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Ballpark Village holding Cardinals Museum hostage

The old Busch Stadium, known as Busch Stadium II, had a lifespan of just 40 years. One-fourth of that time has already elapsed since the redevelopment of the site, called Ballpark Village, first emerged back in 1999.

Others can do a more thorough and passionate job of outlining the long history of the project. Comments made by St. Louis Cardinals president Bill DeWitt III on Thursday at Webster University as reported by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reopened a wound in terms of one important aspect of the oft-delayed plans – the continued closure of the Cardinals Museum.

Being responsible for breathing life into the retail/entertainment/residential/office development has proven to be a major problem for III, with the economy the primary stumbling block. Currently, there is little hope the bonds to finance the project would be snapped up by investors. So, Ballpark Village and everything associated with it remain in suspended animation.

DeWitt declined to provide any new schedule – even as to when construction might begin – other than to suggest it will not be in 2010. He apparently learned his lesson in the past in stating, “I’m done predicting.”

Frankly, like many I have become somewhat immune to the delays, promises and broken promises. I could theorize that keeping the project in “Weekend at Bernie’s” status might have something to do with the Cardinals wanting to stave off the ticket tax waived by the city as part of the incentives to build the stadium and village. But, that would just be “predicting”.

Cardinals Hall of Fame Museum logoMy primary issue here is with one of the many innocent victims of this long-running saga. The still-closed Cardinals Museum was slated to be a part of the initial phase of Ballpark Village.

Last Thursday, I asked the Cardinals to verify with DeWitt III if his non-prediction also applies to the museum, or whether the facility might be re-opened in an interim location, a move I have pushed from the very beginning. I did not receive a reply from the organization. I suspect we can all “predict” the answer why.

Officially known as the St. Louis Cardinals Hall of Fame Museum, it had been housed together with the International Bowling Museum and Hall of Fame across the street from both the old and new Busch Stadiums. The bowlers opened the building in 1984 with the Cardinals museum moving over from its previous ballpark site in 1997, leasing 5,000 square feet of space. The baseball museum had first opened in 1968.

In November, 2008, both facilities closed as the International Bowling Museum turned down a Ballpark Village offer to remain and instead initiated a move to Arlington, Texas.

The former Bowling Hall of Fame buildingThe former museum site at 7th and Walnut Streets, a triangular-shaped, seven-tenths of an acre parcel, was the final piece of real estate needed for… you guessed it… Ballpark Village.

As I have said before, closing the Cardinals Museum for any period of time seemed a short-sighted decision, but was simply inexcusable with all the eyes of the baseball world on St. Louis for the All-Star Game just eight months later.

Now, as the Museum moves deeper into its second year of what is officially being called a “transitional period”, there continues to be no schedule for its return.

But hey, there’s nothing to worry about. After all, fans visiting Busch Stadium can look forward to banners, a series of round medallions remembering retired-number players plus some nifty graphics on the left field wall. Oh, and don’t forget the memory brick paver program anchored to “Great Moments in Cardinals History” funded by fans.

What more could history buffs possibly want?

At this rate, there will be discussion of building the next-generation Busch Stadium IV before Ballpark Village becomes reality and the Cardinals Museum is re-opened.

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Brian Walton

Brian Walton runs The Cardinal Nation and The Cardinal Nation Blog, covering the St. Louis Cardinals and minor league system.
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