Since it’s the dead of winter and we’re all waiting for the St. Louis Cardinals to do something, we’re left to talk about the fact that the team has removed seats down the first base line to put in more standing area.
I don’t have a big problem with putting in room where people can stand or move around while watching the game. The single thing I miss the most about Busch Stadium II is the fact that you could walk that ring between the loge seats and the loge boxes — all the way around the ballpark — never missing any action of the game. At the new ballpark, you have to walk out to an exterior concourse to navigate the stadium, hoping to pick up the game from time to time on the small televisions at the concession stands.
Still, it seems a bit counter-intuitive that a team which counts on ticket sales for a large part of its revenue pie to get rid of seats in favor of standing room. I get that the seats in question aren’t the best ones in the house. Whenever the ballpark isn’t completely full, those are the ones that are going to be empty. But the problem is, at Busch Stadium III, on many nights there aren’t any empty seats.
The Cardinals have been big on standing room for the new ballpark since Busch III was on the drawing board. Maybe I’m just dense. But I don’t get the appeal. I would stand if it was the only way that I could get into a World Series game. But I’m probably pretty close to the middle of the pack when it comes to the average age of people who attend Major League ballgames — at least those of us who pay for our own ticket and don’t come courtesy of our mom and dad — and I don’t know that I would be very comfortable standing for three plus hours.
Besides, when the idea is to create revenue, this plan would seem to work against the team. Anyone who has attended a game with a standing room ticket knows if you go to buy concessions — or even to use the restroom — the little space you carved out by showing up an hour or so early and holding your ground is going to evaporate into the wind. With the announcement that the new plaza area would include new bars, I’m sure the team believes that people will congregate in the area and spend more money on cold, frosty beverages. But that’s not how I think it would affect me from a customer’s point of view. I know that if I am there on a standing room only ticket that I’m not moving to buy anything or consuming anything that might force me to answer the call of nature. And if I am there with a seat, I am not going half way around the ballpark in the middle of a game just to get a beer when I can get one 50 yards from my seat — or, better yet, from one of the vendors that passes by every two minutes.
I wonder what the long term impact of this move will be on fans like me who pay for season tickets. Will the Redbirds have to raise our ticket prices to cover the ticket revenue they’ll lose? Will it make it tougher for people who occasionally buy tickets, one game at a time, to gain admission when the demand for seats is made higher because of a smaller supply available?
I’m not here to rain on the parade. Maybe this is what some people really want to see at the stadium. And, if that’s the case, I certainly don’t want to stand in their way. I, personally, just don’t get the appeal. I’m an old school fan. I want to sit in my seat, help my son fill out a scorecard and not mill about any more than necessary while I actually pay attention to the action on the field. Maybe that’s not the way of the future. But, if people really want to stand in an open area and have a beer while the ballgame is on, wouldn’t it be a simpler and more cost effective idea to stamp people’s hands and let them walk across the street to Ballpark Village to do just that? Then they could show their stamp — or their ticket — and come back to the game when they feel like it.