Friday, July 27, 2007

Long Live the K

I had the opportunity to haul myself across the state last night for a Cardinals-Cubs game. I wanted to go despite my kneejerk reaction against the Cardinals. I even rooted for them while I was there (I'm not proud). The reason I wanted to go was to see what St. Louis got in their new stadium while we got stuck renovating Kauffman.

What I found was that we have the best stadium in the state despite the fact that it is somewhere around 30 years older than its competition. The new Busch Stadium is in the middle of downtown St. Louis, but it looks an awful lot like a strip mall in suburbia. Like every other stadium built in the past 15 years, they designed the stadium to look like it was built sometime before WWII. That's fine. I remember going to Camden Yards a couple of years after it opened and being wowed by a stadium that looked like the same kind of place my grandpa would have gone to as a kid. Baseball has tradition, and so it makes sense in many cases to use that as the driving idea. Apparently over half of the teams in MLB agree with that sentiment.

But Busch stadium takes tradition and gives it the faux-rock-on-the-front-of-a-new-suburban-house treatment. I talked to one of my good friends from St. Louis and he said they built it on the cheap. It looks like it. For those of you from KC, think about Zona Rosa and you have the idea. The decided to do the bare minimum to get the idea across and it shows.

When you are trying to create an environment that transports people to another place or time, details matter. An example is the railings at Busch Stadium. The railings around the fronts of the seats are a wrought iron that looks traditional. But the hand railings going up the stairs are round brushed aluminum and would look appropriate in front of a Target or Best Buy.

So St. Louis spent $346 million to get a stadium that looks like a bigger version of what the Cardinal's AA affiliate in Springfield built. Meanwhile in KC, we will be spending $250 million to bring Kauffman into the 21st century. Aside from the question of whether communities should be spending that kind of money on private enterprise, I like our option better.

(There were two cool things about the stadium in St. Louis. One is the new era Jumbotron, which we will have when we renovate. The other is a cool view of the Arch, which we won't. On the other hand, they don't have the largest publicly funded fountain in the world.)

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