ST LOUIS (AP) — With a resounding thud, a wrecking ball smashed into the southwest side of Busch Stadium on Monday to make room for a new ballpark, while St. Louis Cardinals fans reminisced about Mark McGwire knocking home runs out of the park or Lou Brock stealing bases.
A wrecking ball is about to be lowered on Busch Stadium, one of the cookie-cutter facilities built in the 1960s.
Hundreds of observers lined nearby streets or dotted rooftops to watch the first swings of the 5-ton wrecking ball.
"It was sickening," longtime fan Mary Ann Budrovich said. "No turning back now."
Glenda Postin of Lewistown, Ill., won a charity raffle that allowed her to provide a verbal countdown and wave an orange flag from the rooftop of a nearby parking garage to signal a crane to release the wrecking ball.
Postin had fond memories from Busch Stadium: watching Hall of Fame shortstop Ozzie Smith turn back flips to rev up the crowd and seeing President Bush throw out the first pitch of the Cardinals' 2004 season.
But she had mixed feelings about being "the woman who started the takedown of Busch Stadium."
"I don't know if that's a good thing or not, but I'm excited about the new stadium and looking forward to being there next year," she said.
Crews began preparing for the stadium's demolition on Oct. 20 – the day after St. Louis lost the NL Championship Series to the Houston Astros in the final game at Busch.
The southern half of Busch Stadium will be knocked down over the next few months to allow for completion of the new, roughly $400 million ballpark. The new park is slated to be done by April 1, for the Cardinals' home opener April 10 against Milwaukee. The rest of the old stadium will be demolished by June 30.
A charity raffle benefiting the Cardinals' community foundation, Cardinals Care, the United Way of Greater St. Louis and Gulf Coast hurricane victims raised more than $66,000 in ticket sales. The 250 raffle finalists, who watched the demolition from the nearby parking garage roof, will receive a commemorative print. They couldn't all see the wrecking ball hit inside the ballpark, but its sound resonated throughout the neighborhood.
Busch, one of the cookie-cutter style, multipurpose stadiums built in the 1960s, was easily recognizable with its archways along the top that are a tribute to St. Louis' silvery Gateway Arch monument, which opened in 1967, a year after the ballpark.
Construction of the new stadium also includes plans to develop a "Ballpark Village" of housing, retail and office space in the neighborhood.