No matter the reason, at the last minute, St. Louis Cardinals President Bill DeWitt III's annual Winter Warm-Up presentation last Monday was moved from a smallish-breakout room to the cavernous ballroom's main stage at the Hyatt Regency at the Arch.
I felt like a saw a more smiling, relaxed DeWitt III during his address compared to recent years. If my reading is correct, there could be a very good explanation as to why.
Unlike the case during most of the last decade, DeWitt III can finally talk about the Ballpark Village development in the present tense, rather than qualifying his words with hopes and dreams and explaining repeated delays. And that is exactly what he did.
The opening of the downscaled Phase 1 of the long-awaited project is scheduled to coincide with the Cardinals home opener, on April 7. Construction crews are on the clock with less than 75 days to complete a significant amount of remaining work on the 110,000 square foot multi-purpose facility, a $100 million project. Schedules remain tight.
Here is a current view from behind Ballpark Village, looking into Busch Stadium.
This shows the front view, looking northwest. Busch Stadium is on the left.
Literally, the centerpiece is FOX Sports Midwest Live! The 20,000 foot area will include a new studio for Cardinals pre- and post-game shows, bar and restaurant and concert stage and will be capped off by a 100-foot removable top atrium.
DeWitt III labels the facility, with its 40-foot video screen and ribbon boards, "the living room of the city." Available for use 365 days per year, FSM Live! will be an ideal location for special events such as the first Cardinals Hall of Fame induction ceremony this August, DeWitt noted.
DeWitt III highlighted some of the seven other tenants that will surround FOX Sports Midwest Live! They include the three-story Budweiser Brew House with its beer garden and balcony on top, as well as four other dining and drinking establishments. Three have been announced with a fourth coming very soon. They include a country and western bar with a mechanical bull, piano bar Howl at the Moon, and a new location of the popular Drunken Fish sushi restaurant.
DeWitt III estimated the new seats are a "little over 500 feet away from home plate," a similar distance as the Wrigley rooftops in Chicago. Cardinals Nation's section is positioned higher and should offer less obstructed views compared to Wrigley, making for a better viewing experience, he asserted. Tickets will go on sale through the usual outlets starting in late January or early February.
A very interesting addition to Ballpark Village is a recreation of the old Busch II infield in its exact former location. What DeWitt III called a "pocket park" will be located on the west side of BPV and will include the bases, baselines and even an Astroturf infield, just like the original.
The area as it is today is shown in the following photo.
Of course, the new Cardinals Hall of Fame and Museum is a focal point of Cardinals Nation and Ballpark Village. The Hall will be located on the second level and will include plaques of the inductees, enhanced by interactive kiosks to provide more details on each member of the Hall. The Hall is free and will open into the Museum, housing one of the largest collections of team memorabilia in any sport. Museum admission is expected to be in the $6 to $12 price range.
Tentative renderings of the Stan Musial and Branch Rickey plaques follow.
Additional information about the Cardinals Hall of Fame can be found here.
"Cardinals Nation will be a completely unique development in baseball," DeWitt III proudly concluded. No other team has ever done this, rolling all of these uses into one. It really completes the vision that we had when we built the ballpark."
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Brian Walton can be reached via email at email@example.com. Also catch his Cardinals commentary daily at The Cardinal Nation blog. Follow Brian on Twitter.
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