Cardinals Set to Flee St. Louis Without “Top Tier” Stadium Deal

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As if the drama surrounding the possible departure of the St. Louis Rams National Football League team wasn’t enough, nextSTL has learned that the St. Louis Cardinals may relocate if funds are not found for a new “top tier” stadium.

Opened just a decade ago to much fanfare, Busch Stadium III is already seeing wear, and is considered by many to be outdated. The final construction cost of just $364M, a modest sum by today’s standards, ironically makes the stadium almost expendable.

The Cardinals are estimated to be worth $1.4B, sixth most of the 30 MLB teams, according to Forbes. The same publication recently reported the club is the most profitable in baseball. This reportedly has team ownership dreaming of the payoff in a growing market.

While much of the focus has been on elaborate sports palaces in the NFL, the Atlanta Braves are set to raise the bar in MLB. In suburban Atlanta, Cobb County will finance approximately $300M of that nearly $1B mixed use development. It is said that Cardinals owner Bill Dewitt, Jr. has shared in private conversations that he doesn’t want to be outdone by the Atlanta club, or any other team.

The Braves spent just 20 years in Turner Field, host stadium to the 1996 Summer Olympic Games. Converted to baseball use following the Olympics, the stadium was considered state-of-the-art at the time. The new stadium would be a modern mixed-use concept, but up to $450M in adjacent development, dwarfing the Cardinal’s slow-to-start Ballpark Village concept.

{rendering of new Braves stadium and development in suburban Cobb County}

In St. Louis, there are regrets the Cardinals chose a retro, faux brick stadium, the last of its genre. While the retro stadium trend had its genesis in Baltimore’s Oriole Park at Camden Yards (1992), the fad was clearing waning as plans were finalized in 2004 for a new St. Louis ballpark.

Reached via Twitter, Cardinals Sr. Vice President & General Manager John Mozeliak referenced the ongoing effort to keep the NFL in St. Louis. “Rams deserve top tier stadium, and so do Cards. We’re no longer there today”, Mozeliak messaged.

Missouri Governor Jay Nixon has appointed a two man stadium task force to pull together a riverfront stadium plan in St. Louis for the Rams. A similar, even mirror image, effort may already be underway with the Cardinals. Former Anheuser-Busch executive Dave Peacock and attorney Bob Blitz reportedly met with MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred last week.

In 2011, a large steel decorative element fell from the stadium onto the 8th Street sidewalk. At the time, Stadium Operations Director Mike Bertani told KMOX,  “It’s an outdoor stadium, so you’ve got temperatures of minus five and now we’ve heat indices of 105, and we also have a lot of rain, so there’s some rust up there.” While this condition isn’t unique to St. Louis, it appears to be having a substantial impact on the stadium.

With annual profit greater than $70M, and a value of nearly one and a half billion, the club would have several options to finance a new stadium in a new city. Of course, team financing may not be necessary. If a deal like that in Cobb County, Georgia can be made, the team may find itself in a new stadium at virtually no cost.

{map of MLB TV markets – by FanGraphs}

Famously purchased by a partnership headed by Dewitt for just $147M in 1996, the team quickly divested in parking facilities that came attached to the team. That sale resulted in a final team purchase price of just $100M.

“It’s all upside, we want to maximize what’s possible,” Dewitt told reporters at the time. Now it appears the Cardinals will explore exactly what that means. According to several websites that track possible MLB expansion or relocation, Portland, Oregon, San Antonio, Texas, and San Juan, Puerto Rico are possible new homes for the franchise.

Absent the Cardinals, Busch Stadium could be utilized as a concert and soccer venue. The facility’s largest attendance was reached at an international soccer match between Chelsea F.C. vs Manchester City F.C. That contest saw 48,263 fans attend. More matches could be scheduled if the stadium schedule was more open. St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay, a huge soccer fan, is reportedly in favor of more matches at Busch, should the Cardinals leave.

*We’ll update this developing story throughout the day.

And if you’re still reading, this is an April Fools Day post.

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  • ngiri26165

    Stumbled upon this through a Google search for “St. Louis Football Cardinals.”

