of non descript retired numbers, displayed underneath the video
board and virtually unreadable from anywhere in the ballpark. Guys like Ozzie Smith, Red
Schoendienst, Stan Musial, Enos Slaughter, Ken Boyer, Dizzy Dean, Lou Brock, and Bob Gibson have
got to be asking why they've been dissed like this. World Series Titles? NL Pennants? You'll find that
glorious list plastered on the OUTSIDE of the scoreboard, sandwiched between ads for a gas station
and an insurance company. Check it out soon - if Chico's Bail Bonds wants to buy the space you know
those lists will be coming down and put away pronto!
Home runs, hits, errors...
Error... Call it an opening week glitch, but the concession stands were gummed up because credit
cards wouldn't process properly, and total order prices were inaccurate, necessitating a supervisor to
come and reset the registers. The result was long delays.
Error... the signature Stan Musial statue, such a great gathering spot and photo opp at the old Busch,
is tightly wedged along the sidewalk outside the third base entrance. Lousy location!
Home run... or three home runs on this day, actually, by Cardinals First Baseman Albert Pujols,
including the walkoff winner in the bottom of the 9th, giving St. Louis a 7-6 win over the visiting
Cincinnati Reds and sending the fans home happy.
Hit... Props to the friendly ticket takers and ushers; with Cardinals tickets being in such demand, we
expected game day staff to be perched on a high throne of haughtiness. To get the laid back treatment
and a warm greeting on the way in was a real treat.
Error... the electronics in the new venue really suck. Average video board, no side stat boards, one
lame LED ribbon board in the right field corner. Technology has come so far in ballpark entertainment
and St. Louis fails the test miserably.
Home run... No it's not the skyline view in Pittsburgh, but the outfield view of downtown and the
Gateway Arch makes the panorama here a very close second. One of the best features of the ballpark
Error...so what exactly happened to the Toasted Raviolis?
Hit... The Budweiser clydesdale horse theme song still played during the 8th inning break with an
accompanying video, a signature clap along song for this franchise. Very nice!
Error... save for the old hand operated scoreboards in the main concourse and a "great moments"
walkway embedded in the outside sidewalk behind center field, this franchise's great history is
reflected very poorly.
When we first saw the renderings for this ballpark, we groaned. When we saw the construction site
back in 2005, we rolled our eyes. For St. Louis, the bar should have gone so much higher when it
comes to ballpark design. This is one of THE great franchises in all of sports...Cardinals fans can
legitimately claim that they are some of the greatest fans in baseball. This team is steeped in tradition,
history and success on the field. Yet what you have here is a sanitized, boilerplate version of HOK
ballpark crap. Sure it is new, it is clean, it is pleasant, but St. Louis Cardinals fans deserved more...
much, much more. And make no mistake, look at how the suites are configured, look at the pressbox
location high up in the nosebleeds, look at the championship pennants relegated to an obscure
location so that one more ad panel could be sold. This stadium is all about money, all about
generating revenue. Overall the new Busch Stadium is a huge disappointment.
Food and team store 7
Scoreboard and electronics 3
Fan support 9.5
Location and neighborhood 8
Banners and history 3.5
In game entertainment 4.5
Concourses/fan comfort 7
Bonus: Clydesdale jingle 1, Al Hrabosky's bar 1