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Pro Sports Teams in St. Louis

September 20, 2009 Downtown, Economy, Metro East, Popular Culture, Sunday Poll, Taxes 18 Comments

St. Louis has a long history with professional sports teams, but, except for the Blues and the Cardinals, there’s also been a lot of changes over the years. The Browns, the Hawks and the football Cardinals have all left town. We invested heavily to get the Rams. We were once the epicenter for professional wrestling, and we currently support, among other sports, roller derby (ArchRivalRollerGirls.com).

Supporters of pro sports view them as being critical to a major city’s identity and for attracting new businesses. This is backed up with public investments like those in the Jones Dome, Busch III and Scottrade Center. But there are always groups advocating for more and different. One thing St. Louis lacks, in the traditional sense, is a pro basketball team. The Hawks were here from 1955 to 1968, but they were sold and moved to Atlanta. There are also “newer” pro sports leagues that are growing around the country, in sports that appeal more to the younger generations, sports like soccer and lacrosse.

With some regularity, we’ll see proposals, many times in Illinois, to build a new pro sports facility to support one of these new leagues. The Rams continue to make noises about the need to improve or replace the Jones Dome.  We just had a successful weekend of bike racing and the possibility of bringing the Olympics back to St. Louis is always a remote one.  There are those of us who would like to see a bigger investment in expanding our trail system, and there are others who value motorsports like NHRA and NASCAR.  Heck, there are even people willing to spend money watching monster trucks or lawnmower racing.

This all boils down to priorities.  We can’t be everything to everybody, so choices have to be made.  The Cardinals and the Blues seem to be relatively satisfied, for the time being, which leaves everyone else.  Should we focus our efforts on keeping the Rams or should we try to get an Arena Football team?  Would pro soccer be a better investment than pro lacrosse?  And should St. Louis work to keep any new facility in or near downtown, ar should we let other cities in the region share in both the glory and the headaches any pro team brings?

– Jim Zavist


Currently there are "18 comments" on this Article:

  1. Becker says:

    The Arena Football League has gone belly-up. So you can scratch that off the board. Not to mention that there are already three facilities in the area that could handle an Arena game. No need to even think about building anything new for them.

    I do think a new football stadium will be needed eventually. I would rather STL take a page out of Phoenix’s book and build a new building in the middle of nowhere off a highway exit somewhere. The land the Jones sits on now should be used for new high-use high-density development. However I fear this will never happen because the powers-that-be (and I don’t JUST mean the major) seem convinced that it is vitally important that downtown St. Louis be in the convention business. This is despite that fact that we only see more and more evidence all the time that we won’t be able to compete in this industry consistently or cheaply.

  2. High5apparatus says:

    I’m in San Antonio right now and it seems unfair for SAT to have only an NBA team when StL has three of four major leagues represented in town. In there is a large media market with a ton of hotel rooms and a vibrant and exciting downtown it is San Antonio. I did offer them the Rams while I was down here.

  3. Josh says:

    Random thoughts:

    If St. Louis landed an NBA, they would be the smallest metro area representing all 4 major sports leagues. I think the town should just focus on supporting its current teams and be happy to bring in the occasional NCAA Final Four (and similar events). Speaking of college basketball, SLU isn’t North Carolina, or UCLA, but they are still a Division 1 basketball program, and I think it’s good for the city for them to be supported.

    I just don’t see the dollars in this town to support any new teams (at least, any time soon). The city’s loyalties are set. The Cards and Blues are too well established. Even the Rams have their loyalties – mostly thanks to the greatest show on turf. If we got an NBA team, it wouldn’t thrive and the Blues, Rams and Cards would suffer (in that order). If we got an MLS team it would fold. If we got a Lacrosse team, it would fold.

    I have to admit, I like it that the Rams play downtown. When I take friends from out of town downtown, it’s nice to be able to point to the dome and say “… and that’s where the Rams play.” But let’s be honest. As far as economic impact, the Rams are there 8 days a year (10 if you count preseason – you shouldn’t). The only reason I think they should and will stay, is that the city just isn’t in love with them like the are the Cards and the Blues. With the Cards and (to a lesser extent) the Blues, the fans are 2nd, 3rd or maybe even 4th generation fans. The Rams have their loyalties, but if its ever going to be as strong as the Blues and Cards, it won’t be for decades. When the plans for a new Busch were being born, the Cards were coming off a horrible decade (remember the 90’s?). They still got their stadium. The Rams are coming off a horrible 3 – 4 years, and the attitude of the city is ‘Why should we buy you a new home? You are (currently) terrible, and the building your in now isn’t 2 decades old, the Cards lasted 4 in their old building.’ If the Rams get a new stadium in the St. Louis area, the Dome will be inching near 30.

