St. Louis prepped to host All-Star Game
Security, parking, logistical questions part of planning process
ST. LOUIS -- For many in St. Louis, fans and players alike, next week's All-Star festivities will feel like they come and go in a flash. For the people doing the planning, however, it's already been a long process.
Representatives of the city of St. Louis, the Cardinals and Major League Baseball held a news conference on Wednesday to discuss security measures for the 80th All-Star Game, which is set for Tuesday night at Busch Stadium. And as they laid out the various policies, it became clearer and clearer just how much work has already gone into the event.
"Everything you're hearing about has been planned for months, and everybody's involved," said Todd Waelterman, the director of streets for the city.
It's evident on the field at Busch Stadium, where the grounds crew is working on mowing a Gateway Arch pattern in the outfield grass. It's evident inside the stadium, where decorations have been going up gradually for weeks and rapidly in recent days. It's evident outside the park, where banners, miniature versions of the Gateway Arch and much more have lent a festive feel to the area. It's even evident at Lambert-St. Louis International Airport, where you can buy All-Star merchandise on your way in and out of town.
St. Louis is ready and eager to put on a show, and insistent that that show be safe and smooth.
"We really want to take advantage of this opportunity, when we have the focus of the nation on St. Louis, to show everybody why this is called 'baseball heaven,'" said Joe Abernathy, the Cardinals' vice president of stadium operations. "Why [St. Louis] is considered such a great baseball city. We're going to be working real hard at that to be a great host for all things baseball."
While much of the preparation is meant to be seen, the most serious work is intended to remain invisible. The St. Louis Police Department is working with a number of law enforcement agencies, all the way up to the Secret Service, to ensure a safe All-Star week.
"I can confidently say that Major League Baseball and all of the organizations that have been involved in the planning have worked diligently to ensure that everyone who has an opportunity to work, to participate in or to attend any of the events associated with All-Star summer will enjoy a safe, secure environment that will provide a lifetime of memories," said Earnell Lucas, MLB's senior director of security and facility management.
Still, there's plenty to come. The groundwork has been set, but the on-the-ground work is far from over. One of the biggest tasks for the league, the city and the club is managing transportation -- parking, traffic and the like. And officials made no secret of the fact that getting to the park and getting around downtown will be more difficult than usual.
Approximately 500 parking spaces, primarily south of Busch Stadium but also in the new Ballpark Village lot immediately north of the park, will be required for MLB use. And the spots that remain available will be significantly more expensive than usual. Abernathy estimated prices in the $25-30 range for lots near Busch Stadium.
Additionally, of course, there will be alterations in traffic patterns. Most will be of minimal difficulty. The re-routing for Sunday morning's All-Star 5K charity race shouldn't be too drastic, especially given the early hour. And the area around the Gateway Arch has hosted concerts before, so Saturday night's Sheryl Crow/Elvis Costello concert shouldn't present any new challenges.
Tuesday's Red Carpet parade, though, will force some unusual closures in downtown St. Louis. A stretch of westbound Market Street will be closed for a good bit of Tuesday afternoon.
"At noon, the parade route gets enforced," Waelterman said. "That route will be shut down. That will be the tightest time of the day, from noon until the parade gets over at 4 o'clock -- about 4 o'clock."
Thus, officials from all of the various entities strongly encouraged fans to utilize public transportation as much as possible. Metro St. Louis will be adding trains for the All-Star events, and there is a MetroLink train station directly across the street from Busch Stadium.
"This might be a great time for all our fans locally to use Metrolink," Abernathy said. "It's a great resource. ... I would encourage everyone to use public transportation to minimize your traffic hassle and your parking hassle."
Once fans get to the park, things will be relatively normal on Sunday and Monday. Standard security procedures will apply for the first two days of events, for the most part. One exception, however, is the pass-out policy. Fans will not be permitted to re-enter Busch Stadium once they leave for any reason. That includes smokers, who typically have been able to step outside the no-smoking facility for a cigarette break. That opportunity will not exist for the All-Star Game.
A whole extra layer of procedures will be in place for Tuesday, though. With President Barack Obama throwing out the ceremonial first pitch, security gets much tighter for the All-Star Game. Fans will be required to pass through metal detectors on the way into the game, and Abernathy explained that restrictions similar to those for boarding an airplane will be exercised.
"A good rule of thumb that we've heard from the Secret Service so far is that if you can't take it on the airplane, you're not going to be allowed to bring it in the building that day," Abernathy said. "We just encourage everybody, don't bring any more than you have to. No bottles will be allowed. We normally allow water bottles, but we won't be allowing them that day. We won't be allowing any coolers of any type. Lines are going to be long. It's going to take a little extra time to get in the park, so please allow yourself plenty of time to get in."
Partly to compensate for those lines, gates will open early every day at Busch. On Sunday, gates will open at 11 a.m. CT, in advance of the 1 p.m. start of the XM All-Star Futures Game. Gates open at 4 p.m. on Monday, with the State Farm Home Run Derby getting under way at 7. Batting practice on Monday begins at 4:20. And on Tuesday, gates at Busch Stadium open at 3:15 p.m., nearly four hours before pregame ceremonies get rolling at 7 p.m.
In and out of the ballpark, fans will see some security personnel -- and won't see others. One major priority of the league, the club and law enforcement is fighting counterfeiters, both in terms of merchandise and tickets. Ethan Orlinsky, senior vice president and general counsel with MLB, emphasized that fans should not buy tickets from anyone they haven't bought them from before. Stations will be set up outside Busch Stadium for fans to check whether their tickets are authentic before they try to enter.
And of course, as all of this is taking place, there's also a baseball game fast approaching. It's two days until FanFest, which means it's only five days until things like lineups and starting pitchers are announced. Leading candidates to start include Tim Lincecum, Dan Haren and Chad Billingsley for the National League and Zack Greinke, Roy Halladay and Felix Hernandez for the American League. None start over the weekend, so all would have at least three days' rest before taking the mound in Tuesday's game.
And in the end, even with all of the security, parking and logistical questions, it's about the game.
"I think this will be our chance to show the world what a great baseball town this is ... and why we refer to this as baseball heaven," Abernathy said.
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.