June 16th 2009: Field Box Seats
June 17th 2009: Redbird Club Seats
May 24th 2012: Tour
By: Cole Shoemaker
Camden Yards ignited a movement in ballpark architecture that would captivate the sport like never before, perhaps even reigniting the basis of the sport. While fundamentally different in appeal, the retro trend is no different than the previous two building booms: tastes and/or economics will inevitably change.
While not indistinguishable like the real “cookie-cutters”, there’s still a relatively constant retro aesthetic of red brick facades and exposed steel. Some structures of this period will certainly last, but others are simply too derivative. So the question begs to be asked: why wouldn’t the Cardinals ask for a new ballpark in 30 years? What makes New Busch stick out from the crowd?
There is no way you could argue they set out to build a visually innovative or inspiring structure. The Cardinals weren’t trying to build the best park in baseball; they built yet another retro assembly line venue. They built a servable structure that, while pleasing enough, took no chances architecturally. And they know it too.
All things considered, Busch Stadium might be the HOK’s (Populous) safest effort ever. Even safer than Citi Field or Nationals Park. Not only that, but it’s lacking that certain attention to detail and quality in terms of amenities and historical touches of better parks. But, you know what, maybe that’s the point.
They don’t need expansive monuments of civic pride to please the fans. St. Louis doesn’t need features like open concourses: Cardinal fans don’t want a mallpark where fans are encouraged to get out of their seats and explore the park. They don’t need fancy food courts, restaurants, flashy scoreboards, or team museums. We’re here to stay in our seat and watch the game!
Why does St. Louis need artificial gimmicks to distinguish itself? We are the Cardinals! We don’t need fake rocks, fountains, hills, or any other bells and whistles.
But still. They could have done significantly better design wise. I feel like they tore down the outfield of Old Busch Stadium to open up the skyline, and then added some uniform single deck seating and some patio areas to increase revenue. It’s nice enough, but it’s a very lazy look.
Note Comerica Park, which I see as the standard-bearer of how ballparks without distinguishing features and gimmicks can be great ballparks. Perhaps they were going for that look, but Busch comes out more uninspired and standardized in its bottom line. The outfield design and the large seating structure isn’t as well connected to its setting, either. Plus, Comerica Park has the amenities.
The complete lack of fan friendly amenities and thoughtful touches is salient in comparison to other ballparks. No artistic design flares. Few interior historical touches. Closed concourses. Mediocre concessions. No restaurants!?
Remember, Busch Stadium is also the cheapest ballpark built from 2004-2008 by a significant margin. Or maybe its just by 2006, the retro look was getting old. Whatever it is, Busch Stadium will never be up there with the elite, but it gets the job done. The distinct skyline saves it from being too aesthetically streamlined as well. I returned in 2012 to give it another evaluation, and it’s not a bad ballpark by any stretch of the imagination. But in a crowded new ballpark landscape, not much about the structure or the amenities make this one stand out, as the awesome fans serve as the ballpark’s main asset.NEXT - Setting