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Cordish, Cardinals aim for 'family-friendly' Ballpark Village

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ST. LOUIS • As word of Ballpark Village’s particular dress code spread Wednesday, project managers sought to clarify rules, Cardinals team executives paused to explain their motives and civic leaders furrowed brows, uncertain as to their next steps.

Early in the day, Jim Watry, general manager of the sports bar complex for co-developer Cordish Cos., clarified that children — with adult supervision — are welcome to come during the day. And they won’t be kicked out once the clock strikes 9 p.m.

“Our intention is to be family-friendly,” Watry said.

As the day progressed, city aldermen wondered how the rules would be enforced, and how much of an outcry they would hear.

“This place is going to be a destination for a lot of tourists, a lot of people visiting our city,” said Alderman Antonio French, 21st Ward. “We hope the message is that they are welcome. Everyone wants to keep high standards, of course. But discriminating against people based on fashion is not a very welcoming message.”

And by day’s end, the Cardinals and Cordish put out a joint statement insisting that such dress codes are commonplace, recommended by “police and alcohol boards across the country.”

Guests who are not allowed in because of dress code violations, the statement added, will get a refund on any parking fees and a free valet voucher for a future visit. Moreover, the dress code and conduct policies will be enforced by a minority-owned firm, it said.

Interactive: A layer-by-layer look at the new place

Photos: From an empty parking lot to a party palace.

Video: A sneak peek at Ballpark Village

Ballpark Village finally opens today, with a ribbon-cutting, VIP reception and free concert by Third Eye Blind. Cordish and the Cardinals have already staged a media tour, revealing the complex in all its sports-bar glory: A 35-foot television, a retractable glass roof and 300-plus ticketed rooftop seats with striking views of the Busch Stadium field.

On Wednesday, hundreds of workers scurried to put in floors, set up tables and get the establishments ready for opening.

But it was the dress code and age restrictions, first reported by the Post-Dispatch on Wednesday, that attracted early concerns.

After 9 p.m. the Ballpark Village dress code bans sweat pants, sweat suits, athletic shorts, sagging pants, bandanas, profanity on clothing, shirttails that hang past mid-thigh, sleeveless shirts and exposed undergarments on men, and even team jerseys — except on game days.

The Cardinals took pains to note on Wednesday that the dress code was not a complex-wide policy. The restaurant the team owns, Cardinals Nation, will simply ask visitors to keep out obscene or indecent clothing. Other venues, such as Drunken Fish, have no posted policy. But most of the bars — including Fox Sports Midwest Live!, which spans the first-floor atrium — do.

Team President Bill DeWitt III, who was working on restaurant details inside Cardinals Nation on Wednesday, said a nighttime dress code was reasonable as the restaurants and bars morphed into nightclubs.

“You don’t want people in bare feet and no shirts,” DeWitt said. “It’s not a good look.”

“That’s not a visitor these clubs are looking to attract,” DeWitt added.

Both the Cardinals and Cordish repeated that the complex is a family-oriented daytime destination.

Watry, Cordish’s general manager, said he understood the confusion over the complex-wide policy regarding children. The rule, which bars minors unless “accompanied by a legal guardian,” suggests a family could not, for example, bring along their children’s friends to lunch before a ballgame.

But Watry said that’s not the case.

Watry said the rule required “a” legal guardian, not “the” legal guardian. The adult just has to be “someone responsible for them, who’s of legal age,” Watry said. “A baseball coach would be a perfect example.”

Moreover, he clarified, families won’t be kicked out when the clock strikes 9 p.m., as the policy would also suggest. Minors just can’t enter after that hour.

“So my 17-year-old son and I can’t stop by the Ballpark Village after a game?” asked Tim Nickel, 56, from St. Louis, a Busch Stadium regular. “We like to grab a burger after the game. Guess we are going out to the county.”

Some civic leaders here worried, too. Cordish’s rules on proper attire have stirred outrage in Louisville, Ky., where the company developed Fourth Street Live, and in Kansas City, where it runs the Power & Light entertainment district.

In both cases, civic and civil rights leaders alleged the dress codes targeted African-Americans, and, worse, were selectively enforced. This month, lawyers filed a class-action suit alleging a pattern of discrimination at Power & Light.

Ballpark Village dress code is nearly identical to that at Power & Light.

“I do think it is going to be an issue for some people,” said St. Louis Alderman Scott Ogilvie. “I don’t think people object to the idea of some type of dress code. I just think Cordish is tone deaf.”

Jacque Land, former president of 100 Black Men of Metropolitan St. Louis, said he’d like more information. “I’d like to get the full scope,” he said. “I have a concern about who the dress code is targeting."

Watry, who ran Power & Light, wouldn’t talk about Cordish’s other facilities. “I’m an operations guy,” he said. “I can’t speak to that.”

And DeWitt would say only that the Cardinals trusted Cordish.

The team picked the company because of its success developing just such districts. “There’s this implication it’s a racist thing,” DeWitt said of the dress code. “And it’s not.”

Ballpark Village Floor Plans

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