    Initial reaction: An archived article from the ’80s about the football Cardinals’ departure?
    2nd reaction: Must be a typo: they meant Rams. (Unlikely mixup for an American page. In 2009 a British paper reported that Kurt Warner was quarterbacking the St. Louis Cardinals in the Super Bowl.)
    Then after I actually began reading the article:
    3rd reaction: This looks like something out of TheOnion.com!

    Then I saw April 1, 2015 at the top, and it all made sense.

  • kjohnson04

    Nice play, Alex. Good for a chuckle.

  • Julius Marx

    Thanks so much for this. But at least now we know that the office defibrillator works, and I’ll soon be fine again. (I hate this holiday, BTW).

  • STL

    Lol I knew this was April Fools right from the headline.

  • mpbaker22

    Perhaps next years could be a massive tax increase used to fund a public highway straight from downtown to Creve Couer (or an I-170 southern extension). The catch would be the tax increase would fall disproportionately on the poor of the region, something like a renters tax.

  • BudSTL

    I must admit that the Chesterfield Ikea was absolutely brilliant! This one less so, but thanks for a bit of 4/1 levity nonetheless…

  • jhoff1257

    I gotta be honest. I think you guys have lost your April Fools game. The Chesterfield IKEA was outstanding, and my personal favorite was Paul McKee’s “Southside Redevelopment” that basically was demolition of everything surrounding Lafayette Square. I still remember reading that and literally screaming because I was so pissed. Those were good.

    The three from today seem a little forced. NASA and the Cardinals leaving? That’s a stretch even for an April Fools joke. The 42 municipalities from the “former” City could probably fool a few county folks because they think the City is so bad at governing itself…never mind the 90 dysfunctional disasters they created for themselves.

    I also follow you on Flickr and saw all these images a few days ago so I kinda knew what was coming lol. Either way, I think we can do better. 🙂

    • rgbose

      Feel free to submit your own!

      • jhoff1257

        That actually might be fun, however, while I didn’t necessarily like the content of today’s posts, the writing was still much better then I could do. Plus I’ve seen what you guys are capable of…It’s still in there somewhere. 🙂

        Also for what it’s worth Mr. Bose, I love the financial analysis of the various little fiefdoms around the Metro Area that you’ve been doing.

        • rgbose

          Thanks. Stay tuned for more. There’s seemingly limitless material.

          • jhoff1257

            Well those 42 new municipalities in the City should keep you busy. 😉

    • Alex Ihnen

      Agreed. :/

      • Richard

        Instead of the Cardinals you could have pranked Stan Kroenke and the Rams. Kroenke has a change of heart decided to abandon LA stadium plan and Invest billions in new 80,000 seat retractable roof stadium on north riverfront with NO surface parking lots and plenty of residential high rises in the Bottle District and mid rise housing, parks and retail from the Landing to new stadium

  • Lisa Farrand Kemp

    There’s all that property in Fenton

  • pattywagon

    Hahaha, and the sad part is this is how the NFL truly thinks. I hope we’ll see their popularity eventually decline due to their greediness and issues.

  • Lloyd Christmas

    April Fools!

  • Charles Prichard

    Tax payers are always left holding the financing of a new stadium every twenty years. This is wrong. If the city wants the team to stay purchase it and stop building stadiums every 20 years. Green Bay has done it!

    • rgbose

      The NFL won’t allow it. Green Bay was grandfathered in. It’s bad for business.

  • Nathan Bookhout

    Hard to outdo the Chesterfield Ikea…

  • Don

    Not at all funny. Not even a little. And clever does not equal funny.

    • Ryan

      It’s not even clever, either.

  • monopolytophat

    As a Man City supporter, this is welcome news for the start of April!

  • Presbyterian

    I love April.

  • MRNHS

    You better do the update soon. You are going to upset a lot of people with this story. 🙂

    • matimal

      Really? You make St. Louisers sound like idiots.

      • OldFaithful

        It’s “St. Louisans” not “St. Louisers”, poser.

        • matimal

          hmhmhmhm…..What about St. Louisites, St. Louisianians or maybe St. Louians (pronounced lewians a la francaise)?