Friday, November 16, 2012

Nov 15 - UCB Roundtable QOTD

I'm not much of an expert on up-and-coming kids in the farm system.  Prospects have never really been my thing.  I mean, I know about Oscar Tavares, and the obvious Billy Hamiltons and Profars of the world, but for the most part, unproven kids don't float my boat.

For that reason, in part anyway, when it was my day to ask the UCB Roundtable my question for the day, I went a little different route.  It's no secret that I'm a fan of visiting MLB ballparks far & wide, and eventually want to check them all off my list.  Given that, I sought the input of the group as to how they'd compare the current Busch Stadium to other parks they've experienced and asked what changes, if any, they thought should be made to Busch.

I've been to my share of other stadiums and seen baseball games in all but one of them.  Mother nature & the baseball gods weren't seeing eye to eye that night, and my only shot at seeing a game at Shea was rained out.  I've liked many of the other parks I've visited, some more than others.  I'd rank Busch III right up there with many of them in most categories, but I wouldn't say it's the best stadium I've ever been to.  Better in some areas than other parks, and not as good in other areas.

There have already been numerous changes made to the park since it opened.  The left field wall used to be plain--just a flat green with no retired numbers or images representing people in Cardinals history.  Same for the walkway outside of gate 3, the Musial pavers weren't always there.  Not sure if you'll recall this one or not, but the original right field foul pole had a striking similarity to the fuselage of a 747, only painted yellow--it stood about, oh, Arch high, and had the circumference of about 11 Prince Fielders.  It was replaced rather quickly.  My two favorite changes are those two flags flying over the out-of-town scoreboard in right field that weren't there on the day the park opened.  There are other modifications & enhancements that have come along over the past few years, but you get the point I'm trying to make.

At any rate, if I were going to make any changes to the current Busch, they'd not be anything too drastic.  But two things do come to mind:

1)  Upgrade the video board to HD.  A lot of other ballparks have already done this, and you'd have to go back further than you might think to find an offseason where no team upgraded their scoreboard (jumbotron, whatever).  I'd say, especially given the Cardinals organization being so "green" and at the leading edge in baseball of being environmentally friendly, an upgrade could save a lot of energy while improving the fan experience.

2)  Grab a bucket of yellow paint, and get your ass to the outfield wall.  This is long overdue (Busch III has never had a yellow stripe), and has come into play a few times since the park opened, including recent umpire review sessions to rule whether a ball was a homerun or not.  Paint the stripe.  It's easy, inexpensive, and though I really have tried, I can't think of a good reason not to do it.  I'm open to thoughts if I'm missing something--drop a comment below.

As for my UCB colleagues, here's how they responded...

Daniel Solzman:
I went to a game in the Redbird Club this past August and I have to say that it was awesome.  I have an open invite to stop by the broadcast booth and visit with Dan.  Of course, he was on vacation during the game that I went to.

I’ve only been to about half of the ballparks as of now, give or take a few, but Busch is top notch.  The only change I would make would probably be to move the press box to the same level as the broadcasters as is the case in other stadiums.

Daniel Shoptaw:
I have been to only six MLB stadiums in my life (only two of which are still standing) and given that I've still not actually paid to enter Busch III, I'm completely unqualified to give any opinion on the stadium experience.  Luckily, I'm a blogger and have lots of ability to give unqualified opinions.

One thing that was nice in Cincinnati (the only other standing stadium I've attended) was that their Hall of Fame was right there on the same plot of land as the stadium.  I know that once Ballpark Village gets underway, the Cards are planning to put their HOF over there and that'll be great.  It's good to be able to absorb some history before going in to see the current incarnation of the team.

Other than that, I don't know what Busch could improve on, though I look forward to those that have more trips to the park under their belt weighing in!

