Venue Review: The Good and Bad of St. Louis’s Stadiums

Nathan Tucker
nrtucker@lc.edu

 

St. Louis, at its heart, is a sports city. Even after the departure of the beloved but often mediocre Rams, St. Louis offers some of the best live experiences in American sports. Sure, winning a World Series or a Stanley Cup helps, but what really makes that feeling is the stadium. 

A key reason often pointed out when discussing the aforementioned Rams leaving was that the Dome was an awful place to watch sports. When the Rams weren’t competitive, the Dome was more like a junky football library rather than a raucous stadium, and the team still attempted to charge people outrageous prices. In their final season, the cheapest Rams ticket at the Dome box office was $47 before fees. Why would you pay that to have a lousy Sunday afternoon?

In that spirit, this piece is all about our local sports facilities, and what to expect from them, both good and bad. Let’s start off with the most omnipresent stadium in St. Louis:

 

BUSCH STADIUM III, OPENED 2006

You can’t talk about sports in STL without talking about Busch Stadium. For fans not from here who only know St. Louis through memes of Cardinals fans being stupid, Busch might as well be the entire city. Most people in the area have probably been there once or twice, either for a ballgame or the less sports-inclined concert. 

Good: Busch is beautiful. Amazing views of St. Louis’s downtown, there’s really not a bad seat in the house, even if your tickets are standing room only. There’s several bar-type locations throughout the stadium, such as the Bud Terrace on the upper deck and the Bowtie Bar on the second deck in left field, that provide both views of the field and walls of TVs to keep you posted on the action. 

The food selection at Busch Stadium now is outrageous in a good way, and the notion of buying a bag of popcorn or a hot dog at the ballgame has been tossed to the wayside for open-pit BBQ and street tacos. Conversely, Busch Stadium is one of very few sports facilities overall that allows fans to bring in their own food and (nonalcoholic) beverages, if not wanting to pursue the ever-growing concession menus. 

For those on a budget but love getting out to the ballpark, the Cardinals offer what’s called a Ballpark Pass, where for $35 a month (including fees) one receives a standing room only ticket to every single home game. Only a small handful of Major League Baseball teams offer such a deal. 

Bad: Busch is EXPENSIVE. If you are not one to bring in your own food or drinks, be prepared to spend upward of $50. Tickets to get in are pretty reasonable compared to Major League Baseball as a whole, but once you get in the park be prepared to spend money. The BBQ up in the Bud Terrace is great, I love the shrimp skewers, but it will also cost $15 to get two of them and some chips. For those feeding others, a meal for a group of four is likely pushing $100, and that’s assuming no one in the group is drinking beer or alcohol, which basically start at $10 per drink.

One of my personal favorite treats at Busch is a Twisted Top Pretzel, a pretzel covered with cheese or a number of other toppings like pepperoni and buffalo chicken. However, due to a $10.50 price tag for a single pretzel, I can rarely bring myself to spend so much on something that’s gone in a few bites. Combine that with the smallest possible soda you can buy that still costs $6, and you’ve spent $16.50 on two items that might last you through the first inning. 

Price-gouging also happens when looking for souvenirs, where stuff like hats and jerseys that are already priced at ridiculous rates. A hat can now cost $50, some jerseys can cost over $300, and the cheaper end of the spectrum actually isn’t cheap at all. Every T-shirt sold at Busch Stadium manages to be $40 or more somehow, and each jacket runs $100 minimum. For those who just have to have the latest Cardinals looks, I suggest a visit to the mall instead.

 

ENTERPRISE CENTER, OPENED 1994

Formerly known as the Kiel, Savvis, or Scottrade Center, Enterprise Center has been the home of Blues hockey and numerous concerts and other events since 1994. Its just-about completed renovation has been a few year process, but has drastically changed the feel of the inside of the building. With the Blues finally reaching the once-thought unreachable plateau of a Stanley Cup victory, hockey games this season it will be tough to get a hold of tickets, with a fervent fan-base bound to pack the building to show their gratitude of the season before.

Good: Blues games, by the nature of the pace of hockey and the energy in the building, are naturally fun to be at. Eighteen thousand people yelling can’t be wrong. Unlike baseball or football where there’s lots of downtime and games can be relaxing to a degree, hockey is loud, quick, and abrasive, a great spectator sport. 

Walking around Enterprise Center now is a completely different experience than it was a few years ago. The concourses have more room, more light, and less 90s flair thanks to a renovation/modernization that is in the finishing stages as I write this. The arena itself is sporting all new seats, gone are the purple and blue seats of uncomfortable old, and in are the all-new all-black seats, that at least feel marginally roomier. 

The best pho I’ve ever had was at a Korean BBQ stand at a Blues game at Enterprise Center. Stands somewhat rotate every season, but the Blues have been recognized for having great food to offer. The line at the stir fry stand is always crazy, but the more traditional concessions are done better than you’d find at the previously mentioned Busch Stadium, and are often a bit cheaper. Each game the Blues have an “Item of the game” in the souvenir stands around the arena, and offer a shirt or hat or something similar for a discounted price, something the Cardinals don’t typically offer. 

Bad: Oh man, if I thought it was expensive to get into a Blues game last year, a whole new world is coming this year now that they’re champs. Through Ticketmaster, a ticket to sit in the tippy top of the Mezzanine (upper) level started at $54 including fees last season. For this article, I checked the Oct. 5 game against the Dallas Stars, and the price for one person to sit in Row Q of section 333 is $87, with Ticketmaster fees included.

Where the Cardinals provide a get-around to their high concession prices by allowing fans to bring in food and (nonalcoholic) drinks, the Blues (because of the NHL’s policy) don’t allow outside food or drinks, no matter what they are. This season, you won’t be allowed to bring a normal bag or purse inside Enterprise Center, but fear not, the team will sell you a clear plastic bag while you wait in line. 

Where food and drink concession prices are often somewhat cheaper at Blues games than Cardinals games, souvenirs and merchandise are still very expensive, minus the marked down “Item of the game.” As a tracksuit enthusiast, the one thing I have wanted from the NHL since Adidas became the Official Apparel Provider™ of the NHL™ is a Blues Adidas jacket. It exists, but it costs $80. A T-shirt with a player’s name and number on the back, commonly referred to as a “shirsey,” will run fans somewhere between $35 and $40. 

Next series: West Community Stadium, home of Saint Louis FC soccer, and GCS Ballpark, home of the Gateway Grizzlies baseball team.

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