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2 days at Busch Stadium: What a 365-day use ballpark district looks like

Royals' officials' goal for a year-round entertainment is good on paper, but will it work?
Posted: 5:30 AM, Oct 02, 2023
Updated: 2023-10-04 02:36:48-04
Ballpark Village, St. Louis

SAINT LOUIS — The regular baseball season is coming to a close, but Kansas City Royals fans are still waiting for a decision on where the team's new stadium will be.

Last month, when the team unveiled the renderings for each potential site, they emphasized their goal of 365-day use, with the help of an entertainment district surrounding the area.

There are numerous baseball stadiums around the country that utilize this strategy, one of those being Busch Stadium in St. Louis.

So, we went across the state to see for ourselves: what is it about Busch Stadium and Ballpark Village that keep people coming back? We heard directly from the fans.

Thursday, September 21. Brewers @ Cardinals

Thursday, September 22. One hour before game time.

"I’m a sports nut," Sara Hayes said. "And I just love the Cardinals, they’re like family."

"It makes for a fun environment, that’s for sure," said Fosner Sqrow, as he walked around with his family.

"I love to scream and holler and have a good time," said DeeDee Jung, who drove from Illinois to see a Cardinals game.

DeeDee Jung, Cardinals fan

It doesn't matter if the team's having a home run kind of year.

Tom Schmitt, the owner of Salt + Smoke BBQ, said his restaurant is packed, no matter what day.

"This is our busiest store across our company every week of the year," Schmitt said. "January, February, Cards out of town, Cards in town."

Schmitt credits the range of activities.

"It’s not just a one note thing with the Cardinals," he said. "There’s so much going on across all sectors, all day parts."

Even the smaller businesses outside of Ballpark Village, agree with Schmitt, like Lisa Doss, who sells peanuts, snow cones and waters on the sidewalk.

Lisa Doss, sidewalk shop owner

"Probably 10, 20, 30,000 people a day down here come through, usually, and we probably serve about a thousand," Doss said. "Ballpark Village really keeps business going."

Ballpark Village is owned by the Cardinals and Cordish, the same company that helped create the Power & Light District in Kansas City.

"We see upwards of six million guests a year throughout the Ballpark Village neighborhood," said Mike LaMartina, Ballpark Village's chief operating officer.

Mike LaMartina, Ballpark Village COO

He said the secret sauce to 365 use is making it a community space, where people can stay and live, and be part of game day even without tickets.

But it took time to get to where Ballpark Village is today, it wasn't built in a day.

Busch Stadium was built in 2006. Less than 10 years later, in 2014, Ballpark Village opened with a focus on restaurants and entertainment.

It was only three years ago in 2020 that it added hotels and apartment buildings, like One Cardinal Way.

"We’re one of the most visited attractions as a neighborhood when it comes to the state of Missouri," LaMartina said. "That’s not all based on baseball season, you know, that’s all the other events that take place, it’s day in day out traffic, it’s people coming to our restaurants, our businesses, our events, our concerts, living on the property, visiting our hotel."

We talked to fans who said they'd avoid downtown in the off-season.

"There’s not a whole lot to do down here, other than the arch, when there’s no baseball or hockey down the street," Sqrow said.

Fosner Sqrow, Cardinals fan

"When the Cardinals are here is really when downtown comes alive," said Mark Zinn, another fan. "It’s still poppin’, but there’s nothing like a Cardinals game."

Other fan's said it was worth the wait.

"Most times I do come down here on the off-season," Alex Madison said. "A lot of times you can watch sports inside of the Ballpark Village."

"I remember before they built up all the restaurants and the apartments here, it was kinda like, you came to Busch Stadium and you left, and because of this whole city they’ve built around it, you want to stay, you want to go early," Isabelle Cenatiempo said.

Friday, September 22. Cardinals off-day

Friday, September 22. 24 hours after game time.

We wanted to see if the fans who said they come back on off-days actually come back on off-days.

At 11 a.m., 24 hours later, we noticed families walking around, tourists exploring the stadium and a handful of people eating at the restaurants.

It definitely wasn't like what we saw during game day, but it also wasn't a total ghost town.

The Royals and the Cardinals have their differences, but Kansas City is hoping for a similar atmosphere on and off game day, and they only have to go four hours away to get inspiration.

Mark Zinn, Cardinals fan

"It turns downtown St. Louis into a parade every single time," Zinn said.