Opening day may not become an official holiday (thanks for trying, Ozzie) but nobody in Saint Louis got the memo that it’s not already. Saint Louis is baseball heaven and the gates to the holy land of eternal Summer are located at 700 Clark Street in the heart of downtown.
With an incredible view of the Gateway Arch, baseball fans can soak in a few hours of America’s favorite sport in perhaps the nicest baseball venue in the country. That’s not to say that there aren’t other terrific baseball stadiums in other great baseball cities. But, Saint Louis goes beyond just a beautiful, state of the art stadium. There’s an atmosphere at game time that’s truly hard to beat.
I’ll confess – I’ve lived in Saint Louis most of my life. But, I’m not the typical “my city is better than yours” kinda guy. There are a lot of things about Saint Louis that I find annoying. For example, the cringe worthy Saint Louis question: “So, where did you go to high school?” is enough to make you want to pack your bags and sell your house. Bottom line – there are plenty of other cities that can lay claim to equal greatness. And why shouldn’t they? Everyone should be proud of their home town. But, when it comes to baseball, Saint Louis is no doubt at the very top of the list.
On April 10, 2006 – the new Busch Stadium hosted its first game. Trivia buffs will argue that the very first game was actually a minor league match between the Memphis Redbirds and Springfield Cardinals. But, the first official game was between the Cardinals and the Milwaukee Brewers.
It’s worth noting that just ten years earlier – the Cardinals were purchased from long time owners Anheuser Busch. This was a big deal in Saint Louis. Locals here are very skeptical of change – of any kind. But, the new ownership group led by Bill Dewitt Jr. proved that they were serious about keeping the Cardinal tradition alive. Not only keeping it alive – but preserving it for years to come.
Every investment from minor league facilities and recruits to a recently opened state of the art Ballpark Village have propelled the entire Cardinals franchise to perhaps the best run MLB organization in the country.
Watching the third Busch Stadium being built was truly fascinating. Webcams were just becoming all the rage and you could check in to see workers around the clock racing to complete the project. As you can see in this photo – the new stadium was being built literally right next to the old one.
So what makes Busch Stadium such a great ball park? For one, the views really are great. Not just the skyline but the actual views of the field. Sitting in the upper deck at the very top of the stadium is not a bad thing here. In fact, some of the views near the top of the stadium are even better that sitting right near the field. Personally, my favorite spot to sit is in the upper level just next to the press box on the first base line. If you like to be close to the action – then you can certainly find yourself incredibly close. Maybe too close if you take a foul ball line drive off the noggin sitting near first of third base. Just about all of the 46,000 seats have a great view of the action.
The stadium is full of inclusive areas as well. Sure, there are suites for the corporate crowd that like to tell people they’re going to the ball game but actually sit inside and talk without watching the action. (Blasphemy!) But, also outdoor areas like the Coca Cola deck where people can enjoy a buffet of ball park standards and watch the game from patio type seats.
One great improvement in the stadium is just simply crowd control. While there are obviously times you’re bunched up with thousands of fellow baseball fans – generally you have some breathing room when you’re heading to and from your seat. That is certainly not the case in a lot of stadiums. There are plenty of entrances and exits and ways to move about the building from people movers, stairs, walkways, escalators and elevators.
Baseball like any other sport has become expensive. However, seeing a game at Busch Stadium can be accomplished without taking out a second mortgage on your home. There are always special offers, and something called “dynamic pricing” that makes sought offer match-ups more expensive. The upside is that games against less popular teams can be a real bargain. There’s also the website stubhub.com that can get you into a game at the last minute for dirt cheap. Tickets in the upper deck are reasonably priced as well and as I mentioned earlier – the views from many of those seats are actually quite good. They allow you to bring in bottled soda or water which will save you big bucks.
Busch Stadium is the best place to see a baseball game in America though largely because of the fans. Some will argue there’s nothing special about Cardinal fans. (Usually people that are fans of a team that hasn’t won a world series in awhile…) As a rule, people here do NOT run around proclaiming to be the best fans in baseball. That’s a label magazines and sports shows created. Baseball fans here are great because they really understand the game. Most of them know the rules, the tradition and enjoy a good battle on the field. You’ll never see Cardinal fans turning over cars or rioting in the streets win or lose.
Oh and if you’re from out of town, you can watch a game here in your favorite team’s uniform without worrying about being beaten up in the parking lot.