St. Louis SportsOnline
In a recent column, I wondered how many people would enjoy the trip along Interstate 64/40 over the Poplar Street Bridge to the Metro East on a Friday early evening to watch the Cardinals in their new stadium.
This WAS a serious question.
After the Cardinals' initial announcement back in July2000, this column discussed some features of the proposal. In that column, I discussed costs (or expenses) and income. If we examine the private funding of the Cardinals proposed stadium, should we anticipate an interest from local companies such as Anheuser-Busch, AmerenUE, and Purina. According to an October 12, 2002 Post-Dispatch article written by Joe Holleman, a collection of sponsors including Pacific Bell, Annheuser-Busch, The Gap and Coca Cola contributed $80 million to the $314 million Pacific Bell Park project for the San Francisco Giants. With that in mind, one feature that appears to dominate any decision on where to build a new stadium is investment. Investment means money and one needs to consider the short and long term when visualizing the whole picture. And as Mayor Slay knows quite well, the whole picture includes more than just the Cardinals.
And one important question to be asked of location and investment is this: Would the Cardinals see a decrease in the number of affluent west-siders and an increase in the number of affluent east-siders as a result of the move? And would the changes in river-sided interest justify the investment. One suspects that the decision to relocate the stadium rest more on the attitudes of those people who pay for luxury suites than season ticket holders from South St. Louis. Framed differently, would the Cardinals see fewer St. Charles county residents making the trip to the east side and more Fairview Heights inhabitants taking pricey seats after a short drive from their homes?
Clearly the east side of the river is as important to the Cardinals as the Cardinals (and St. Louis) are to the east-siders. I suspect that a new east-side location would be as popular as a southernly shift (a minor scoot) of the present downtown location.
But would the Cardinals really be interested and serious about moving the team to the east side? I think that the high brass (and certainly the City of St. Louis) want the team to stay in downtown. One could make an argument that without the team, there really would be less need for significant portions of the existing downtown. (One might ask how much development has occurred as a result of the Edward Jones Dome formerly known as the TWA Dome. One might also ask how often St. Louis Blues, Cardinals, and Rams fans, players, and owners shop at City Center and how that compares to visits by those same groups to the newly opened West County Mall, formerly known as a "blighted area.") However, if a deal is not made, the Cardinals organization would be able to make very good use of a proposal from the east side. There appears to be little downside to the present situation as far as the Cardinals are concerned.
Regardless of what happens when a new stadium is built, whether there is a pattern of increases or decreases in attendance, whether the team owners have more or less of their own money to invest in players, whether MLB contracts teams, whether new transportation infrastructure comes to St. Louis, the City of St. Louis must make the best use of their resources and try to form, as best they can, a reliable and full picture of the future of the region. Few people know what arrangements are in place with other businesses in the City and few people realize the full impact of state and federal legislation when it comes to hidden budget mandates. A stadium represents one visual clue to the success and viability of any city.
So my hunch is that the Cardinals will remain in downtown St. Louis. Of course, we may see some people needing to change their routine and leave a little earlier to get across the bridge.