At the same time, visitors are being encouraged to walk back and forth between their hotels and the happenings at Busch Stadium, America's Center and the Scottrade Center. "People staying at hotels downtown will be surprised that St. Louis is a walking town," Miller says.

To keep anyone from straying too far north of Washington Avenue, several guides will be stationed throughout the area. "They'll have little PDAs that are linked to a dispatcher," Cloar explains. "They can print out directions on a cash-register-tape-size piece of paper."

The blue-and-green street signs that point in the general direction of venues and attractions have also been updated, removing, among other things, the name of St. Louis Centre, downtown's failed shopping mall.

Ballpark Village was transformed from a water-filled crater nicknamed "Lake DeWitt" into a softball field as part of the city's preparations for the All-Star Game.
Ballpark Village was transformed from a water-filled crater nicknamed "Lake DeWitt" into a softball field as part of the city's preparations for the All-Star Game.

But in a city where the suggestion of walking anywhere other than to the car is usually greeted with a groan, the notion of several hundred thousand tourists hoofing it in the mid-July heat and humidity — the temperature during the '66 All-Star Game was a stifling 103 degrees — may seem a bit absurd.

Even Miller concedes that natives will likely wind up "driving back and forth the way they like to do."

Long-term impact aside, the Regional Chamber and Growth Association estimates the game and its peripheral events will pump $60 million into the area's economy. "All of the restaurants and the major retail establishments in the downtown area are going to have a lot more people walking by their front door," Ratcliffe says. "I'd expect they'd all benefit in some way."

But the fact that visitors are being encouraged to walk — catching a cab in St. Louis, after all, is often more difficult than catching a knuckleball — makes it unlikely that neighborhoods outside of the city's core will profit nearly as much.

There are also skeptics of the supposed short-term economic benefits of mega sporting events.

Dennis Coates, a sports economist at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, studies the impact that special events such as the Super Bowl and the All-Star Game have on the economies of their host cities. Coates analyzed sales tax revenue and other data, and found that in virtually every instance cities either broke even or lost money.

In most cases, Coates explains, spending by people who live in the city decreases dramatically during the hoopla, and the cost of preparing for the event usually negates any earnings. "If you look at it in any sort of objective way after the fact, there is no meaningful difference between when the event occurred and in the meantime."

Chance, the city's special-events coordinator, insists spending has been prudent. "We've really been planning this for a long time and making every effort to keep costs to a minimum," she says. "Budgeting-wise, we knew it was coming, and the departments that were going to be directly impacted have been working on adjusting their hours and manpower based on the needs of a particular day."

Coates winces when he hears about plans to update tourist-information signs and resurface the streets around Busch Stadium. "If street signs need to be changed, why not just change them and not worry about having an All-Star Game?" he asks. "If a street needs to be repaved, why do we have to justify it based on this event? A lot of good stuff can get justified based on a crazy reason."

Says Charlie Brennan: "Everyone knows St. Louis doesn't have mountains or the ocean. We have to work harder at making downtown beautiful. Sometimes we wait for the Final Four or other activities to get into gear and clean up our area.

"I think that's all fine and good, but we should have an eye toward aesthetics 52 weeks a year, and not just when the national media visits. If we just go back to the old ways in August, it's just a fraud."

Marla Miller, who has overseen the planning of twelve previous All-Star Games, says it is not unusual for baseball's smaller markets to overcompensate when hosting baseball's star-studded gala.

"We've been to some cities that don't exude, by name, sparkle or pizzazz, but those are some cities that, in the end, really rise to the occasion," she says. "They feel like they have to do more to compete with the more traditional bigger cities that will get events or large conventions."

In St. Louis, where baseball is a matter of civic pride, intensive preparations are a natural inclination. Now, with downtown's facelift complete, event planners are mostly worried about things that are beyond their control.

"The best-case scenario is we have perfect weather, and it's safe and fun," Chance says. "That's my dream in a perfect world. The worst-case scenario is God-awful weather. Either it's hot or it rains. Or something bad happens — that would just be awful."

In the event of some misfortune, Chance and Cardinal fans can take comfort in knowing that baseball's midseason celebration quickly fades from memory. "It's big for St. Louis, and for the rest of the world, it's an awards show," says Will Leitch. "St. Louisans should say, 'Look at all this madness in the city for four days.' Then people will move on. Nobody remembers where it was two years ago."

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