Illuminations, Epiphanies, and Reflections
admit it. I lurk around the Cardinal message board at mlb.com, and one
thing that always strikes me are the
number of people looking for some advice
about their upcoming first trip to St. Louis to see a Cardinals
game. So, I thought I put some thoughts together and post them
here. I've probably missed some things since I only get into town
once or twice each year, but it's a starting point.
Seating at Busch Stadium.
I liked both old Sportsman's Park and old Busch Stadium, but neither compare to this place. As you might expect with a new stadium, tickets aren't cheap, and the average ticket price, just under $30, is now about $7 more than the mlb average, but that has been driven up by the number of new premium and all-inclusive seats that include all-you-can eat buffets and unlimited beer and soft drinks. Still, there are lots of reasonably priced tickets available. Outfield Terrace Reserved seats start at $13, bleacher seats are $16, and prices go up from there.
In my wandering about the stands, I personally haven't found a bad seat in the house. The view of the Arch and the St. Louis skyline above the playing field and center field scoreboard is spectacular, and the best views--as you would expect--are found in the seats between first and third base.
Be careful, though, before purchasing Terrace Reserved seats directly behind home plate. I've never sat in them, but I've heard some people complain that from some the view of the pitcher's mound and/or home plate can be partially obstructed by a ledge for television cameras.
If you want to see into the Cardinals dugout during the game, be sure to sit on the third base side. Oh, there is something else to consider if you are attending a day game; the sun. The bleacher seats face southwest and, at times, look directly into the afternoon sun, which may bother some folks.
There is no need to worry about where to sit just so you can be near a concession stand; refreshments are sold all over the place. That said, if you're looking for a certain type of food, be aware that some items are only sold at specific stands, and you may find yourself walking a good distance to get what you want. There is also no need to worry about sitting near a restroom, there are plenty of those too, and lines are almost non-existent, even for women.
To help you decide where to sit, click here or on the seating chart. The easiest way to purchase tickets is through the Cardinals website schedule. After you've picked a date, just click on the little green box with a "T." When you're picking a date, you may want to consider attending on a promotion day when some company will be giving something away. If you use the link above, the game days with promotions will be identified with a boxed *. If you click on the *, you be able to view details of the promotion.
If you find that a game you want to attend is soldout, don't hesitate to purchase a Standing Room Only ticket for $13 as long as you think your feet can handle it. There are numerous SRO locations (behind the home plate box seats, behind the bleachers, along the baselines, etc.) around the park, all with pretty good sight lines. Generally, there is no need to arrive early to secure a spot unless you want to stand at the field level.
If you aren't up to SRO tickets, and you still want to see a specific game, you may want to try the Cardinals-sponsored Prime Seat Club. After paying a one-time $35 membership fee, you can purchase unused season tickets at a 20% mark up over the gate price. It's not cheap, but usually it is a less expensive than buying similar tickets at StubHub.
What to wear
If you are a Cardinal fan--or if you just want to fit in--why not try something, ummm . . . . red; or something that includes the "birds on the bat" logo. That's what most of the 47,000 people in the place will have on. If you're not part of Cardinal Nation, don't be afraid to wear your team's colors if you're following along on a road trip. Cardinal fans aren't into abusing out-of-towners. That said, if you are a Cubs or Mets fan, and you are wearing a Cubs or Mets jersey, and you are drunk, and you are shouting obscenities or otherwise behaving loutish, expect some problems.
Need something to wear?
I doubt that you'll encounter problems driving to the ballpark; I've never had any. Traffic to the stadium is usually smooth and swift except during rush hour. Sometimes things get a little backed up after a game, but if you plot a route back to your hotel using one of the major streets leading out of the downtown area, you won't end up stuck on an Interstate entry ramp. There is plenty of parking available, and you can click here or on the map to see the locations of the lots. About half of the lots are in the $10-15 range, but there are almost as many at $10 and under; you just have to walk a little farther. Okay, maybe I shouldn't publicize this lot since it's my favorite, but since I only get back to St. Louis for a couple of games each year, what the heck. I almost always park at the public garage at Pine and Seventh; it's a pleasant, short walk to the ballpark through Kiener Plaza and usually costs around $5.
You can also park well outside of the downtown area and take the MetroLink right to the stadium. Single rides are only $2.00 each, and you can purchase a day pass for $4.50. Here's a link to a map of the system. While getting to the park via MetroLink is quick and easy, be aware that after the game, everyone who came to the park that way will be heading for the station along with you, and the wait for a train could be significant.
