A Look Back; in 1966, New Busch Stadium Was a Tub-Thumping Civic Cause

By Tim O'Neil | St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), May 12, 2013 | Go to article overview

A Look Back; in 1966, New Busch Stadium Was a Tub-Thumping Civic Cause


Tim O'Neil, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)


ST. LOUIS * Lou Brock smacked a Phil Niekro knuckleball up the middle in the 12th inning to score Curt Flood and beat the Atlanta Braves 4-3. It was a good way to inaugurate the new Busch Memorial Stadium downtown.

More than 46,000 Cardinals fans attended that first game in the $24 million stadium on May 12, 1966. It was round in shape to accommodate baseball and football, and its partial roof complimented the new Gateway Arch three blocks away. Fans appreciated its spaciousness and unobstructed view of the field.

In the bigger view, the stadium was the marquee attraction for a major rebuilding of the sagging south half of downtown. The project area covered 31 blocks and was financed almost entirely with private money, much of it raised in a tub-thumping, civic campaign.

Back then, the Cardinals played at old Sportsman's Park, renamed Busch Stadium in 1953. It was on North Grand Boulevard at Dodier Street, where there never was enough parking.

In 1958, city development chief Charles Farris suggested building a new stadium downtown to revive the business district. The Chamber of Commerce jumped on the idea, and the Civic Center Redevelopment Corp. was created in September 1959. Its first president was James Hickok, head of First National Bank.

Civic Center's plan included a 50,000-seat stadium, parking garages, a hotel and office buildings. The group quickly obtained investments from major local businesses, including $5 million from Anheuser-Busch, which owned the Cardinals and the north side ballpark. …

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