Wes Keene:
Having been to only a limited number of parks, I should probably refrain from answering this. There are much more qualified people in this group. I will say that 'modern' seems to win out over heritage most of the time. The charm of an old and crumbling park is limited. More food and beverage locations, more shopping, and more entertainment are all tangible things fans can enjoy and clubs can profit from. There is little advantage to living in the stone age and doing without those conveniences. The latest incarnation of Busch does have all the modern amenities and is easy to get in and out of. We could definitely do a lot worse. 

Tom Knuppel:
Nothing real special about Busch. I have been to probably 50% of the stadiums and all are unique for various reasons. Some have better "views" while some have better ""in and out" access. Then there are those with outstanding history lessons surrounding it and some are "historic". 
To me, Pittsburgh is really nice and Wrigley is really terrible. Yankees and Mets, being in NY are just too many things going on while Boston does a great job of the neighborhood concept. San Diego is pristine and Dodger Stadium is unique as to it location. 
So I am trying to say that all have some qualities that make it special and probably more-so to their fans.

Busch III is in line with many of them but I don't feel "in awe" entering the stadium.

Dennis Lawson:
Busch III seems incredibly nice in terms of its updates and upgrades which are pretty much standard issue in the newer ballparks.  Many practical concerns are addressed, so the vendor spaces, restrooms, and areas to congregate are extremely nice.  That said, it doesn't have quite the same "personality" as AT&T, Camden Yards, or even the Nationals Stadium.  However, you really can't beat the view from home plate at sunset with the Arch still in view.  It's spectacular and might be one of the most beautiful panoramic shots in a stadium anywhere.  

Our seats last season were right in front of the Bowtie Bar below Big Mac Land, and I can't complain one bit about the view.  The sea of red created by a full stadium of Cardinal fans makes it magical.  You could pack 40,000 members of Cardinal Nation into a huge parking lot, and it would still be awesome.  That's really what makes Busch special.  It's the baseball gathering place and a destination.  It represents so much more than just a bunch of bricks and a field.  The ability to transplant the that magic from one stadium to the next via the fans means provides the element that makes Busch III different than most ballparks.

Chris Mallonee:
Here's my list of parks I have been to. 

Arlington Stadium
The Ballpark at Arlington
Enron/Minute Maid
Coors Field
Kauffman Stadium
Wrigley Field
Whatever the Angels call their field
Whatever the Diamondbacks call their field (Chase field?)

I too, like Dathan, have a great appreciation for the history of ballparks and have been to a decent number over the years. A group of buddies from high school and I have decided to visit one new park a year...last year was Wrigley, this coming season we are going to Miami. With this week's trade, they may be selling tickets for 5 bucks to sit in the dugout during games. 

How does Busch compare to other parks? I can't think of another place where the stadium is more of a civic centerpiece than Busch III. Wrigley is in a sense, but there is another team in the city, and the field is not in the heart of downtown. So I appreciate the longstanding tradition of the name being carried on from park to park and the new park was built in the same location as the old one. What I love about going to Busch is that the fan experience is geared around what is happening on the field, Busch doesn't need roller coasters and crazy in-game gimmicks to get people to come and be entertained. I think the "look and feel" has been done very well to tie in the classic look with the modern amenities. Things like the Bowtie Bar that have wireless charging stations and variety of beer and liquors, as well as free shade during the hot summer, was a great touch.

So, because of my preference for stadium experience that is about the game, and not the frills, the next best place I have been is Wrigley. It's a totally unique experience that everyone should have on their bucket list. 

Because of growing up going to so many games at Busch, I"m biased to the point that no other stadium experience compares for me. However, the last couple of years, I've gotten to sit in different party suites a couple of times, and that is top notch. The champions club last summer was awesome...they had several of the World Series trophies on display, and service second to none.

What could Busch do better? I wish they would better incorporate the history of the team out on the main concourses. Yes, they have the scoreboard from final game at Busch II and name the concession stands after various things from Cardinals past, but maybe a few banners along the walkway with great moments of Cardinal history, and perhaps even a place in authentic team store with more Jack Buck stuff. I would like to see more about him in the stadium.

