This report turned out to be longer than anticipated so I decided to break it up into two parts.
Bill DeWitt, Jr., the vice president of the Cardinals, was the next speaker. Bill said he knew we were all here for the baseball stuff, but he wanted to give a report about the business side. The Cards are having a good year. The Cardinals are in the top 5 in attendance and they hope to have 3.3 million fans coming through the turnstiles. The season ticket holder base is the basis for those sales. Bill said that there are 22,000 season ticket holders, which is a really good base relative to the league. The Cards are in the top 5 of clubs with attendance every year while being the 24th largest market in baseball. The bloggers are part of this. The fans are hungry for information and they get it from the club, from the bloggers and everywhere.
Bill talked about Phase II of Ballpark Village. He stated that the plans have progressed and they are being close to being finalized. There will be a big residential tower between the Budweiser Brew House and Broadway with lovely views of the ballpark, the riverfront, etc. Bill expressed hope that some of us might be renters someday. I thought, yeah, only if I won the Powerball. There will be 29 floors of apartments above a platform with parking, retail stores, more restaurants and maybe even a health club. On the other side of Ballpark Village will be an office tower with more parking and additional retail in a marketplace building. Bill said that maybe there will be a hotel – they’re still working on that. Bill stated they were hoping to start construction by the end of the year on Phase II.
Bill talked about the Cards’ ownership of the minor league teams. He stated the team also owns a stake in Fox Sports Midwest. Bill states that they continue to look more into data analytics. Bill talked about the changes to the stadium such as the remodeling of the Family Pavilion, moving of the infield the netting out further, and updating some of the seating in various areas. Bill stated the capital budget is about $10 million dollars a year. Bill stated that the goal was to keep Busch Stadium III in good shape in hopes of not having to build another stadium anytime soon, unlike Atlanta. There is also going to be a Phase III of Ballpark Village and you don’t build all that and then build a new stadium. Bill stated there are lots of new things out there that they are studying to see if they would be a good fit for Busch Stadium, like no waiting concessions, and things the fans could do with the app now that there is wi-fi throughout the stadium. Bill stated that the fans go to Busch Stadium to watch the game and they care about the game. Bill said his job was to strike a balance between what’s on the field and the entertainment factor. We should be in the middle. The young people need to be engaged.
Bill then took questions from the bloggers. The first question was about spring training and sharing our facility with the Marlins. It was stated that there were some teams moving out of Florida and maybe there would be no spring training in Florida anymore because of the lack of teams. Bill stated that question has been settled with the new ballpark with the Nationals and the Astros. They have extended their lease with St. Lucie. There are 5 teams in SE Florida and that’s enough. The Cards have a good relationship with the Marlins. Bill stated that the Cardinals have quite an impact down in Florida – every bar and restaurant has Cardinals gear in it. The Cards in spring training are a good economic engine to south Florida and they are good to the Cards. There will be some upgrades to the spring training facility in the next few years. The players love where they are, but the facility is behind the curve when it’s compared to the Arizona facilities.
The next question was from Dathan Brooks about TV revenue. Dathan talked about how much he paid $157.00 a month for his DIRECTV bill and that he could get Hulu for $7.00 a month but he can get Cards baseball on both. Surely that figures into the projections for revenue. Bill thought some of the $157.00 was for internet. Dathan told him no, just for TV. Bill then replied that Dathan must have all of the movie channels, and everyone laughed. Bill then talked about the new contract with Fox Sports Midwest and how the Cards had a stake in it now and how they want that model to last as long as possible. The world’s changing, Fox knows, it and MLB knows it. That’s why MLB is pushing the alternative viewing methods. You can watch Fox Sports Go no your tablet or whatever. Bill talked about how the model may change for viewing games, such as people cutting the cord and going to Internet-based programming options. All of the streaming services have sports built in if you want them. The rights still are with the club, they’re just coming through a different conduit.
The next question was about the baby blue jerseys (circa the 1980’s) and whether they would be offered as a road alternative jersey. Bill stated that the players liked the baby blue jerseys but there were no plans to put them into the rotation at this time. Even though there are different looks for different eras, the Cardinals logo brings continuity. The baby blue uniforms always bring the 1980s club to mind for Bill. Bill feels that if the baby blue uniforms are brought back on a permanent basis, that it’s somehow disrespectful to the memory of the 1980’s teams. Bill said he would keep an open mind, but he thinks the baby blue uniforms should stay where they are. Bill said they were going to do a lot of turn back the clock stuff,
Bill thought that the Cards really looked bad in Colorado with the military uniforms and that the camo theme didn’t look like the Cardinals. The birds on the bat was camo and it didn’t match up with the red batting helmet. Nothing against the military, Bill said. It could be done in a way that tips your hat to the military but doesn’t makes the look of the uniform go off of the reservation.
There was a comment made about all the special jerseys MLB has, i.e., Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, etc., so that MLB can sell jerseys. Bill stated that the jersey sales are a fundraiser for the various charities.
Someone then talked about how the Memphis club has taken the baby blue jerseys and modernized them. Bill stated that Memphis has updated their logo as well with the neon and it looks really nice. Bill again stated that he had an open mind and we’ll see.
The next question was whether the Cards pay attention to the public valuation of MLB franchises. There was more to this question but I couldn’t hear it well on the video. Bill said if they were thinking about selling the team that they would be looking at the public valuations very closely, but they’re in it for the long haul, so the Cards can balance short term and long term thinking for the roster and the business. When he sees those things, he wonders why someone would pay attention to that at all. Bill joked about the Marlins’ premium cash flow. He stated that the Marlins could turn things around and improve.
