DeWitt III: Solidarity important for St. Louis sports

Cardinals president also touches on new videoboards, earlier start times and more

January 18th, 2016
Bill DeWitt III joined the Blues' Tom Stillman in a ceremonial puck drop (AP).

ST. LOUIS -- Four days after he joined Blues hockey chairman Tom Stillman on the ice for a ceremonial puck drop, Cardinals president Bill DeWitt III said he felt it important to show solidarity between the city's two remaining professional sports franchises.

The on-ice moment came 48 hours after the National Football League announced that it had approved the Rams' request to relocate to Los Angeles. DeWitt III and Stillman received thunderous applause, while Rams owner Stan Kroenke, who was not in attendance, received a quite different response. The Rams' departure for Los Angeles leaves St. Louis as a two-sport town for the first time since 1994.

"Walking out there, you realize that this is bigger than just me and Tom and Cardinals-Blues," DeWitt III said. "It was a moment that was pretty powerful because I think the fans just had that sense of pride coming out for the teams they do have here. It was pretty cool to be a part of that."

DeWitt III also denounced the way Kroenke blasted the city of St. Louis in his application for relocation.

"I thought it was unfortunate that the Rams even had to fill out that part of the application on why they wanted to move," DeWitt III said. "Any dope can look up the size of the two markets [in St. Louis and Los Angeles]. … I would have just said we're not filling out that section. But he did. I think our fans and our city felt like that was unnecessary."

While the Cardinals and Blues enjoy a marketing partnership, the Rams never engaged much with those two teams. On Sunday, Bill DeWitt Jr., principal owner of the Cardinals, said he had met Kroenke only once or twice.

"Having said that," DeWitt Jr. said, "this is a great sports town and certainly can support the NFL."

Here is a look at other topics DeWitt III touched on while meeting with the media on the third and final day of the Cardinals' Winter Warm-Up:

• The Cardinals have begun creating plans for the second phase of Ballpark Village, which opened in 2014 with 250,000 square feet of restaurant, retail and entertainment space. This next phase, which could take around 10 years to plan and build, is likely to include residential apartments, office space and perhaps a hotel. The Cards will also look into adding more retail options and additional parking.

• The Cardinals recently installed a pair of new videoboards, replacing the 10-year-old versions that were originals to Busch Stadium III. The new boards will display HD content and will be more than twice the display size of the previous boards.

As for how they will enhance the stadium experience, DeWitt III said he hopes to fall "somewhere in the middle of the spectrum. We do have traditional fans who appreciate the basic raw baseball, but we also have young fans and families that want us to be cutting edge. I like the fact that we strike that balance."

• DeWitt III said the organization has received a favorable response from fans regarding the 6:15 p.m. CT game times the team has been featuring on select Thursday and Saturday home dates. He estimated that preference is "pretty much split down the middle" among those who prefer the traditional 7:15 p.m. starts as opposed to those one hour earlier.

As a result, the Cardinals have scheduled early start times for some home games in 2016.

• The organization does plan to enhance its security measures before the start of the season because of growing concerns about crime and terrorism.

"We have to make sure that there are no loopholes or weak links in our security," DeWitt III said. "We're going to shore up our perimeter security, make sure there are no possible areas of penetration. We're looking at both lighting and security cameras. … The technology behind things is very important. [We're] making sure our control room is the latest and greatest. We're working with the city to make sure that surrounding the ballpark we have those things as well -- the lighting and the staffing to hopefully prevent incidents from happening."