The last thing I will mention, is that I believe the Cards fan base has as much an appreciation of baseball history as any other...I think it would be awesome if the team did more throwback uniforms. The '82 weekend was great, but I'd like to see them throw on the Baby Blues more often, and even throw on the 40's unis that Musial wore. I think the fans would really like that.

Spencer Hendricks: 
I think I'm echoing others here, but I do feel like Busch is a nice enough modern stadium, albeit one that errs on the boring side. I like how it plays very neutral, but sometimes the quirky parks are the ones that are truly memorable. I never got to go there, but my favorite ever park has to be Olympic Stadium in Montreal. So ugly, and so empty. If the Expos still existed I don't see how I could avoid moving to Canada and having UEB Roundtable questions in my inbox every morning instead.

Mark Tomasik:
Busch Stadium III is a good, not great, ballpark. The ballparks in Baltimore and Pittsburgh have better settings, better seating, better sightlines, better ambiance. The ballparks in Cincinnati and Cleveland are as good as the one in St. Lous. The Cardinals need Ballpark Village _ and they need it to be a grand-slam fan experience _ in order to elevate this ballpark over most others.

Matt Whitener:
Let me start this off by saying I am still horribly in love with Busch
II and I don't like change. So, now that we've gotten that out the

I dig Busch III, finally. I went to 25 games this year, and sat
everywhere from the fourth row to the top of the left field stands.
It's got nice sight lines that don't make you feel like you're going
to die if somebody fouls one off the wrong way.

It's aesthetics are with the times, that modern, yet vintage vibe that
Camden Yards put into play 20 years ago so effectively that there have
been copycats ever since. And the visuals around the park are great.
But the amenties in it are low. And while I don't EVER want to see the
swimming pools and BS that other parks have, Ballpark Village will be
great for the enviroment and visual outside the park. The inside will
stay simple, but the ambiance will change.

Of the parks I've been too, which isn't as plentiful as it will be by
this time next year, it's strong. But I'd say overall it's upper
middle of the pack. Which isn't bad really, because there are some
awesome ballparks in this era of baseball.

Christine Coleman:
What a great question! Although the subject isn't a surprise, coming from you ...

I've been to 15 MLB stadiums overall, although two -- old Yankee Stadium and Shea -- are no longer there.  (In the case of Shea, thankfully.) 

Several of you have mentioned Camden Yards, and I've been there twice. The first time was over for a couple innings of a game, though. It was opening day 2005 and I was in town for a conference -- the convention center is right across the street. Once I got done in the late afternoon, it was about the sixth inning or so. I walked over, went to the first gate I saw, said I was from out of town at a convention and just asked the ticket taker if I could come in. What the heck? He said not then, but I was welcome to come back once the game ended and he'd let me in to look around. After seeing tons of people leaving, I tried again at a different gate; no. I saw a woman ticket taker at one gate so I thought she'd be more sympathetic. Her initial response was "Do you know how many people have told me that today?" so I started rummaging through my bag for my convention badge. She just shook her head and said I could go in, but I couldn't sit. Ever the rule-follower, I didn't ... even though there were plenty of seats everywhere. Instead, I stood behind home plate a few sections up from the field. (I could even see Cal Ripken in some great seats right by the dugout -- and he spoke at the conference the next day.) From that vantage point, awesome view. Terrific atmosphere, with what was left of a sell-out opening day crowd. In 2008, I was there for a full game. Our seats were about midway down the left field line. They faced directly forward, meaning you had to turn to the right to see home plate. The heads of the people in the row in front of me blocked my view. The rows in our section were very crowded too. I was not happy that such a terrific looking -- and so much praised -- ballpark was actually not quite as great from those seats anyway. There was plenty of space elsewhere in the stadium, though, so we moved up and weren't as uncomfortable having to turn to face home plate. But the food was terrific and Boog Powell was even at Boog's Barbecue -- he threw out the first pitch that day.