  4. Joe Borough says:

    St. Louis wouldn’t be much smaller than Minneapolis and Denver if it got an NBA team.


    I found this blog pretty interesting. Denver got all 4 major sports teams sometime in the 90s with a population lower than St. Louis now. The only thing is Denver was in a mini-boom. I’d love to see the NBA back in St. Louis and I actually think Dave Checketts is the guy to do it. We also have a recent history of coming very close to getting teams but just the wrong guy spearheading the movement.
    I think St. Louis could support all 4 sports as well as Denver and Minneapolis and certainly better than Atlanta.

    As for the Rams I think they’ll stay in St. Louis and the stadium requirements can always be voided. All that matters right now is getting the right product on the field and possibly getting Stan Kroenke full ownership.

  5. Joe Borough says:

    Also not to knock the MLS but the stadium plans call for another stadium to be built. An NBA team would share the Scottrade Center, which is already pretty nice for its age. One of the biggest hurdles Cooper is facing in his MLS bid is deep pockets investors and sponsors. Not to bring a racial element into the argument but african-americans really aren’t into hockey either, so there may be a bit of an untapped market. Also people forget the Cardinals are a practically a national cultural institution. Those 3 million in attendance aren’t all people from St. Louis.

    “Historically, out-of-town visitors constitute some 40 percent of Cardinals attendance, and their spending on dining and lodging provides a significant boost to the regional economy, according to Sergenian.”


    The Rams just need to win and honestly the superbowl team was luck. The Organization needed this recent overhaul. We had a Lawyer as our GM because he could negotiate contracts he wasn’t a football guy. I think the Rams are headed in the right direction their young and they’re gonna be fine.

  6. John M says:

    Becker there is ample space to build this “high density” area just across the street at the Bottle District, in fact if you know something they don’t, you may want to give them a ring, I am sure they would be receptive.

    As far as the powers that be on the convention business you talk of; they were certainly dealt a blow this week with the AMR announcement. I think you are partially correct on this observation, but market forces against the downtown area is the most serious. Changing peoples attitudes towards the city would generate the most obvious improvements to its positive end.

    Density will follow when people want to be there.

  7. Brandon says:

    I think the Ed Jones Dome needs to be retrofitted with a retractable roof and better turf surface. Everyone I know thinks the dome is a crappy place to watch football because it is indoors and the atmosphere is lame. It would be expensive but less than a new development.

    St. Louis should get an MLS team and the stadium should not be in Collinsville IL. Downtown is the place for stadiums. If the dome got a retractable roof, maybe the soccer team could play there too. The new team could help pay for the dome improvements.

    [slp — Football does more harm than good for downtown St. Louis. I have no idea how many games are in a MLS season or if fans tailgate. If so put both in a remote field near a highway.]

  8. Dave says:

    St Louis is one of the biggest soccer cities in America, it’s sort of absurd that we don’t have even a minor-league pro team.

  9. John Regenbogen says:

    Let’s try to concentrate on becoming the world leader in hoosier sports. We can to do it!

  10. Joe Borough says:

    there’s no shortage on office space downtown if you blew up the dome what are the chances it would remain a vacant lot blighting downtown even more? Concentrate on moving business and people into existing space. Until there’s critical demand for more space I don’t see the need to curse EJD.

    I’d like to see a new stadium on the eastside riverfront but I wouldn’t want to leave a gaping hole in EJD’s absence (BPV). I also don’t think we should worry about an MLS team or stadium right now and wind up paying for two stadiums when one will do. That would require that Stan Kroenke sell his Colorado Rapids MLS franchise and get on board an a St. Louis franchise. He’s currently part owner of The Rams and there’s a chance he may become majority owner.

