Wednesday, May 28, 2008
Busch Stadium -- It Was Built!
(Since many people leave based on their first impression, the title of this post was changed from the original tongue in cheek version, "Busch Stadium Should Have Not Been Built")
No, not the new Busch Stadium, it should have been built...we're referring to Busch II, the first downtown stadium opened in 1966, about the same time as the Arch.
Busch Stadium should not have been built because it replaced a thriving Chinatown in downtown St. Louis referred to as "Hop Alley". People don't often think of St. Louis as a destination for Asian immigrants, but it did at one time have it's own Chinatown.
Hop Alley was tiny compared to the Chinatowns of New York and San Francisco. I wasn't around at the time, but from what I've read, it was real, and it was located at the site of the former Busch Stadium. When the stadium was built, a number of former uses were removed, to make way for the new ballpark.
Had Busch Stadium remained in North City at Grand and Dodier, Hop Alley in downtown St. Louis would have been preserved, and St. Louis today would be more urban and ethnically diverse. True fact? Maybe so? We really don't know and we can't say. That's not our history, so basing arguments on the premise really can't be proven either way.
As much as St. Louisans loath change, our history is one of steady changes. Today, we have a thriving Asian district along Olive Boulevard. It's much larger than the old Hop Alley, running nearly from the city limits on the east to west of 170 in Creve Coeur and Olivette.
Busch II, our first downtown baseball stadium, was part of a wave of downtown redevelopment which included the Arch and many of the office towers downtown. From an academic perspective, one might ask, what would have happened if instead of downtown, the Cardinals chose to move to the western suburbs? That didn't happen either, but it's fun to think of the possibile outcomes. Some might suggest the Cardinals leaving St. Louis proper would have been good for the city.
They might argue that city leaders would then have been forced to consider a future without major league sports. Older buildings would have been preserved, so there would have been more rehab opportunities. Remember though, this was the 1960s, and historic preservation had not reached the economic leveraging potential we see today. So perhaps, the buildings demolished for Busch Stadium and other new construction would have been lost anyway. We don't know.
Instead, we are what we are today. We continue to evolve and change. Our community has certain tools and values guiding our efforts, and we have different issues and challenges now than we had in 1966.
Will Anheuser Busch remain a St. Louis based company? Will the Arch grounds and downtown be better connected? Will the Rams remain in downtown St. Louis or the region at all? What will come of the St. Louis Centre Skybridge over Washington Avenue?