For all that baseball is in St. Louis, in some ways it also isn’t. Busch Stadium is a remarkable building in the midst of mostly drab downtown scenery, but by and large that’s it when it comes to the St. Louis Cardinals visual imprint on the city. Made worse by that is the fact that much maligned, graveyard of where the majority of the current stadium’s predecessor stood takes away from some of the luster of the current parks atmosphere.
In many ways, the only true way to understand the real impact of the Cardinals’ franchise on the city is by word of mouth, by spending time amongst the people of the city and unavoidably coming to know what the team truly represents at its epicenter. The Cardinals are an institution, and a point of unmatched civic pride, and Ballpark Village is a chance to create a striking visual showcase as well, and as there should be.
The story of BP Village is one that’s been told many times. The promise of a “fan’s mecca”, a district full of traces of both the city and its greatest organization, was to accompany the new ballpark that was to grace the city. That was 2007, and all that the area has been since is a parking lot, an occasional softball park and location of the infamous “Lake DeWitt” when the rain sticks around too long. However, the $100 financing package agreed upon earlier this week will begin the process of delivering on what has become the most skeptical civic subject in decades.
It’s important to know that this will not be what was originally planned for the area, at least not initially. The idea of large scale social gathering ground, with condominiums, nightclubs and an all expansive area to cover the entirety of the old stadium grounds this will not be. Yet what the goal is currently is a mix of a variety of social mixing experiences, dining and most importantly, the spirit and experience of the team.
But make no mistake; what the project has evolved to be is far from a compromised effort. The amenities of the grounds have been highlighted and are very promising. It’s a chance to have an interactive, year around Cardinal experience, and to bring life to a downtown area that has needed it for some time. “It’s really exciting, and a relief to be moving be moving into this next phase,” says team president Bill DeWitt III, on the process of securing Ballpark Village, which will break ground next week to debut for Opening Day 2014.
St. Louis is a city in need of a great deal of things, and more unfulfilled promises are not one of them. Take the walk from Busch up Broadway towards the Edward Jones Dome, and you’ll see a bevy of those on display. No, it’s time for a change, and the last great homegrown entity in the city is finally on the verge of delivering it. The single most dependable aspect of a year in the life of a St. Louisan is that the Cardinals will bring life to the summer. Here’s the opportunity to not only keep that spirit year around, but to be beacon of change in the city as whole.