The Baseball Writers' Association of America moved Wednesday to request that Major League Baseball withhold awarding the 2009 All-Star Game to the Cardinals until significant improvements are made to a press facility the organization considers unacceptable to host a special event.
Commissioner Bud Selig described the matter as "a real and valid" issue Wednesday and acknowledged being made aware of the writers' concerns.
"It's always a significant issue. I'm sensitive to it, and I know the issues are real and valid," Selig said. "The question is what can be done about it, and I don't have an answer about it right now."
Major League Baseball is expected to award the 2008 All-Star Game to the New York Yankees, who will move from current Yankee Stadium into a new stadium the following year. The Cardinals have not hosted an All-Star Game since 1966 but are expected to receive the 2009 event as reward for their new facility. Next July's game will be played in San Francisco. The Busch Stadium press facility has been criticized by media since the park opened this April. During construction of the stadium, Cardinals officials waived architect HOK's standard design, opting for a less costly, exposed press box offering neither air conditioning nor heat. The club originally intended to locate the press facility down the right-field line until Major League Baseball mandated that it be situated behind home plate.
Journalists weren't the only ones subject to the spartan conditions. The club placed its public relations offices in a windowless cinder block space also lacking heat and air conditioning.
Other complaints include poor sight lines from the box's second row. Media members not sitting in the front row are unable to see the stadium scoreboard or follow fly balls unless they lay their heads flat on the table.
City fire marshals on several occasions ordered closed a media workroom when smoke from an adjacent concession area permeated the wall separating the two.
Club officials have suggested improvements might be made to the press facility but have not specified what those improvements might be or when they would be made.
"I don't know what can be done about it," Selig said. The BBWAA "should send me a letter about it, and I will see what can be done about it." Cardinals president Mark Lamping said Wednesday night many of this season's complications can be traced to the club not moving into its new front office until earlier this month. Space dedicated for media use was assigned to the public relations staff. Lamping confirmed that additional modifications are being considered.
"It's been our desire from the outset to create as comfortable an experience for our fans and media as possible," Lamping said. "After this season is over, I'm sure we'll take a look at how to do that."
Lamping said a significant number of St. Louis media argued against a permanently enclosed press facility. Few, however, have complained about the possibility of installing retractable windows along with climate control.
The BBWAA added its complaints about the facility to its agenda Wednesday after a number of its members were shocked by conditions encountered during the postseason. MLB officials who were unimpressed on opening day remain so despite minor adjustments that included removal of exposed insulation.
"I can't believe anyone would build a brand new ballpark with an open press box," said incoming BBWAA president Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. "If you're going to play in October and get weather like this, you're going to get this."
Similar complaints were made about the PNC Park press box before Pittsburgh hosted this July's All-Star Game. PNC, like Busch, has an upper-level press facility without windows.
Complaints were forwarded to the club; however, no significant improvements were made.