In St. Louis’ new Busch Stadium, centerfield was purposely placed adjacent to a parcel intended for the sparkling Ballpark Village mixed-use development, created by Design Collective. But since demolition of the old Busch Stadium, Ballpark Village has been repeatedly delayed, and the parcel, located where a corner of the old Busch Stadium stood, has become a seven-block mud pit.
However, as the 2009 All-Star Game, scheduled to be played in St. Louis in mid-July, has drawn closer, the ardinals organization is finally breaking ground on the site. The project: a regulation softball field. “The first two years of the ball park, the site looked pretty bad,” said Bill DeWitt III, president of the Cardinals. “It was just a hole in the ground, basically.”
As the new red-brick Busch Stadium rose from 2004 to 2006, its footprint overlapped the old one so closely that walkways of the old ballpark were shorn off so work could continue. After the last bit of the stadium was hauled away, the downtown pit became a joke to locals.
Last fall, the team decided to enhance the site. This involved removing pile caps, bringing in fill material, grading, and planting grass. Some parking was also added. “This spring, as we started contemplating the needs of the All-Star Game, one of the things the game required was a large, open space for the giant gala tent,” said DeWitt. “It became the perfect spot. Obviously, it’s a great location and there are opportunities to tie in some youth stuff.”
It’s also a project that allows flexibility to start work on the big project when the financing is in place, explained Chase Martin, Cordish’s development director for Ballpark Village. He said they are waiting for state approval of subsidies, after which they will sell the needed bonds. He expects action around the end of the summer. “We’ll still build,” he said. “We’ll build all seven blocks.”
Ballpark Village’s design is meant to complement the baseball stadium. “The first part is the ballpark, which in some ways isn’t complete until we get Ballpark Village done. Until then, it’s just open space and views of the downtown skyline,” DeWitt said. “We think it could be much better with a giant mixed-use project.”