There are so many reasons to keep our beloved Busch that settling on a single one as "the best" is tantamount to singling out the best amendment to the Constitution, the best thing about living in America, the best part of drinking beer. There's the money angle -- why spend a cent of public money (let alone the $250 million the Cardinals want) replacing a stadium that no one, save team owners, can find fault with? There are the aesthetics -- it would be bordering on criminal to tear down those beautiful arches that ring the top of Busch. There's the sense of history -- who among us would welcome the demise of a stadium once ruled by the likes of Bob Gibson, Ozzie Smith and Lou Brock?
Good reasons, all. But, for now, the single best reason to keep Busch Stadium is the refusal of the owners to open their books. Until the owners produce an independently audited financial statement and make it available to everyone -- not just politicians sworn to secrecy -- there's no reason for this discussion to go any further.
The owners say they need a new stadium to maintain financial stability and keep the franchise competitive. H-O-G-W-A-S-H. You don't have to look any further than television and radio revenue (which is comparable to what the San Francisco Giants, who paid for their own stadium, receive) and league-high attendance figures at Busch to see that that's ridiculous. There's no crisis here, no sign of impending financial doom. If there were, you'd think the Cardinals would be more than willing to prove it. The fact that they won't speaks volumes.
Team owners have been acting as if they have an "or else" in their back pocket. They don't. Cardinals fans have supported this team, thick or thin. For the better part of a century, the Cardinals have demonstrated they can compete with the big-market clubs. Bud Selig isn't about to let the franchise move to -- well, that's a good question. Where else can the owners hope to make as much money as they do in St. Louis, anointed the best baseball town in America by no less an authority than Sports Illustrated? If meddlers in St. Peters and East St. Louis insist on making overtures, fine. Let them pay the political price for handing over millions in public money to millionaires intent on becoming billionaires. We'll remain within easy driving distance. And the name "St. Louis" will still adorn the uniforms.
The Cardinals have said they'll open their books for the right people, meaning politicians and power brokers. The right people, in this case, are taxpayers. The simple fact is, the public holds the cards in this game with the Cards. Open your books, owners. What are you afraid of?
-- Bruce Rushton
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