Wi-Fi and high definition video boards are among the new additions at Busch Stadium this season.
So is a long list of new foods including a meatball cone, warm mini doughnuts with an array of toppings and a twist on nachos substituting tortilla chips with pork rinds.
And the protective netting behind home plate has been extended from dugout to dugout for better protection from foul balls and broken bats, and reaches 30 feet high throughout the span.
Coming Sunday in the Post-Dispatch is our look at the 2016 Cardinals season. Here's a bit of a sneak preview.
Bobbleheads will return as part of seven promotions planned this year, but there will be two new twists. For the first time, a bobblehead will feature two players — Adam Wainwright and Yadier Molina in a celebratory pose after the last pitch of the 2006 World Series. And Wainwright will be featured in a separate promotion as a bobblehead — with a bobble throwing arm.
Busch Stadium was opened to the media on April 1 for a first look at what is in store for the 3 million visitors expected this year. Workers were busy getting the stadium ready to celebrate its 10th anniversary, with Opening Day on April 11.
“There is a little more painting and cleaning going on than normal,” said Joe Abernathy, vice president of stadium operations as workers were replacing portions of concrete along Clark Street and the grounds crew was meticulously grooming the field.
Inside the stadium, men in hard hats were expanding the concourse entrance to the Team Store and building out a new concept, the 8th Street Market, a convenience store that will feature healthy options such as yogurt, hummus and fresh fruit alongside not-so-healthy options such as beer and cotton candy. The store will be situated behind Section 152, taking the former spot of Build-A-Bear, which can now be found at Ford Plaza.
Inside the Scoreboard Room, walls of monitors were flashing different videos as Tony Simokaitis and his crew prepare to show off the 11 new video boards throughout the stadium.
The main video scoreboard provides three times the display space of the old one and provides more flexibility to enhance the baseball experience, said Simokaitis, director of scoreboard operations and fan entertainment. Don’t be surprised if Fredbird and the women who shoot T-shirts into the crowd are eventually fitted with wireless cameras. It will be yet another vantage point fans can see on the video boards, he said.
Perry Yee, director of information technology, said free Wi-Fi has become an expectation.
“Approximately 25 percent of people during games are on their phones,” Yee said. The Wi-Fi installation included 30 miles of Ethernet cable, 11 miles of fiber optic cable and took more than 10,000 man-hours to complete.
The emphasis during Friday’s tour, however, was on the food, including 17 new items at Cardinals Nation restaurant in Ballpark Village and 11 new taste treats at the stadium. Inside Busch, fans can get a meatball cone. It includes four meatballs and marinara sauce inside a cone made of Italian bread, all topped with mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses. Also featured will be the chicharrón, a fancy name for nachos with pork rinds instead of tortilla chips.
At both locations, an expected favorite will be Dinger’s Donuts, served at portable stands, where 1,200 mini doughnuts can be made in an hour. Served warm with a choice of toppings such as chocolate and sprinkles, they can be purchased in quantities of 14, or 50, the latter served in a souvenir helmet and recommended for sharing.
At Busch, veggie burgers have been replaced with vegan burgers. And the turkey leg?
“You won’t find it this year,” said chef Michele DeMarco. “We sold 97 last year.”
Considering there are 81 home games, it was clear the turkey leg was no longer in demand, she said.
As for the stadium do’s and don’ts, Abernathy said little has changed from years before. Outside food and nonalcoholic drinks are permitted. But the beverages must be in open cups or in clear plastic bottles no larger than two liters. Glass bottles, cans and hard-sided coolers are not allowed.
Also on the prohibited list: drones and hoverboards.
“They are not ideal fits for a stadium atmosphere,” Abernathy said.