You may have seen a headline or two recently stating that St. Louis moved up to number one on a most dangerous cities list for 2006. What the brief newspaper articles didn't say was that the same Morgan Quinto Press study that used FBI data to compile its most dangerous cities report also used FBI data to compile a most dangerous metropolitan area report. Guess where St. Louis ranked in that one. . . 129th out of 344.
Morgan Quitno's "Most Dangerous Cities" ranking has been criticized as a statistical half-truth, since it does not adjust rankings of cities with wide area city limits (Houston, Jacksonville) compared to cities with inner core limits (St. Louis, Atlanta). Houston's city crime statistics, for instance, are diluted by lower crime in affluent areas within its broad city limits, whereas almost all the low crime affluent areas of St. Louis are outside its city limits, which constitutes only 12.5% of its metro area. Problems with Morgan Quitno's "cities" ranking becomes evident when compared to its most dangerous metro area rankings. Morgan Quitno puts Houston at number 22 out of 344 metro areas, but places St. Louis almost 100 slots lower, with no explanation for the disparity in the two lists. (from Wikipedia)So . . . don't let the hyped-up dangerous city report concern you if you're going to be staying in downtown St. Louis. It's safe to walk all around Kiener Plaza, Laclede's Landing, and the downtown ballpark area before and after ballgames; yes, night games too. Just stay south of Delmar Boulevard, as St. Louis crime is primarily concentrated well to the north of downtown--that's where the Griswolds made their wrong turn in National Lampoon's Family Vacation.
Arriving at the game
Local fans in St. Louis seem to get to the ballpark earlier than in a lot of other places. You should too.
The outside of the stadium is pretty interesting if you haven't been there before. As you circle the stadium you'll see life-size statues of famous Cardinals including Musial, Slaughter, Brock, Schoendienst, Smith, and Gibson. If you look closely at the stadium facade, you can see ninety-four small, embedded medallions showing historical Cardinal logos; replicas are, of course, available for sale at the team store. On the pavement, you can read fan-purchased commemorative bricks surrounding larger plaques remembering one hundred significant events in Cardinal history. You'll find several souvenir stands open as well. If you're planning on eating before the park opens, be sure to do so on the way from the parking lot as there is no food available immediately outside the park; of course, that will change once Ballpark Village opens, hopefully in time for some of the 2007 season.
The gates generally open two hours before game time. If you enter then, you arrive right in the middle of Cardinal batting practice. Visitor batting practice begins approximately 80 minutes before game time.
The only restrictions on what can be brought into the park are those that are imposed by Major League Baseball. The stadium inspection policy used to be posted at the Cardinals website, but the last time I looked, I couldn't find it. This is how it used to read:
"In conjunction with a league-wide policy established by Major League Baseball, the St. Louis Cardinals reserve the right to inspect all items entering Busch Stadium. Guests may carry in items including: backpacks, purses, diaper bags, fanny packs and soft-sided coolers that do not exceed a maximum size of 16" x 16" x 8". Bags that exceed this size are not permitted in the stadium. Alcohol, bottles, cans, thermoses, hard-sided coolers, hard plastic cups/mugs are not permitted. Non-alcoholic beverages including water and soda in open cups or in clear plastic bottles no larger than 2 liters are allowed. All items will be inspected."
The Family Pavillion, sponsored by U.S. Cellular, also opens two hours before game time. It is located between Gates 1 and 6 on Level 1 and includes a Batting Cage, T-Ball Cages, Speed Pitch, and other similar activities. Admission is free, but some activities and games require a small fee.
If you have a little one, or even if you don't, you may want to visit the Build-A- Bear "Make-Your-Own- Fredbird" stand located behind Section 153 (between Gates 1 and 3 on the Level 1 Main Concorse). Lines can get long, especially from about the fifth inning on, so if you want your own Fredbird without an hour wait, I'd advise going before the game.
Eating and drinking in the ballpark
There is a nice variety of concession stands spread throughout the stadium, and prices are about average for average stadium fare. Expect to pay around $15-25 per adult per game. Unfortunately, the Cardinals have opted not to serve any regional specialties, not even St. Louis Style Ribs, which is surprising since they have some very good Baby Back Ribs at the Broadway BBQ. If you want to sample some local fare, you'll have to do that before or after the game.
Actually, you can find one group of local specialties at the ballpark: Anheuser-Busch products and lots of them, but only until the 7th inning. After that, beer sales cease. The Cardinals also have a Designated Driver program. If you are at least 21 years old and have a valid driver's license, you can sign up at kiosks around the park. You'll get a special key chain and at least one free soft drink or O'Doul's. You'll also be eligible for free give-aways during the game and may find your name splashed across the scoreboard.