    Robert Kraft and Paul Allen both own NFL and MLS teams and they play in the same stadium and that should be the setup in St. Louis. That’s why I think an NBA team is less messy. Checketts has expressed interest in bringing an NBA team to St. Louis and we already have Scottrade and we wouldn’t have to build an entirely new stadium rather renovate it if need be.

    Also Dave — We have the St. Louis Lions they’re a USL-PDL team its possible they could be upgraded to USL-1 soon. Also I really don’t buy the notion that we’re the Soccer Capital of America. The Seattle Sounders for instance have been around in various leagues since ’74 in NASL USL and now MLS. St. Louis doesn’t have a franchise history like that. I think right now we should hope for a USL-1 team and growing St. Louis before we talk about any additional sports franchises.

  11. Becker says:

    Unfortunately the MLS has been pretty specific about wanting new franchises to have new soccer specific stadiums rather than playing in football stadiums. For one, they’d rather their games played in a 10,000 seat stadium filled to capacity than a 60,000 seat stadium that looks almost empty. (Any SLU basketball fan who has been to games at both Scottrade and Chaifetz know what a difference that makes.) Some of the MLS teams may have been grandfathered in on that policy.

    As for the NBA, I think it would be tough going though I agree that the African-American community is underserved in terms of sports entertainment in this city. Any NBA team to come here would play in Scottrade, no question. I don’t think an NBA only arena would even be suggested.

    St. Louis may no longer be the “soccer capital of the US”, whatever that means, but there is still more local interest in the sport than in a lot of other markets.

    To my knowledge the STL metropolitan statistical area is still larger than Denver’s even today.

    If we need to build new soccer or football stadium’s in the next 20 years I’d like to see them both built on the site of the former Chrysler plant Fenton. Improve highway access, do some environmental cleanup and flood protection, let them share the same parking lot ala Arrowhead and Kaufmann stadiums in KC and we’d be set. Though it will take a while for everyone to accept that those Chrysler jobs aren’t coming back.

  12. Tim E says:

    MSL and NBA are intriguing opportunities. For one, You have a ready built stadium in Scottrade and aggressive owner for an NBA franchise. On top of that, the same owner will have a refurbished opera house next door to take in events and concerts for the days that he lost on the Scottrade’s schedule. Second, An idea on a urbanstl blog thread was to put a MLS stadium west of Union Station if a new 22nd street Interchange built. I love this idea since we could possible have MLB, NHL, NBA and MLS connected by Clark Street. Throw in NCAA tournaments, hotels, great transit access (maybe even high speed rail to Chicago in the near future), Ballpark Lofts and Ballpark Village, and plenty of parking. Talk about a great American pro sports row in the making.

    As far at the Rams, lets get realistic about two things. A new NFL stadium is going to require tax dollars. Second, it would have to be built in the county if their is going to be any political support from taxpayers whatsoever. An NFL franchise is too valuable to think they are going to stick with the Edwards Dome over another city. IF anything built it across the Arch in East St. Louis instead of the park expansion. The Arch tram will be second best ticket in town on game day.

    If I was Stan (minorit owner of the Rams), I would sell part of his minority share in Rams and find InBev executives from Belgium & Brazil who would support a MLS franchise & Stadium. A 18,000 seat stadium for soccer can be done for a lot cheaper and with a lot more private money if the right connections are made. Let the state and county foot a bill for a new NFL stadium. It would be a great trade off for the city, give up on a new Rams stadium downtown in exchange for a soccer stadium near Union Station/Scottrade and upgrades to the convention center. At the same time InBev can take part in MLS and NBA with world wide connections to Europe, Belgium and possbily China (where NBA actively markets the game).

