ST. LOUIS – On the banks of the Mississippi right in the center of the country, there’s a Baseball Mecca in St. Louis, where the whole city shuts down for their beloved Cardinals when they are playing at home.
Unlike New York, where baseball is part of the fabric of the city, St. Louis is the end all, be all of the Gateway to the West. Similar to the way it is in Boston with the Red Sox, St. Louis revolves around its Cardinals and lives and dies by that team.
Whereas Fenway park gives a throwback to baseball past, the Cardinals play in their eight year-old cathedral called Busch Stadium III, a modern edifice that provides similar amenities as Citi Field and New Yankee Stadium.
Given all that St. Louis has to offer, you would think a game at Busch should be the best in baseball, yet, that is not necessarily the case. It’s not the worst in baseball – we are looking at you Tampa Bay – but it isn’t the best either.
What you have is an enjoyable no thrills pure baseball experience, where the team is the central focus instead of any of the extra amenities that new parks offer these days.
The fans are very knowledgeable and some consider them the best fans in baseball. They come from all over the Mid-West to see a game and even pay downtown St. Louis prices for hotels, which make for a pretty penny just to see the game.
And unlike New York, Boston and Philadelphia, these fans treat the players differently. They are much more respectful and generally never boo the home team. This is why players like Scott Rolan called it ‘Heaven’ when he was traded from the Phillies a decade ago.
That helps the home team immensely and the Cardinals have been one of most consistent organizations in the game since Busch opened in 2006.
That’s not to say everything is perfect in heaven.
The park, although very nice, doesn’t have the same feel as other new stadiums designed by Populous.
The main level lacks open concourses so for you to wait online for a hot dog and see the game, you will have to go to the outfield or the upper decks.
Also the prices are very high. A helmet ice cream runs $8.25 and a small stuffed Fredbird is $25.00, which makes it as expensive a Yankee Stadium and pricier than Citi Field.
Also outside of the Cardinal Statues outside, there isn’t much to distinguish it from other Populous Retro-Classic ballparks. There’s no rotunda like Citi Field, no Ashburn Alley as in Citizen’s Bank Park, no warehouse like in Camden Yards, and the place doesn’t ooze the history of the team like it does in the Bronx.
A new building across the street called Ballpark Village that opened this year added to the character with some rooftop seating like Wrigley Field, but that seems a bit forced.
Overall, though, if you like baseball, it’s worth the visit. The stadium gives a great view of the downtown and the Gateway Arch is clearly visible from all parts of the park. But unless you are in St. Louis or just a Cardinals fan, there’s no need to make a special trip to see Busch Stadium, as it looks like many of the other new parks that were built recently.