ST. LOUIS — As Major League Baseball and the St. Louis Cardinals begin a shortened 60-game season this week, Ballpark Village will take on a new role.
"We’ve always been the closest spot to Busch Stadium. But without fans in the stands in the stadium, we're the closest seat to the game," said Nate Green, director of operations at Ballpark Village’s Cardinals Nation.
The Cardinals see Ballpark Village (BPV), the mixed-use district adjacent to Busch Stadium, as providing a place where fans can gather during the season in which they won't be allowed inside the ballpark. BPV Chief Revenue Officer Mike LaMartina said the situation provides a “unique opportunity."
“The good news is as we enter into this new phase of what baseball looks like — even though there’s less people physically in the stadium and we’ll be operating at some reduced capacity — we’re not going to change the fan experience with what we’re providing them,” he said.
The Business Journal spoke with LaMartina and Green about how BPV will manage operations and crowds of fans during the MLB season. Here are three key takeaways from the conversations:
Key to BPV’s strategy this summer is an expansion of its footprint to include more outdoor spaces for fans who want to watch Cardinals’ games. That includes LED screens and 350-plus seats added to its Together Credit Union Plaza. At Cardinals Nation, Green said the facility’s first-floor restaurant will provide patio seating as well as dining space located on the sidewalk along Clark Street.
Some of the new areas are a part of BPV's $260 million phase two expansion, a project that LaMartina said offers new spaces for fans to watch games.
“We made significant investment in additional areas as part of phase two that are now prime viewing areas with large format screens, stages and outdoor opportunities that I think a lot of people who haven’t been down here will really enjoy. But it will also really make you feel you are in the thick of action even if there aren’t people in the red seats inside the stadium,” he said.
The Cardinals and BPV say they have protocols in place to control crowds that come to the entertainment district to catch a glimpse of Cardinals baseball. LaMartina said BPV has added areas and markers outside of venues that direct where visitors can properly social distance. At the Cardinals Nation restaurant, Green said three “on-deck” areas are set up for groups waiting for tables. If those areas are used, customers will be asked to wait outside or at an extra space the restaurant isn’t using on its second floor.
BPV is encouraging customers to make reservations ahead of their trip downtown because of capacity limits.
“That way you know that you’re going to get in and have a space,” LaMartina said.
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