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Ballpark Quirks: St. Louis' Busch Stadium asks you to gaze beyond the walls

Photo courtesy of Populous Busch Stadium. (Photo courtesy of Populous)

Ballpark Quirks is a series on the distinctive features and oddities that make up each of MLB’s 30 parks. Today’s Pick: Busch Stadium and its views. For past stories in the series, click here.

Embrace the Arch. You can almost hear it as a battle cry: Embrace the Arch! Old Busch Stadium in St. Louis did nothing of the sort. That folly wasn’t to be repeated when it came time to open the new version in 2006.

“The Arch is such a powerful symbol for America,” Earl Santee, the stadium’s designer with architectural firm Populous, told SI.com. “That was the opportunity, as the Arch clearly defines St. Louis. It really is the backdrop of the game and a constant reminder that you are in St. Louis. It was the obvious choice, it just wasn’t the obvious choice in old Busch Stadium.”

The entire stadium was turned just to face the 630-foot-tall Gateway Arch and the rest of downtown St. Louis’ skyline, but giving fans a view from the inside out toward one of the nation’s most recognizable landmarks wasn’t the only change in going from old Busch to new. From the very start, Santee designed a way for fans to have a view going in, though it wasn’t until prior to Opening Day 2014 that the Cardinals made it happen, unveiling Ballpark Village, an entertainment district outside the stadium walls that affords views right back into the stadium.

“It was always part of the plan,” said Santee, who didn’t work on the design of village itself. “We always envisioned there would be a Ballpark Village.”

All he had to do to get it ready was slide the stadium slightly to the south and allocate the space while ensuring the left-centerfield of Busch Stadium allowed for an opportunity for future buildings to catch a peak onto the field. As a bonus, keeping the outfield stands low played right into the hand of keeping the city’s views open to more angles.

Not that visitors to the new Ballpark Village will necessarily do much looking into the park with a 10-acre site dedicated to mixed-use development and entertainment. The $100 million first phase offers up a three-story building with the Cardinals' Hall of Fame Museum, a 20,000-square-foot, two-story Anheuser-Busch Cardinals Nation restaurant, and rooftop seating featuring ticketed seats looking into the park. Ballpark Village contains other attractions too, including a plaza that includes a 40-foot diagonal LED screen above a stage.

By featuring the famed Arch as the backdrop, the Cardinals have embraced the area outside of Busch Stadium. But with Ballpark Village, St. Louis has shown that it cares as much about the field inside as the views of the city.

Tim Newcomb covers stadiums, design and gear for Sports Illustrated. Follow him on Twitter at @tdnewcomb.
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