In the news...Ballpark Village hits a home run, VIPs say

Published Mar 28, 2014
Mar 28, 2014

Design Collective worked with The Cordish Companies and St. Louis Cardinals for the design of Ballpark Village as featured in the >St. Louis Dispatch on Friday, March 28, 2014.


By: Margaret Gillerman

With a snip of a Cardinal red ribbon, the long-awaited Ballpark Village entertainment and sports bar development opened with a lot of “wows” Thursday night right next door to Busch Stadium.

“It’s a winner,” declared Jack Buck Jr., one of the revelers, who paraphrased that favorite of his late father, the beloved Cardinals broadcaster. “My dad would love it. I think it’s fabulous.”

After long delays, almost 14 years after the project vision was first made public, the $100 million, 120,000-square-foot first phase of Ballpark Village opened to excitement despite an outcry this week over a controversial dress code posted for many of the development’s restaurants, including no jerseys except during home games.

But the Cardinals announced Thursday afternoon that Fox Sports Midwest Live!, the giant sports bar filling the first-floor atrium, has changed its code to allow jerseys and hats any time.

“We heard you, and you now will be able to rock your team colors any time, any day at Fox Sports Midwest Live!,” Fox Sports Midwest Live! posted on Facebook.

The opening was accompanied by big smiles from Bill DeWitt Jr., Cardinals CEO and chairman; Bill DeWitt III, Cardinals president; David Cordish and his son Blake Cordish of the Cordish Cos., which co-sponsored the development; Gov. Jay Nixon; and St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay.

All spoke at the grand opening ceremony shortly after 5 p.m. on one of the stages in the Fox Sports Midwest Live! central plaza. The speakers drew cheers and standing ovations from the crowd of business and civic leaders, politicos and Cardinals stars, past and present.

A private VIP party for 2,000 people followed, and the general public got its first look shortly before 9 p.m., before a free concert by Third Eye Blind.

At the party, Ballpark Village’s eateries and bars provided refreshments, and music, jugglers, bagpipers, a cotton candy lady or two and celebrities added to the ambience. Ozzie Smith and other Cardinals greats roamed the crowds.

Smith said he visited about 10 days ago.

“This is phenomenal,” Smith said. Asked whether riding the mechanical bull at one of the bars could be as difficult as his famous back flips, he said with a grin: “That’s a mean bull.”

This first phase features a 120,000-square-foot building of restaurants and bars dedicated to sports and fun. Cardinals and Cordish executives, who secured public and private financing, remain hopeful that one day an envisioned residential tower and offices will fill the remainder of the 10 acres of land set aside for the project.

David Cordish said he expects it to spark a burst of development with hotels, offices and businesses around Ballpark Village.

Al Hrabosky, emcee at the grand opening ceremony, said some may have worried about whether it would ever be built.

“While many thought this day would never come.... one thing we should all know about the St. Louis Cardinals... They are a team that never gives up.”

DeWitt Jr. predicted “fans will fall in love with Ballpark Village and all that it has to offer beyond even game days.”

Slay said it would be a regional destination that could link with “the exciting transformation underway at the Arch grounds.”

The first phase of Ballpark Village features Cardinals Nation, the Cardinals multi-story bar and restaurant visible from the stadium beyond central field. Two employees, Julie Edwards and Michael Brown, said their favorite part was the outside patio with a clear view into the stadium.

“This is fabulous,” Edwards, a hostess, said of the night’s festivities. “It’s history.”

Other businesses that are part of the opening are the Budweiser Brew House, Fox Sports Midwest Live!, PBR St. Louis — a Cowboy Bar, Howl at the Moon and Drunken Fish.

The Fox Sports venue features one of the largest television screens in the Midwest, as well as a retractable roof, which opened briefly for the festivities.

U.S. Marine Sgt. Ian Copeland of Philadelphia and Cpl. Chester Nash III of Atlanta got special VIP tickets. While they still root for their home teams, Nash said, “I love that St. Louis fans love their team so much.”

Tamara Adams of Fenton walked in and exclaimed: “This is amazing.” She got her tickets from a co-worker who received them as a gift.

Adams said she was surprised at the strict announced dress code, and was pleased to learn it was changed Thursday. Baseball jerseys and caps will now be allowed in parts of Ballpark Village.

DeWitt III joked about the dress code controversy. He noted to the crowd that all the speakers wore Ballpark Village red ties with the signature fleur de lis and two baseball bats.

“Dress code!” he said.

St. Louis Alderman Phyllis Young, who represents the ward where the stadium is located, said the excitement was just beginning.

“This summer the Cardinals will be great, and a lot of people will be exploring Ballpark Village.”

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