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Readers Split Between Soccer and Basketball

September 28, 2009 Downtown, Local Business, STL Region 17 Comments

A recent poll on this site asked readers which professional sports league, if any, should be next for St. Louis.  We currently have professional football (Rams), hockey (Blues) and, of course, baseball (Cardinals). Of the “major” leagues we lack only basketball (NBA).  Other leagues we do not have are women’s basketball (WNBA), soccer (MLS), and arena football (AFL).    Note, the AFL is currently suspended amid financial difficulties.

Women’s basketball, arena football and lacrosse received zero votes giving none of the above/who cares the 3rd place spot (17 votes) behind basketball (50) and soccer (52).  Single write-in votes included rugby, “foxy boxing” and an American League MLB franchise.  During the week basketball & soccer were neck and neck, with soccer usually in the lead.

While I’ve enjoyed the handful of Cardinals games I’ve attended over the last 19 years, I’m not a sports fan.  I’ve never attended a football game (except 1-2 during high school), hockey, soccer or basketball.  Of these, only soccer has me interested in personally attending a match.  I’ve watched the Cardinals on TV during the World Series but never during the regular season.

Prior to 1966 St. Louis’ major sports were played outside of downtown.  Baseball & football were played at Sportsman’s Park at Grand & Dodier (map) and hockey was played at The Arena on Oakland Ave.   The idea of constructing downtown stadiums was conceived across the country as a strategy to keep downtown’s occupied. Along the same lines, cultural institutions were also consolidated in many cities.  St. Louis bucked the trend in the late 1960s when the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra renovated a 1925 movie theater in midtown, the St. Louis Theater.   The Symphony left downtown’s Kiel Opera House for their new renovated digs in midtown.  In November 2005 I quoted architectural critic Ada Louise Huxtable:

The success of Powell Symphony Hall in St. Louis is probably going to lead a lot of people to a lot of wrong conclusions. In a kind of architectural Gresham’s law, the right thing wrongly interpreted usually has more bad than good results. The first wrong conclusion is that Powell Hall represents the triumph of traditional over modern architecture. False. The correct conclusion here is that a good old building is better than a bad new one. Powell Hall represents the triumph simply of suitable preservation. And, one might add, of rare good sense.

But good sense went out the window in cities all over the country, including St. Louis.  Many good old buildings were replaced with bad new buildings, including concert halls and stadiums.

We have Bush Stadium III for baseball and Scottrade Center for hockey as well as any basketball team we may attract.  The size, location and design of these facilities works fairly well within the downtown context.  Busch holds 45,000 more or less and Scottrade seats up to 23,000 depending upon configuration.

As contributor Jim Zavist indicated in his post introducing the poll, we need to face the fact the Rams NFL team is for sale and it may not remain in St. Louis.  I feel that baseball & hockey/basketball are suitable in downtown, but NFL football is not.

The Dallas Cowboy’s new suburban stadium has a capacity of  80,000 and will hold over 100,000 with standing areas.  Saint Louis University’s Chaifetz Arena seats 10,600.   The scale required for NFL is out of place in a walkable context like downtown.

Soccer, like baseball, is on a smaller scale than football.  The new soccer-specific stadium for the New York Red Bulls, being built in New Jersey, will seat 25,000, a quarter of the new Cowboys stadium. For those that like basketball & soccer, check out games at SLU.

The Edwards Jones Dome downtown (capacity 67,000) where the Rams play looks like an outdated dark closet compared to the new Cowboys stadium with its glass walls and retractable roof.  I can see the implosion of the Edward Jones Dome within the next 20 years.  If we retain the Rams in the St. Louis region their new facility needs to be built out on the fringe surrounded by a big parking lot for the fans that tailgate.  Closer in sites include dying malls like Northwest Plaza.   But no site downtown or the city is big enough to be handed over year round for 8-10 games per year.

I think I get part of the appeal of downtown stadiums; for many it is the only time they leave suburbia and come downtown.  Build the stadium on the edge and they’ll never get a chance to leave their miserable environment to experience downtown life, unless they make it to a Cardinals or Blues game.  Best yet is to forget the games and come downtown, have lunch and do some shopping.

