It seems like a lifetime ago that I played hooky from college to watch Kurt Warner and company celebrate a Super Bowl championship with a parade in downtown St. Louis in 2000.
Now 15 years later, owner Stan Kroenke is making a push to move the Rams out of town.
Will the Rams end up in Los Angeles? Will a new stadium be built on the St. Louis riverfront? Could the Raiders replace the Rams?
These are the questions swirling around the future of the NFL in St. Louis. It could mean the loss of jobs for Edward Jones Dome and the Russell Training Center workers, loss of tax dollars to the city and alienating a fan base.
In the Greater Alton area it affects fans investing time and money as season ticket holders since the Rams arrived from L.A. in 1995.
The uncertainty of the Rams’ future has Bethalto resident Jennifer Martin so frustrated that she didn’t renew her tickets for the upcoming season.
“It’s a lot of money to go to the games and tailgate,” Martin said. “You’re investing a lot of money and if they’re going to be gone in a year I just couldn’t see buying season tickets for the upcoming season.
“The whole situation gives me chest pains. I am a Rams fan and I’ve been a fan since they came to town, good or bad, whatever they were doing, I always rooted for them. It’s just depressing knowing you may not have a team or you may have a different team.”
As for the idea of the Raiders leaving Oakland and replacing the Rams, that doesn’t sit well with Martin. It would mark the third NFL franchise in St. Louis in her lifetime. The Cardinals left for Phoenix in 1987.
“I think that sounds terrible,” Martin said. “I don’t want the Rams to leave and I really don’t want to get another team. I think St. Louis is a very good sports town and we deserve a NFL team. When the Rams were really, really good you couldn’t buy tickets. Now they’ve given us not a very good quality team for seven or eight years and people aren’t going to the games, but you can’t blame the town for not going. You give us a good product and the dome will be sold out, or the new stadium will be sold out.”
Sam Roberts, proprietor of Roberts Motors in Alton, has been a season ticket holder since ‘95. Roberts believes as long as St. Louis has a team it deserves support.
“Everybody always talks about the Rams and how bad they are, but the thing is you have another eight good teams that are going to come to town so you really get to see those teams play first hand,” Roberts said. “I have a son-in-law who saw the Steelers are going to be here and he’s like, ‘I want to go to that game.’”
Roberts isn’t as vested as a fan; he looks at the community support and generating revenue as the main reason to go. He would support the St. Louis Raiders.
“I would and the reason is it’s supporting the community,” Roberts said. “That’s what you’ve got to look at. That Rams team brings a lot of people into town. You have people flying in, staying overnight, going to casinos, Ballpark Village, the Landing, all the places around St. Louis and they’re all spending money.”
Martin’s 10-year-old son Gage is crushed by the idea of not having his Rams. There is no business side of it for him and seeing him upset frustrates her, too.
“It’s his favorite sport to watch on TV, he loves to go to the games,” Martin said. “He’s all about it and he’s very upset.”
Martin and Roberts have conflicting views on a new stadium, too. Roberts looks at an outdoor stadium as a way to bring additional revenue to the city. Martin has a sentimental connection to the dome and doesn’t believe a new stadium is necessary after just 20 years.
“I have no problems with the dome,” Martin said. “I went to one Bears game and being outside was pretty cool. I think football should be played outside, but I like going to the dome, we’ve always had a great time.”
As rumors look more like reality with the Rams’ departure, Martin and Roberts do agree on one sentiment — they don’t want to see St. Louis without a NFL team. Time will tell if that’s the case.
“I’d hate to see us lose that football team and lose those extra weekends of extraordinary income,” Roberts said.