Someone asked if there was anything that Bill’s seen in other stadiums that he would like to have at Busch, either of an entertainment or a technological standpoint, Bill said a couple of stadiums have what he called the grab box, where you order food on your smart phone and when your food is ready, you get a text with the location of your food with a code to open the box that your food is in and you go pick it up. Three teams are doing this but it’s not working well for 2 of the teams. It’s not always best to be the first to try new technologies. Bill asked how many of us had purchased the monthly pass with standing room admission to every home game. They looking at maybe finding a space in the stadium to have all the monthly pass people stand to watch the game.
Mary Clausen of MLBVoice was brave enough to ask about what Bill thought about Mike Matheny. Bill said he looks at the manager’s job a little differently. He thinks other focus more on X’s and O’s and game day strategy. A manager has to deal with the players and get their respect. The manager has to deal with ownership and the management and the media. If a manager does any of those things badly, they’re probably on the way out. Mike is really good at all of these categories. Bill thinks Mike is a well-rounded guy. It’s more than having a perfect lineup card. Bill thinks Mike has room to improve and he’s a young guy and he hopes Mike has a long managerial career like Tony LaRussa, etc.
Bill thanked us for being at the event and everything stopped while the National Anthem was sung by a high school choir – and very well sung too.
The next report was from Chuck, the team store supervisor. He spoke about the remodeling of the team store over the past year. They updated the hat line and are coming up with some different hats with more pastel colored hats for ladies to wear outside game day. There are over 1200 hats styles throughout the stadium. They are selling more business casual clothes such as polo shirts for men and for women that can be worn to work and to the game. There are pastel shirts to go with the pastel hats. There was a display table with some of the new items, but I didn’t get over there to take a photo before it was taken away. All of the special holiday jerseys (Memorial Day, Father’s Day, etc.) are available in the team store. Chuck talked about Star Wars Night and how some of the merchandise was available for May the Fourth (Force). There will be a Grateful Dead t-shirt and pin for that theme night. There is also 125th anniversary merchandise available for purchase. There are also Cardinals fidget spinners available in the team store, which are wildly popular.
The next report was from Larry Johnson, the team chef. He turned it over to Shaun Baker and he spoke briefly about the Cardinals Nation food truck. It opened on March 20. The food truck goes to parks, etc. There are 10 entrees from Cardinals Nation offered at the food truck. Shaun mentioned all of the social media accounts so you can keep up with where the food truck is going to be. The food truck is also available to be booked for social events and gatherings.
The microphone went back to Larry. Larry spoke about the hydroponic garden in Section 228, third floor. Rooftop Urban Community is helping with the hydroponic garden. They consume a lot of produce at Busch Stadium. They are growing herbs, flower petals for cocktails, etc. Whatever is not used at the stadium is given back to Rooftop Urban and they give it to the homeless. I thought that was very nice. In section 148, you’ll see the double slider burger. In section 148, there is eco-grilling. You can pick your own sausage or hot dog before it’s cooked and you can pair it with tater tots, etc. There is a new market on the Broadway side of the stadium just like the 8th Street Market. There is also a new barbecue stand next to the new market. There is a Kids’ Kitchen with healthy snacks. Nachos is the number one food sold at the stadium. The priority is to sell guests fresher, faster, and more consistent food products. They are shooting for serving you in 35-40 seconds rather than a minute and a half so you can get back to your seat faster. Some of the locations don’t carry everything – that creates a bottleneck. If you just want a beer, go to a beer vendor.
Ron Watermon took the mike back. Mary Beth Rea finally showed up and Ron called her the Jose Oquendo of the communications department. If you don’t get that reference, you haven’t been a Cardinals fan for long enough. Ron did a plug for the Rat Pack campaign, which is about Whitey Herzog from his birth in New Athens to the Cardinals Hall of Fame. Ron then thanked us for coming.
After listening to all of this talking, I was thirsty. I needed a beer. So I bellied up to the bar and the bartender asked if I wanted Bud, Bud Light, or a Shock Top. Shock Top? Really? It turns out there was an auxiliary bar outside where we could get free Shock Top beer (in 16 oz. cans) or free mixed drinks. I was impressed. There was a bag of what looked like wooden nickels on the bar. I asked the bartender what they were for. It turned out that they were for a free meal from the Cardinals Nation food truck. Everyone got a chip. I used the chip on Friday and the food was very good.
It was then time for food (glorious food). Here are the items that were offered:
Premium Food Items: Mediterranean Dip, pasta salad, strawberry pecan salad, Hill subs, Nacho Grande, chocolate chip cookies, brownies, and Chef Lynn’s Pasta. Of these, the only things I tried were the nachos (cheese and taco meat only) and the brownies.
Concession Food Items: Stand 271 (Bowtie Bar) – Double Stack Burger sliders with beer cheese. I liked this so much I had 2 of them. These also had grilled onions. Stand 148 (Double Play) – chorizo sausage with peppers and onions and Italian sausage with peppers and onions. I skipped the peppers and onions and just tried the sausages. the Italian sausage was great. but the chorizo sausage was too spicy for me.
The rest of the afternoon was spent catching up with old friends such as Bill and Angela Ivie, Bob Netherton, Tom Kruppel, Josey Curtis and Dathan Brooks, and meeting new friends like the STL Cardsgals (they are podcasters).
The game was pretty good, too. Dexter Fowler hit a home run for us. It wasn’t one of Waino’s best pitching outings (although it was much better than yesterday’s game), and the Cards won the game.
As usually happens, a group photo was taken before the game ended.
Sorry it took me so long to get the second part of this report up. I had a very busy weekend. Thanks as always for reading! See you next time!