Other area eats and drink
There are several nearby places to grab a bite or a drink either before or after a game.
Where to stay.
It's easy enough to get to Busch Stadium from anywhere in the bi-state region so it really doesn't matter where you stay while visiting the Cardinals. That said, there are several hotels within easy walking distance of the ballpark that offer special package promotions geared to folks attending a ballgame:
Other things to see and do.
If you're spending additional time in St. Louis and looking for something to do, why not check out some of these:
Anheuser-Busch Brewery Tour: Unless your an extra snooty micro-brew fanatic who detests light American lagers, a visit to the historic Busch flagship brewery is worth your time. The brewery is just south of downtown and easy to find. Tours include the formal stable home of the famous Clydesdale hitch, the brew house, and the packaging plant. Oh, all the tours end with a stop at the brewery's large gift shop and its hospitality room where adults get free samples of Anheuser-Busch products, and kids get courtesy soft drinks. Tours run daily.
Bowling: Are you snickering? Bowling has always been a big deal in St. Louis, ever since the days of local heroes Dick Weber, Ray Bluth, and Don Carter. If you've watched The Big Lebowski more than once or if you ever wasted more than a couple of Saturday afternoons listening to Chris Shenkel do the play-by-play for ABC TV's championship bowling shows, you might be interested in visiting the International Bowling Museum and Hall of Fame just across the street from Busch Stadium. If you'd like to roll a few frames, St. Louis is loaded with bowling alleys. One of the most interesting is the retro-chic Pinup Bowl and Cocktail Lounge, where it's not unusual to find Nelly having a good time with some of his Saint Lunatic crew. As an alternative, you might want to visit one of the small bowling alleys run by local Catholic parishes. Strange as it may seem, church lanes were quite common in St. Louis in the past and served as community social centers for many years. Several are still in operation. Why not stop by the Epiphany Lanes, at 3164 Ivanhoe, where shoes rent for $.75 and open bowling is only $1.25 a game.
The Blues: No, not the hockey team; the music. St. Louis has a long and rich blues history. Heck, the longest-lasting popular blues song ever, The Saint Louis Blues, by W. C. Handy, references the city, so it seems only to make sense that there are more active blues musicians in St. Louis than anywhere else in the county. Traditional St. Louis style blues is piano-based with an uptempo, ragtimey sound. Today, however, all types of blues are heard in the city. If you'd like to spend some time in one of the local blues clubs, you can see whose playing at the STLBlues.net entertainment calendar.
Casinos: There's no need to make a separate Las Vegas or Atlantic City trip if you want to visit a first class casino; there are several in St. Louis: the Ameristar Casino, the Argosy Alton Belle, the Casino Queen, Harrah's St. Louis, and the President Casino on The Admiral. While the President Casino on the Admiral isn't necessarily the fanciest, it's my favorite. That's because The Admiral, a four-deck steamship with over 200,000 square feet of floor space, has been operating on the Mississippi River for 100 years. It began life as a railroad transfer boat in 1907, and was rebuilt into the silver, stream-lined art deco vessel of today in the late 1930s. The best part about the Admiral is that it is moored at Laclede's Landing just a short walk from the ballpark.
Chuck Berry at Blueberry Hill - "If you tried to give Rock and Roll another name, you might call it Chuck Berry" - John Lennon. Believe it or not, the Grandfather of Rock, 80-year-old Chuck Berry, still performs his legendary show at the Blueberry Hill's Duck Room at least once each month, usually on a Wednesday evening. If you want to see him duckwalk across the stage while performing all of his hits, you'll need to purchase tickets a month in advance. Even if he's not performing, you can see a nice collection of related memorabilia, have casual dinner, and catch some of the best local and visiting bands at Blueberry Hill.
Forest Park: Forest Park is the heart of St. Louis. It was the site of the 1904 World's Fair and is almost twice as large as New York's Central Park. It includes several museums, a large lake and boathouse, three golf courses, the city's statue of St. Louis, and much more. Two of it's components are major attractions in their own right. The St. Louis Zoo (rated by Zagats as the top zoo in the country) is in the park as is The Muny (the nation's oldest and largest outdoor theater where you can watch a traveling Broadway show for free). Additionally, Forest Park is the site of numerous special events throughout the year, such as the St. Louis Balloon race and the St. Louis Shakespeare Festival.