  13. equals42 says:

    MLS is a forward-looking way to go. It is relatively cheap as far as the cost of the team and a new facility. The MLS season is 30 games plus playoffs and “friendlies”. New MLS stadia are generally in the 15,000 seat range. The fields would be available I suppose to SLU and other regional soccer matches as well. The 20th street area would be a great location for an MLS field. There’s good parking, good public transport and local attractions (Schlafly Tap Room, Maggie’s, Union Station). Stan K is also a part owner (~24%) of Arsenal in London so who knows…

  14. Jimmy Z says:

    The Denver and St. Louis SMSA’s have very similar populations (approx. 2.5 million). The difference is in the regional sphere of influence. Using football, the Rams are surrounded by the Bears, Colts, Bengals, Titans, Saints, Cowboys, Chiefs and Vikings, with the dividing line being roughly Mt. Vernon, Paducah, Memphis, Little Rock, Columbia and Des Moines. The Broncos are surrounded by the 49’ers, Seahawks, Vikings, Chiefs, Cowboys and Cardinals, with fans in a large part of New Mexico, Utah, Wyoming and Montana, and the western parts of the Dakotas, Nebraska and Kansas. This larger regional media market likely results in both more fans and more revenues. I’d also wager that there a lot more Cubs fans than Cardinals fans nationally for one big reason – TV, and specifically cable TV. With WGN being on pretty much every cable system, and there are Cubs fans everywhere.

    Another way to look at it is in the growth of regional competitors here. I grew up in Louisville. The only pro team that’s been there were the ABA Kentucky Colonels, In baseball, the rooting choices haven’t changed much (Reds, Cubs, Sox, Cardinals), but in football, they have. It used to be the Bengals, with the old Cardinals, the Bears and the Cowboys trailing. Now, it’s the Bengals, the Titans or the Colts, with the Rams not on the radar and, as always, a few Cowboys fans,

    Which raises a couple of interesting observations. One, does a smaller sphere of influence result in a diminished national presence? And do regional names (Indiana Pacers, Colorado Rockies, Tennessee Titans, Colorado Avalanche) result in more fans than more-traditionally-named teams (St. Louis Cardinals, Rams and Blues)?

  15. Joe Borough says:

    Jim — The Cubs might have a larger national following but that is no slight at the Cardinals. For a number of decades the Cardinals were the westernmost team in the MLB and with radio it was a very popular national team. The Cardinals arguably have to be in the top 5 in national following. Yanks Cubs Red Sox Dodgers Cardinals. As I pointed out earlier historically 40% of The Cardinals attendance comes from out of town.

    An interesting article on mlb popularity


    those are attendance figures for denver n stl sports teams. The Rams had trouble selling out recently but 10 straight years of sold out seasons shouldn’t be forgotten. Their attendance percentage hasn’t dipped below 90% since then either. Respectable.

    Sphere of influence is a good thing to have — i.e. not having teams close but the respective leagues handle that. The NBA doesn’t allow teams within a 90 mile radius of another. On the other hand having a rival within a few hours drive can help sellout home games, but yes you want to be able to sellout games with your fans first.

    As for regional names there used to be the Kansas City-Omaha Kings. It was a disaster. I wouldn’t put much weight into state/regional names. People know where the teams play and where they have to travel in order to see a game. Being from St. Louis never stopped me from identifying the Los Angeles Lakers as my team.

    Everything comes down to having enough people willing to pay to see a team play. St. Louis needs to start growing a little faster. That’s what racks my brain everyday, wondering how to boost St. Louis’ population.

  16. Bill Rogers says:

    Veeck and maybe Lasorda – A once-in-a-lifetime event in sports history in St. Louis

    OK so we’re rooting for the Cardinals in the playoffs and the world series . . . but there’s a one time event happening involving a St. Louis Baseball team that left here in 1953 – the St. Louis Browns. The Browns Fan Club is celebrating a 25 year anniversary at a dinner on October 8, 6:00 pm at the Missouri Athletic Club in downtown St. Louis.

    Michael Veeck, son of Hall of Famer and former owner of the Browns, Bill Veeck, is confirmed as a guest speaker. Also invited is Tommy Lasorda, Hall of Fame manager of the Dodgers. Lasorda joined the Browns for spring training in 1953. Tommy will be here if his schedule permits as he travels with the Dodgers while in the playoffs.

    Former Browns players scheduled to attend include Roy Sievers, Ned Garver, Ed Mickelson, Babe Martin, Bill Jennings, J.W. Porter, Bud Thomas and others.

    It’s like spending an evening at the ballpark. More stories and laughs than you can handle. What St. Louis needs is another Veeck and one is coming our way.

    Your reservation includes membership in the Browns Fan Club. For more info and reservations, visit http://www.thestlbrowns.com or http://thestlbrowns.blogspot.com or call Bill Rogers at 314-892-8632.

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