The Cardinals have already set one attendance record and could take aim at a few more this season, but it’s not because they are getting any more fans in the ballpark.
The opening of Ballpark Village’s rooftop seating has brought an additional 534 seats for the Cardinals to count in their attendance figures. A paid crowd of 47,492 attended Monday’s opener, setting the record for the second-largest crowd to see a sporting event at Busch Stadium III and the largest ever for a baseball game. The attendance at Monday’s game outdrew the 2009 All-Star Game (46,760) and World Series record set last fall (47,469). Official capacity at the ballpark before the new seats was 46,861, including standing-room only.
For years, Cardinals ownership has described a symbiotic relationship between attendance, their annual quest for at least 3 million fans, and payroll. Major League Baseball teams measure attendance by tickets sold for each event, and the Cardinals do not release actual turnstile counts.
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In recent years, the team has targeted 3.4 million tickets sold to set the budget.
The connection isn’t as direct with these seats, because these seats aren’t like the ones inside the confines of Busch III. These seats are part of the attendance, but not the ballpark – they are shared revenue sources for the Ballpark Village enterprise. The Cardinals and partner Cordish purchased the bonds to fund the village’s construction.
“You have to look at those as part of the Ballpark Village economics,” team president Bill DeWitt III said. “There will be an element that eventually creates a waterfall that spreads to other aspects of the ballclub. But I think it’s premature to say with this revenue the spigot will open, bump up payroll. Ballpark Village is a big investment — a huge investment — by the club and Cordish. Short- and medium-term there are revenue streams that we need for a return on that investment.
“It’s not something that will go immediately to the ballclub.”
Chairman Bill DeWitt Jr. has said previously said that added revenue streams, such as the national broadcast rights fees going to all clubs, will allow payroll to increase as the salaries for the young Cardinals do.
The opening of the 334 seats in the Cardinals Nation rooftop and 200 tickets for the Budweiser Brew House deck means a chance at more record attendance. The games in May against the New York Yankees will fill those seats. And the potential tickets added over the course of an 81-game home schedule is equivalent to one game. The Cardinals averaged 41,602 last season, second-highest baseball, and would have to average more than 43,850 to break the stadium record for total attendance. The Cardinals drew 3.55 million in 2007.
The largest sporting-event crowd at Busch III was the 48,203 who attended a soccer match between Manchester City and Chelsea, two English Premier League clubs.
The rooftop seats, similar to the neighborhood ones at Wrigley Field, were part of the original plan for Busch III, which opened in 2006. The area in left-center field was not enclosed so that an area of the planned Ballpark Village would have a vantage point across Clark Street and into the ballpark.
They could expand the Brew House deck to 250, but more seats are not planned.
“The goal wasn’t necessarily to increase capacity,” president DeWitt said. “We wanted to create a place that complements the game day experience. The possibility exists (for record crowds), but it would take filling the new seats. We don’t track sellouts like that because I feel there’s always room for one more.”
Cardinals manager Mike Matheny took his first National League championship ring, which he received as a player in 2004, and put it on display, wearing it rarely at first and then not at all.
“A lot of it was I wanted to be motivated about getting the next one,” Matheny explained. “I think that’s why I’m going to wear this one. It’s a good reminder we have one step left.”
The Cardinals players, coaches, and support staff received their National League championship rings during a pregame ceremony Tuesday. In a club tradition, the living Hall of Famers, such as Ozzie Smith and Bob Gibson, were also presented with rings. The front office and business staff will receive their rings later this month in a private ceremony.
Ownership consulted with Adam Wainwright and other players on the ring, Wainwright’s third with the club. He has the two World Series rings, 2006 and 2011.
“After 2006, I wore that ring every day of the year during that next season and all offseason,” said Wainwright, a rookie closer on that club who was injured for the entire 2011 season. “I wore it with shorts. I wore it to the beach. I wore that thing every day. … I love the look of the one in 2011. But I love the memories of the 2006.”
Reliever Jason Motte (elbow) threw 19 pitches in a simulated game against Cardinals minor-leaguers in Jupiter, Fla. He’ll have at least one more similar outing Friday before the team considers him for a rehab assignment. … That torrid hitting in March that left a strong impression on the big-league club has continued at Class AAA for outfielder Stephen Piscotty. The prospect went six-for-15 (.400) with a .533 slugging percentage in his first four games for the Redbirds. …. … Before Tuesday’s game, Cincinnati activated reliever Jonathan Broxton, a former closer who could serve as closer for the Reds while they await the return of Aroldis Chapman (facial fracture). Broxton started the year on the disabled list still recovering from forearm surgery. To make room for the righty the Reds placed Trevor Bell (elbow inflammation) on the DL. ... New reliever Pat Neshek did the traditional trust fall into the arms of the other relievers Tuesday. The tradition that dates back many years, and all of the other relievers currently on the team have done it. “They’re kind of their own little community down there,” Matheny said. “They’re trying to develop that brotherhood. Sometimes it’s goofy stuff.”