That trip in 2008 was part of a bus tour, so I got to see (and compare) all the East Coast ballparks within 10 days. And, through the course of the trip -- and my visits to Busch Stadium also -- I've discovered that what makes a trip to the ballpark most enjoyable to me is the crowd. If it's a sell-out or if it's a large crowd, that's so much more appealing than a half-empty or worse stadium. PNC was lovely -- the views are gorgeous, the variety of food and beer was great, the area outside it with statues was very nice, the parrot running all over was fun, the pierogy race was interesting. But there were maybe 12,000 people, and they were mostly quiet all game. It was as scenic as anticipated, but overall not a top memory from the trip. One that surprisingly was: Citizens Bank Park. I had no expectations going there, so was very pleasantly surprised. Wide variety of food, great seating areas to eat at beyond left-center field, seats down the left field line (since we were in that area again) that actually faced home plate, and a sell-out Fox Saturday afternoon baseball crowd that booed a marriage proposal on the big screen, cheered wildly for an elderly couple on the kiss-cam and went nuts when Brad Lidge came into the game. Nationals Park was our final destination, and it was the first year it was open. Absolutely terrific -- every detail, as far as seating and the concourse and sight lines and food and drinks, all so well thought out. No one was there. All I remember about the game itself was they played the Reds. And I had steak nachos.

So the people are why Busch is so great to me. Probably the case why, despite my best efforts to hate it, I loved Fenway too. Knowledgeable, pleasant fans. Great amenities and atmosphere too, for sure -- they've really made a lot of improvements and added modern touches in areas where they can to a 100-year old stadium. And Wrigley has, in some small ways, improved a bit (although there's plenty more they can do). I still have been to far more games at Wrigley than Busch, but I hadn't been there for a couple of years until this September. I was pleasantly surprised at some of the upgrades, even though minor, inside and out.

Amenities will vary from park to park, as will food and beverage selections (and I definitely have to scout out those in advance before going to any ballpark now to see what's available that's gluten-free. Wrigley tops Busch there by far, sadly.) But it's the energy and the excitement that comes from the people in the stands that really makes the ballpark experience for me. That's why going to games at Busch, being part of that sea of red, will forever be more enjoyable than being among a capacity crowd at Wrigley where only half the people are even aware there's a baseball game going on and the other half are wondering when Sammy Sosa will be up. It was a trip to Busch II in 2000 -- when I was still weighing whether I could finish the leap to being a Cardinals fan and give up the Cubs completely -- that convinced me yes. Smart, engaging and friendly fans sitting around us did the trick, even though I liked the ballpark too.

I have no idea if I answered your question, but it's certainly been pleasant to think about the ballparks I've been to and jot down some baseball thoughts on this November night!

Dustin McClure:
In regards to Busch III it was designed with one thing in mind, watching a baseball game. That was the main objective and it does that extremely well. Now I don’t want to get into a BFIB debate, but I’d venture to say most Cardinals fans that take in a game or 80 during the season are probably just fine with the simple approach of the current Busch Stadium and don’t need swimming pools or night clubs in the stadium to occupy their time.

As far as comparing it to some other parks I’ve visited and what I’d change my list is pretty short. First, and I think I’ve mentioned this to you a time or two Dathan, is I’d love to see improved scoreboards. Now it doesn’t have to be like the 100,000 sq ft monster they’re putting up in Seattle but it would be nice if they’d at least upgrade to HD screens at the very least on both boards. I’m getting old and my eyes are going so this would be a benefit.  And the other thing is something they’ve continued to try and address and that’s atmosphere around the park. The new restaurant and bar that’s slated to open in 2014 in Ballpark Village will definitely help along with finally getting the Cardinals Hall of Fame up and running. A franchise with as rich of a history as the Cardinals absolutely needs a HOF. That’s pretty much it. 

No comments:

Post a Comment