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New St. Louis Ballpark Gets High Marks

April 5, 2006

ST. LOUIS (AP) _ Nearly all of the sellout crowd was dressed in red for the minor league game Tuesday night, and many of the Cardinals fans milled outside the ballpark near the Stan Musial statue, a bronzed memorial to ``baseball’s perfect warrior.″

But the statue was in a new place _ outside the $365 million new Busch Stadium, which was christened Tuesday with an exhibition game between the Cardinals’ top two minor-league teams, something of a dress rehearsal to make sure the ballpark is ready when the Cardinals host Milwaukee in Monday’s home opener.

Fans _ even those who cried when the old multipurpose Busch Stadium shut down after the Cardinals lost Game 6 of the NL championship series to Houston last season _ were impressed with the new place.

``I wanted to hate it but I can’t,″ said Rich Kramer, 68, of suburban St. Louis. ``We’re still in love with the old stadium. We have a lot of good memories there. But we’re going to give this one a chance.″

A frantic construction schedule that included around-the-clock work through the winter was mostly finished. As expected, part of the left-field stands won’t open until perhaps midseason.

Fans had a few minor quibbles. Some were surprised by the stadium’s proximity to Interstate 64 _ those in the concourse can hear the traffic rumble by. And the Cardinals are still working out a glitch in which too few women’s restrooms were built.

But the pluses appeared to outweigh the problems. The turf installed less than a month ago was lush and well-manicured. Fans also gushed over the picturesque view of the Gateway Arch, the Old Courthouse and the downtown landscape, a view made available by an open area of left-center.

``I think it’s fabulous,″ said Paul Freimann, 49, who came from Springfield. ``I love the way the stadium fits into the city, the way you can see the Arch from the stands. I think it will be great for the city of St. Louis.″

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