I don’t care about the Rams, I want the E.J. Dome gone from my downtown.

– Steve Patterson


Currently there are "17 comments" on this Article:

  1. Jeff says:

    I have to say this is a very “self-serving” post. The term “my downtown” bugs me to no end. This is hopefully our/everyone’s downtown. Because you don’t like sport, does not mean that the Rams and the Dome should be booted out of downtown. In hindsight, sure, the Dome could have been built as a much different facility. While the Rams only use it a few times a year, the dome does also get limited use for conventions, the car show, etc. Do you really think something better will be built in its place giving our cities long history lack of planning. Imploding it will make it Ballpark Village North aka another surface parking lot. I do have to say that the Dome has no personality/uniqueness but I don’t see any realistic alternatives in the near future.

    [slp — yes, downtown is for all but it is also where I personally live.]

  2. Andy says:

    “miserable environment”? It seems a lot of people like misery, then. I agree with Jeff above, the dome is used for more than just football. Time to climb down from that Ivory Tower…

  3. Daniel says:

    Although I agree that the Dome will be gone soon, I think you give it way too much time. It’s got 10 years, if that. On another issue, you seem to think that if a new stadium is built, it will be built in the county. I’m not so sure. The county likely doesn’t want the traffic, crime, or issues associated with the stadium (much less paying for it with bonds or TIF); I would toss out the idea that if St. Louis keeps an NFL team, the next stadium will be built in Illinois with easy access to the new I-70 and I-64/44/55. Finally, I don’t think most stadiums are built near downtowns because suburbanites want to visit downtown and escape their environment; I think it’s more likely that suburbanites don’t want to live next to the stadium environment downtown, and the cities usually are suckers for any new ‘project’ to revive their commerce.

    [slp — The Rams may well be in another facility in 10 years but it will be longer before the current dome is removed. I did suggest the Northwest Plaza as a possible closer in location but otherwise I suggested the edge. That could include St. Louis County along I-44, Jefferson County, St. Charles County or Illinois. I like your theory on the reason for downtown locations.]

  4. Nick says:

    Why are you always so negative? I understand that you work towards a walkable urban environment but the dome is not that terrible and losing the rams/an nfl franchise would be a total blow to the St. Louis image/self-esteem. I think it is a vital component downtown and I think you should start writing about positive things too along with your negative criticisms. I know some things must have happen to you to make you bitter but complaining and being negative is not going to help. I’m a proud supporter of the STL and urban life. I love downtown and the city. There is a lot of work ahead but it has all come such a long way in the past 15 years.

    Again dont make every post negative,


    [slp — Nick, I have many non-negative posts. I see removing the possibility of removing the dome & the sections of highway from downtown as very positive elements in our future. The Rams can stay — it is the dome I want gone. The buyer of the Rams is going to want a new facility and they will get one — here or elsewhere. I’ve been here 19 years now and I too love the city — I will spend the rest of my life here. But it is not going to accidentally become the city I think it could be — I have to push it that direction.]

  5. Jimmy Z says:

    One big reason for having/keeping sports downtown is the transportation infrastructure, both highways and transit. Typically, most events occur outside of rush hour, so it leverages an existing investment. Putting a new football facility at someplace like the Jamestown Mall would offer no public transit and problematic highway access. That’s why I’d support putting it in East St. Louis.

  6. in the know says:

    There’s a scene in the movie “Borat” where the main character is a guest at a fancy southern dinner party. The hosts and other guests are trying to teach Borat etiquette. Near the end of the evening, Borat asks if it would be proper for him to invite a guest to the party. They say it would be okay if he asked ahead of time.

    Then the doorbell rings, and Borat’s “guest” appears at the front door. She turns out to be a skanky, African American hooker. As soon as she walks in the door, the faces on the other dinner guests, (all white southerners), turn to frowns. One by one, they get up and start leaving. Borat pretends to be confused.

    I’m thinking this would be the reaction around St. Louis if someone seriously proposed building a new stadium for the Rams in East St. Louis.

  7. bonwich says:

    “The scale required for NFL is out of place in a walkable context like downtown.”

    I think the people of Indianapolis might disagree with you.