Gateway Arch Riverfront and the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial. Nothing typifies St. Louis better than a steamboat cruising past the 630 foot Gateway Arch that stands on the bank of the Mississippi River right in the heart of downtown. On a clear day, the view from the top of the Arch is spectacular, but don't worry about wearing youself out on a long climb. Trams, that always remind me of giant clothesdryer tubs, carry visitors both up and down. If you have any interest at all in American history, the Museum of Westward Expansion, located beneath the Arch, is well worth a visit. Sightseeing riverboats are located right on the levee, just down a flight of steps from the base of the Arch.
Grant's Farm and the Clydesdales - Grant's Farm has been rated as the 7th best family attraction in the country, and I wouldn't be at all surprised if you've never heard of it. It is a St. Louis institution. Althougth at one time this was the summer home of the Busch family and it is still owned by the brewery, prior to the Civil War Ulysses S. Grant attempted to farm this same area, and his tiny cabin remains on the grounds. Today, this wildlife preserve is a great place to take younger children as petting areas and small animals abound. Just like the brewery, Grant's Farm has a hospitality area that serves complimentary Anheuser-Busch products. Additionally, the Busch Clydesdale stables, which are open to the public, are adjacent to the Grant's Farm parking lot. Admission is free, but parking is $8 per car.
Laumeier Sculpture Park - One of the world's premier sculpture parks, Laumeier contains over 100 acres of parkland filled with approximately 450 kinetic, static, natural, mechanical, whimsical, and natural sculptures by noted contemporary artists carefully installed in large meadows and along paved paths and hiking trails. Smaller works are displayed in an on-site museum gallery. The largest sculpture, The Way by Alexander Lieberman, is 65 feet tall, 102 feet long, and weighs more than 50 tons. If you want to get a way from the city and spend some time walking in the woods, you can't beat this park.
Museum of the Dog - The American Kennel Club's Museum of the Dog displays over 700 originals of the best dog art (paintings, sculptures, prints, porcelains, etc.) in the world. The collection includes original works by Edwin Landseer, William Maud, and others. The museum also houses the All-Star Dogs Hall of Fame. I bet you never guessed there was a museum like this. If you're a dog lover, consider spending an hour or two browsing through the colletion. There is also a nice gift shop with many one-of-a-kind and exclusive works of art for sale.
Museum of Transportation - Formerly known as the National Museum of Transport, this is one of the best railroad collections in the country. The outside collection includes over 33 steam locomotives, 27 diesel locomotives, 10 electric locomotives, 45 freight cars, 31 passenger cars and more. The museum also has nice collections of trolleys, automobiles, and a few river vessels. The museum even houses a section of the Coral Courts Motel, one of the first "modern" motels and long-time landmark on Route 66.
St. Louis Cardinals Hall of Fame - The St. Louis Cardinals Hall of Fame contains over 100 years of memorabilia related to the team. All of the team's worlds series and pennant winning teams are featured with displays including jerseys, equipment, rings, balls, programs, scorecards and more. Special displays recognize all of the Cardinal's past stars, and there are sections devoted to the old St. Louis Browns of the American League and the St. Louis Stars of the Negro League. The museum is located right at stadium plaza in the same building as the International Bowling Hall of Fame.
Shaw's Garden (The Missouri Botanical Garden) - Shaw's Garden was founded in 1859 and is one of the premier institutions in the world devoted to the botanical research and study. Better yet, for tourists and locals it is also one of the finest parks in the world as well. The Garden encompasses approximately 80 acres of horticultural displays including a 14 acre Japanese garden and the world famous Climatron conservatory. Open, with beautiful permanent and rotating displays, year round.
Six Flags St. Louis - What can you say; it's a Six Flags, and one of the first three to be built. Six Flags St. Louis contains all the standard thrill rides with seven major roller coasters including the Screamin' Eagle, a wooden roller coaster, which at one time held the record for the largest, longest, and fastest roller coaster in the world. The newest section is Bugs Bunny National Park, a themepark within a themepark that is designed for families; all of it's rides can be enjoyed by infants, older kids, and adults.
Union Station - Union Station was once the largest and busiest train station in the world. Today it houses one of St. Louis best shopping and entertainment venues containing a luxury hotel, indoor lake, ten screen movie theater, festival/concert plaza, food court, railroad museum, two gigantic ballrooms, and approximately 100 specialty stores and restaurants. I have an especially fond place in my heart for Union Station as my great grandfather was one of the architects who assisted Theodore Link in its design.
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