The Cardinals are “hopeful” at some point during their 60-game schedule that they will be able to open Busch Stadium to a reduced number of fans, but there are hurdles the team and region must first clear, including permission from the City of St. Louis.
With Busch Stadium newly open to some executives who have returned to their office this week and a schedule for the season forthcoming, team officials have continued looking into a variety of plans to use should fans be able to attend games. The possibilities range from a crowd of 10,000 in the ballpark to possibly utilizing the seats atop Ballpark Village as a way to have a small crowd watch games from beyond the stadium’s seating.
Putting any fan in a seat hinges on the city’s health policies.
“We’re hopeful at some point we will have fans in the ballpark,” said Joe Strohm, the Cardinals’ vice president of ticket sales. “That is all contingent on the city signing off, the situation we have for entering the ballpark, and Major League Baseball’s policies. That’s the question that we will continue to ask. But we have to be sure, and we have to have safety procedures in place to make it that way for fans.
“If we cannot assure their health and safety, it’s not worth it. It’s not worth it.”
The mayor’s office has approved the Cardinals’ plans for preseason camp at Busch Stadium, officials confirmed Tuesday. A spokesman for the mayor’s office told the Post-Dispatch during the process of approval that the city is hopeful to allow a limited crowd at the ballpark at some point during the season, but that it’s not clear when. The policies governing group size are reviewed on a continuous basis, the spokesman said.
During a conference call with Houston-based reporters Wednesday, Astros owner Jim Crane said his team will adhere to state guidelines and will aim to have fans attend home games at Minute Maid Park. Both Texas teams have expressed that same optimism and there are teams that have “some confidence” fans will attend the first game on the schedule, an official said. There are other teams that have expressed doubt their city or state will allow for fans at any point during the regular season.
The players’ union approved a season of 60 games in 66 days, and the schedule is set to open on July 23 or July 24, and it will stretch toward the final week of September. The postseason will be in October.
A thorny issue between the players and the owners as they spent the previous two months negotiating a return to play has been the lack of fans in the stands – and thus the lack of ticket revenue from games. The agreement the owners and players fell back on required players to be paid a full, prorated salary based on games. The owners contended that they made that agreement believing tickets would be sold. The owners’ proposals beyond 60 games all included some further reduction of salary because of the lack of fans.
Now it appears that the policy could be different from ballpark to ballpark, city to city, and definitely state to state.
The Cardinals are considering whether the 338 rooftop seats at Ballpark Village could be used, or if there could be social distancing policies in place for the porch that would allow fans to watch games from across Clark Street. The size of groups the city allows to gather at large venues will dictate whether that becomes possible.
On June 12, the city’s health commissioner issued an order for the reopening of large venues that allows for 75 percent of “permitted capacity” after July 6, and 100 percent after July 20. Those policies have a caveat that nixes them in the event of a spike in hospital admissions due to the coronavirus. Busch Stadium would acquire separate consideration, the Cardinals acknowledged, and the current thought is that the ballpark would be used at 20 percent to 25 percent capacity. That is a figure being discussed in cooperation with Major League Baseball’s guidance.
Also informing the decision, Strohm said, is how tickets would be distributed and to whom. There would have to be a program in place for season ticket holders to have access to the opening of games, and there would be a crowd size that would be too small, too exclusive in the ballpark to make that process fair. There is a desire to find a size of crowd that is both safe and also fits the potential demand from season-ticket buyers.
The Cardinals have offered refunds on games through the end of June, acknowledging more than a week ago what became official this week. Those games are canceled.
A new schedule will take the place of the existing one.
Every game is expected to be televised by some broadcast outlet.
The Cardinals are saving seats in hope they might fill a few thousand of them at some point as summer becomes fall.
“Right now, there are a lot of unknowns, and there will be for a time to come,” Strohm said. “The good news is that there’s going to be baseball and there will be games, and we’re not only throwing out concepts of what that will look like and when. We get to work toward it.”