    [slp — And I’d say their new stadium was a mistake — creating a super block from four blocks. Just because other cities continue to make this mistake doesn’t make it right.]

  8. Joe Borough says:

    I have to agree with Jeff I’m a bit disappointed in the negativity in this article in particular the ‘get the EJD out of ‘my’ downtown no matter the cost’ (even if it meant the rams leaving). You’ve ruffled some feathers with that one. Why the need to shout that you don’t care for the Rams?

    Other than that I agree with you it would be nice to not have a stadium chewing up real estate downtown. An east st. louis riverfront stadium would be great and ESTL pursued Busch III in the past. When a new one gets built I hope they get it.

    I just don’t see the rush to implode the EJD when the city hasn’t reached a critical max. There’s still tons of office space to be filled. Perhaps you can tell us who exactly is clamoring for the land where EJD sits?

    We haven’t built BPV, McKee is looking to lock up billions in TIF for the northside, and the China Hub hasn’t been finalized yet and we’re still competing with Clayton.

    [slp — The Rams comment was that I don’t really care much if they stay in town or not. I know the region was lost after the NFL Cardinals left. I should want the Rams to stay in town so I don’t have to listen to people saying we must lure another team to St. Louis. My intent was to clarify that it is the dome that I want gone, not the Rams. I did not intend to offend.]

  9. b says:

    Rams could leave. A definite possibility. Not much you can do about that. It’s out of our hands. Rams put on a good team and…

    The bigger issue is what “St Louis” will do with their current assets? Market St has huge potential. Find a way to make Market St a draw and you’ll fill in the areas between market and Washington Ave. Once that happens, you’ll have a nice chunk of real estate with EJD, Busch and Scottrade on the corners.

  10. Scott says:

    Steve, you can at times be very negative. I have given your blog a ‘break’ from time to time because of this. I challenge you to look back in your posts to find one post that does not have 1 negative remark in it and post it. Take the constructive criticism.

    [slp — I only had to look back to this morning’s post, Downtown St. Louis has a Circulator Bus Route, Metro Routes on Google.]

  11. Tim E says:

    Bernie, PD’s sports columnist, wrote a great article a while back outlining the timeline of the Ram’s and Dome’s current lease. Frankly, the timeline is calling for a solid plan to be put in place by 2014. Otherwise, the owners will have free reign. Remember, the current majority owners want to sell. So a frank discussion is needed now. Worrying about negativity of steve’s post by those who would want to have a serious discussions does not bode well for the rest of the community.

    Personally, I think the dome will be here for a few years with or without the Rams. Their is just too much viable space and other developments such as Ballpark Village and Bottle District to think that their would nothing more then another surface parking lot if we imploded the dome. At least the dome can be usable if it stays standing.

    Second, realistically, state support will be needed for a new stadium. Politically, that support is going to favor a county stadium (Think Minnesota Twins, MLB, and Minnesota Gophers, Big Ten Football – Both needed the state to help build new stadiums. Vikings were odd man out when it came to the state legislator and thus no new stadium). I can already picture state legislators and a big name developer proposing a specific tax credit for new stadium built on a brownfield site (Defunct Chrysler plant in Fenton)

    I favor support for a NBA team at Scottrade and possibly a soccer stadium next to a reconfigured 22nd street interchange. Preferably between an extended Clark Street and Market Street. This gives the region four professional sports teams within walking distance of each other on the same street, access to three transit stops, hopefully a High Speed Rail station, number of hotels & restaraunts, lots of parking, great freeway access, and multiple event dates at a fraction of the cost of a new NFL Stadium (Dallas and Meadowlands each topped a billion dollars). It might spur a office building or two and at a minimum encourage more condo/loft/apartment development.

  12. b says:

    Scott, I’m with you. When I am surfing, I often refer to this site as Whatishebitchingabouttoday.com. The 40’s and 50’s are gone, never to be repeated. Creating a walkable, sustainable urban environment for communities such as Soulard, Downtown, etc is happening but integrating the car is a huge problem. The racial discord that affects the metro area far more affects the problems STL has.

    I like this site but Steve could be mayor in less than 2 years if he integrated the racial aspect. Nobody is giving it consideration with regards to urban planning.

