The Incredible Shrinking Ballparks

A look at the capacity of the new Busch compared to its predecessor and other new parks.

I've received several reader inquiries in response to our posting of the capacity of the new Busch and the associated cut-off of season tickets. Concerns have been expressed about the reduction in seating in the new park and the increase in likelihood that fans who want to attend key games will be unable to do so in the future.

Sadly, it is the reality of the game today. It is a bit like radio. In this world, fewer people who will pay more is more important than a greater number of people who pay less (or nothing).

In these days, ticket revenue is a shrinking portion of the pie. Now, let's talk luxury boxes. That is a different story. The positive spin is that the old multi-purpose "stadiums" have been replaced by baseball-only "parks" with better sightlines and creature comforts.

Cardinals fans have less about which to complain than those in other cities. Of all eight of the new MLB ballparks that have opened this decade, the Cardinals have both the largest capacity (46,861) as well as the smallest decrease in capacity from the old park to the new (6%).

Note that every new "park" has substantially fewer seats than its predecessor "stadium". In fact, even before the left field sections are ready in July, the interim capacity of Busch III at 40,713 represents a reduction of 18%, equal to the lowest percentage decrease among new parks that opened this decade.

In other MLB locales, seating sections are being closed off to reduce capacity. In Oakland, for example, starting this season, the entire third deck will no longer be open, reducing seating by 10,000 to 34,000-plus.

I know this is "small" consolation for those who will have to settle for watching the Cardinals play the Pirates instead of the Cubs this summer, but that is the way it is. Planning ahead to see your favorite teams has become a virtual necessity.

Team Old Park Cap.   New Park Year Cap. Decrease
Phillies Veterans Stadium 62,623   Citizens Bank Park 2004 43,000 31%
Giants 3 Com Park 57,546   SBC Park 2000 40,800 29%
Astros Astrodome 54,816   Minute Maid Park 2000 42,000 23%
Tigers Tiger Stadium 52,400   Comerica Park 2000 40,637 22%
Pirates Three Rivers Stadium 47,952   PNC Park 2001 38,217 20%
Brewers County Stadium 53,192   Miller Park 2001 43,000 19%
Padres Qualcomm Stadium 56,133   Petco Park 2004 46,000 18%
Cardinals Busch Stadium II 49,676   Busch Stadium III 2006  46,861* 6%
* 40,713 until July 2 (-18%)

Brian Walton can be reached via email at

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