A Sellout?

Thoughts on mid-week day games in the new Busch.

Last Wednesday afternoon I decided to take a stroll on over to Kiener Plaza to grab a late lunch at the hot dog vendor that's camped out there most afternoons. As I was chatting with the entrepreneur waiting for him to fill my order, I took a glance towards the new Busch Stadium. Peering between the two hotel towers that have recently garnered the Hilton name, something caught my eye.

The Cardinals were probably well into the fourth or fifth inning at this point in time as they hosted the Pittsburgh Pirates. With the open-air design of the new stadium, even from the ground level at Kiener Plaza nearly two blocks away, I could see clearly into the seats hanging over right field. What caught my eye, though, wasn't the view into the stadium – it was all the red I saw, the red of empty seats.

At first I did a double take. Then I made sure that I wasn't just looking at red-clad fans, who were blending in with the red seats of the stadium. Nope. Then I made sure that for some reason I didn't mistake the right field seats for the still unfinished sections of the left field seats. Nope. That was right field all right.

So what was going on? It wasn't the weather that kept fans away. It was a gorgeous afternoon for daytime baseball. Bright sunny skies. Temps in the mid-60s. Granted it was the Pirates in town and not the Cubs or the Astros, but it was the Cardinals' 12th home game of the season. And it was recorded to be the 12th consecutive sellout in the new park; a reported 38,728 fans paid in attendance. Or is that just paid?

With all the empty seatbacks visible throughout the crowd, not just in those in right field, it looked like the park was maybe 80% full. And that might be generous on my part. Now it was all adding up. On my afternoon quest for some grub, I passed three different scalpers on the street still trying to move tickets; an oddity considering the game was almost half over.

So what's the deal?

Did the scalpers bite off more than they could chew? Did they underestimate the demand for tickets to attend a Cardinal weekday afternoon game? If so, that's a shame. We wouldn't want such upstanding, entrepreneurial businesspeople to lose money by having to eat tickets, would we?

Or did a whole big chunk of season ticket holders, who were also forced to buy their Personal Seat Licenses (PSLs) for the new stadium, just decide to sell out themselves, eat their afternoon tickets, and be good employees and bosses by not playing hooky to cheer on their club Wednesday afternoon?

It's probably a combination of the two, as well as a bunch of other factors.

But why is the demand for tickets to a day game during the week so poor in St. Louis? They say this is a "baseball town". And I can't really deny that. But it's clear that St. Louis is just not a rabid town for daytime baseball during the week. In my 10+ years living in this baseball town, I've never noticed a huge demand for these games, and dare I say, it's not because everyone in town is so hard at work during the day. I've seen those playoff and opening day rallies in Kiener plaza loaded with plenty of fans, who don't have tickets to the big game. So why can't the not-so big games at least fill the stadium seats and put a little buzz of electricity in the usually quiet downtown area?

Now, hailing from Chicago and being a Cubs fan, I have to admit that it's different up there. Heck, we just got lights not too long ago, so day games are still more common at Wrigley Field than they are anywhere else in the league. But I must admit I was disappointed and surprised to see the emptiness of the new Busch Stadium in the infancy of its twelfth Major League Baseball game.

In my opinion the biggest factor behind the empty seats isn't the scalpers. It isn't even the season ticket holders or the previously unmentioned spike in prices this year. It's simply the lack of downtown residents. Wrigley Field is smack dab in the middle of a cluttered, densely populated neighborhood. Busch Stadium is not, and until the downtown revival makes a ton more headway, demand will remain low for weekday afternoon games at Busch Stadium.

If you're having a hard time getting tickets to a game at the new stadium this year or are making the assumption that they're just not available, ask around about tickets for the remaining weekday afternoon games. You might just be able to score some great seats to one of these games:

Wednesday, May 10, 1:10pm CT vs. the Colorado Rockies
Thursday, May 18, 1:10pm CT vs. the New York Mets
Wednesday, May 31, 1:10pm CT vs. the Houston Astros

So get out to those remaining afternoon weekday games and show me that this is a baseball town even when the Cards are playing a day game.

Got a comment to make? Email them to pete@petekhazen.com

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