  13. wondering says:

    Following up on “b’s” comment, it seems black people in St. Louis are not very involved in urbanist issues. Maybe they don’t look for the same things in life? Maybe white urbanists are doing a piss-poor job of reaching out to black people?

    Every time you attend an “urbanist” gathering, you are lucky if there is 1 black person for every 25 white people. In a city that is over 50% African American, this is a glaring issue, especially when you consider at least half of our city’s elected officials are black.

    Black people definitely care about our city, but they sure seem to be uninspired by the “urbanist” movement. Maybe they feel unwelcomed, excluded, or are just more interested in urban issues besides built environment causes?

    Having a more involved community that is representative of St. Louis’s rich diversity is a lot more important than the design of one sidewalk, a traffic calming device, or the parking lot design of a new drug store.

    [slp — I’ve made the same observation. I’d offer that many of the blacks in St. Louis are just focused on earning a living, with little time for causes. We are a melting pot of ethnic diversity beyond just black & white yet so many of these events do tend to be while. I know from my followers on Twitter that everyone, including blacks, are interested in the same issues.]

  14. CHRIS says:

    Spectator sports is an opiate for the masses.

  15. Jeff says:

    I disagree…I think that sports franchises belong downtown because sports are an essential part of the identity of any city. The best sporting experiences ae in places like Fenway Park and Wrigley Field (and Busch Stadium) where the stadium is surrounded by the urban fabric that gives the team’s fans their culture and identity. I’m from the New York area and as a kid I could never understand why the New York Giants were in New Jersey. It felt like fraud, and to this day it still doesn’t feel right for a team to claim the identity of a place where it doesn’t reside.

    Sports teams also give back, though. Part of any city’s identity is the culture if it’s sports teams. Losing the Rams, whether to another city or a nearby suburb, would be a loss of part of what makes this city “St. Louis.” we can talk all day about better ways to make use of the Rams’ facility and better integrate it into the urban landscape, but the Rams should stay.

    [slp — Wrigley Field is not in downtown Chicago.]

  16. Eric says:

    [slp — And I’d say their new stadium was a mistake — creating a super block from four blocks. Just because other cities continue to make this mistake doesn’t make it right.]

    By that standard, you must certainly want to tear down the Arch. Its grounds use a lot more than 4 city blocks.

    And think how many potential city blocks were wasted by the creation of Forest Park.

    What do you say to replacing the Arch and Forest Park with dense, mixed use development?

    If not, how exactly do they differ from the EJ dome?

  17. CHRIS says:

    The creation of Forrest Park did not raise entire blocks of buildings. It was established at the perifery of the city at that time. It did not “waste” anything. Green space is a necesary ingredient in good urban planning.

    The arch grounds would be debatable if you go back in time to when they made the decission to demolish that part of the river front. If for some reason that event had not happened and eventually a large number of the buildings had been reabilitated as Lacledes Landing has become, then you would have a great benefit to the city. There would potentially be a thriving, vibrant waterfront business/entertainment/residential(lofts) area providing a good tax base. On the other hand, maybe that area would have decayed so badly that it would have been razed anyway. Looking at the other perspective, establishing a great monument and park did provide branding of St. Louis world wide. I have traveled and people do at least know the arch (though there are many misconceptions, eg. arch spanning the river). Then again there are plenty of people that think St. Louis is somewhere in the South and it is just a one stoplight college town (no exageration!). But with that branding or having the arch grounds to hold fairs and festivals, did St. Louis actually benefit? This is something we can debate. St. Louis reached it peak population in the 50’s. Since the arch and original Bucsh stadium were built (1960’s), St. Louis has only gone downhill. Sure we have events there that draw people once or twice a year but there seems to be no lasting benefit.

    Should we tear the arch down and try to bring back what was? This probably would not work either. Should we try to improve the situation concerning the arch grounds and it’s connection to downtown? This topic has been debated on this blog and probably will continue.

    [slp — one can casually stroll through Forest Park and the Arch grounds, you don’t just stroll through the dome on the way to the other side. It will have served its purpose. If I could go back in time I’d argue against the razing of 40 city blocks that eventually became the Arch grounds. Love the Arch, hate the loss of the old streets & buildings.]


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