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Sunday Poll: Was Opening A New Baseball Stadium Downtown in 1966 A Mistake?

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Fifty years ago today  the final baseball game was played at Sportsman’s Park, aka Busch I, a site where where baseball had been played since 1867. On May 12, 1966 Busch Memorial Stadium, aka Busch II, opened. St. Louis’ Chinatown, called Hop Alley, was razed to make room for Busch II:

The earliest Chinese settlers congregated in an area stretching East and West between Seventh and Eighth Streets, and North and South between Market and Walnut Streets, which became the Chinatown of St. Louis, more commonly known as Hop Alley. Hop Alley was the name of a small alley running between Walnut and Market Streets where most boarding houses and apartment buildings were occupied by Chinese residents. It is not known how this neighborhood came to be called Hop Alley, but the name was widely used in contemporary newspapers and other accounts to represent the Chinese business district in St. Louis downtown where Chinese hand laundries, merchandise stores, grocery stores, herb shops, restaurants, and clan association headquarters were located. (Journal of Urban History January 2002)

One neighborhood was razed, another lost a major employer. Was it worth it?

This non-scientrific poll is open until 8pm tonight. Thursday I’ll post the results and share my views on the topic.

— Steve Patterson


Currently there are "10 comments" on this Article:

  1. guest says:

    What is the point of this survey? Sure you can ask whatever you like, but St. Louis has got to get over this endless self analysis of decades old decisions. The better question would be, “Was moving Busch stadium to downtown St. Louis the right decision at the time?” Judging our predecessors with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight is really not a fair game.

  2. Mark-AL says:

    I’m just a hick from a small Alabama town, where the biggest new project recently built (beyond the new elementary/middle/high-school) was a farmers’ co-op for buying seeds and all things farm-related, but even I can’t fathom that anyone would object to the development of a Busch- Stadium type project in the middle of any town USA. When you consider that one development has a gateway effect for additional businesses, what could possibly be the objection? We’re not talking here about building a Cherry Patch Bar (from Pahrump, NV) in the middle of downtown STL. We’re talking about the development a business that offers wholesome entertainment always, has attracted kids and adults alike, businessmen and farmers, and has brought breath and a stronger heartbeat to a city that at the time could use all the help it could get!

    • It was so successful there was no issue with building due South 4 decades later. Like other Urban Renewal projects, the only thing it achieved was pushing out those deemed undesirable — Chinese-imigrants in this case.

      No wait…it also helped accelerate disinvestment in the neighborhood where Sportsman’s Park was located.

      • guest says:

        I’m sure that was the plan all along, Steve! Mwahahahahah!!!

        Um, no. Actually, if you research a bit, you’d find that in the early 60s, downtown St. Louis was in bad shape. Really bad shape. Why do you think they tore down 40 blocks of the historic riverfront with no project to take it’s place? The area had been going through a decades long decline, brought along largely with the loss of riverboat trade.

        Building a new stadium downtown was part of a regional effort to keep downtown relevant. I’d say it was a success.

      • Mark-AL says:

        I wasn’t around–anywhere–in the 60s. But I do know that crime rates in STL, including homicides, especially, increased dramatically during the mid to late 60s. I would assume that North Grand Avenue generated its share (or maybe even more of its share) of violence and crime, especially if it was anything then like it is today! Maybe the new stadium relocation to downtown STL was an effort to increase patron safety. If so, I’d consider that to be a noble gesture. In any case, the old location is now the site of Herbert Hoover Boys Club. I would guess it is a worthwhile organization doing good things for the local boys; otherwise, it probably wouldn’t have operated for so many years. So an open minded person probably couldn’t view the new downtown ballpark location as a negative (or loss) to the city–or a bad decision.

        Stadiums similar to Busch 1 were built around the same time in Pittsburgh and Cincinnati. Like STL, those two cities were also considered failing “River” towns. So these giant “burn pit” ballparks were built along the riverfronts in all three cities probably in an attempt to restore some connection with the river and as an attempt to restore a percentage of downtown’s tax value. The outcome wasn’t as immediately successful as once hoped, but it certainly can’t be labeled just a bad decision. More positives than negatives–eventually! It’s not a coincidence that BPV, the Cupples renovations (vs their demolitions–(which probably would have happened long ago if the general area hadn’t enjoyed some stability due to the existence of even a few legitimate businesses), the loft conversions, the several restaurants and hotels in the general area that have come and gone, and the construction of several parking garages (most are architectural gems!) have been developed around the ballpark! Would they be there today if the Chinese had stuck around? I’d lay odds on a NO! Wanna see a miserable failure. Look at the “Bottle District”, and you need not look any further. I’m fairly certain that Bob Clark and the boys look at the Bottle District as a really bad decision, avoided.

        I just can’t imagine that anyone would view Busch 1 as a bad decision. A bad decision would have been to have reinvested in a new stadium at 29th & North Grand Blvd!

        • Justin says:

          While there have certainly been some positives with the stadium construction downtown, I don’t know if I would characterize it as a success. When compared to other parts of downtown there seems to be less going on there than there is on say locust or washington ave in the north side of downtown. I feel that the south side of downtown is most boring part of downtown and is largely comprised of parking garages and parking lots which add little to the surrounding area.

          Perhaps N. Grand wasn’t the right location for a new stadium in the 60s, but maybe they could have found a better way than simply demolishing an entire neighborhood.

          On an unrelated note, I heard a story on the radio that made me think of you. Somewhere in Oregon they are building a parking garage out of wood, specifically cross laminated timber. Sounds like a very interesting concept to me.

          • Mark-AL says:

            Cross laminated timber beams, columns and trusses have been used successfully in lieu of steel and concrete in several building models for decades. And it’s no surprise that the Oregon wood products industry would introduce its use (in the US) to the commercial parking garage industry. Timber has been used in Canadian and in some European garages for decades. Engineered laminated products are most suited for precast type garage construction, vs poured-in-place post tensioned construction because of several factors, the major one being able to engineer (establish) wood column to girder/beam/integral slab connections that will satisfy the load requirements and perform seismically. Actually, timber construction costs about the same as steel/concrete construction, but in time that may change for the better. But fussy old code compliance wardens won’t yield quickly or quietly to the widespread use of wood in parking garages, and they’ll be especially slow to recognize the safety of using even fire-resistant wood in and around combustible engines. They’ll likely require fully sprinkled garages in the US, which will require either total enclosure to avoid freezing, or use of a dry system which is even more costly. And property insurance companies will want to be assured that waterproofing products will perform as necessary to protect the structure from dry-rot issues, to insect infestation, mold deterioration, differential movement, and shrinkage which occurs from its green state to its in-service equilibrium state. A friend from grad school who specializes in residential, structural design (engineered lumber) has recently returned to school to study the use of engineered wood in commercial parking garages. He’s all excited about it. He gets really excited about lumber!

            On the N. Grand location: just look at how many kids benefited from the relocation.


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