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Long before the St. Louis Rams arrived, their home was built and waiting for them. In an attempt to attract an expansion team after the football Cardinals left to the Grand Canyon State, City leaders built what was first known as the Trans World Dome. Because the Cardinals left when the dual-tenant Busch Stadium was deemed obsolete, city leaders determined that nothing short of building a stadium would lead to getting a team.
So built with just enough money to get a venue of bare-minimum standards, the dome was blandly constructed with no color scheme to reflect a team named for something indigenous to the area. That did not seem to matter as it was a sure bet the Gateway city would get a new NFL franchise. In fact, few people know that the team that was to be named the Stallions with a purple, black and white color scheme, similar to the Ravens with a bold, white stallion head on a black helmet.
In October 1993, decisions on NFL expansion were made. Charlotte was selected as the first of two new franchises. A delay in determining the second suitor was caused by political infighting between competing groups trying to bring a team to St. Louis and when it wasn't resolved in time, Jacksonville was selected in November 1993.
What a horrible defeat for the city. A turn to plan B involved pursuing teams in distress and leaders financially persuaded Rams team owner Georgia Frontiere, who had strong ties to St. Louis, to lure the Rams from Anaheim, California.
The FANFARE scale is our metric device for rating each stadium experience. It covers the following:
Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
There are lots of options at the Edward Jones Dome, but few, if any are fulfilling. Sure you can get many types of beers, heavily weighted toward a selection of hometown Anheuser-Busch products (yes, I know they are owned by a Belgium-based company, but the brewery was founded here, about a mile South of the Dome).
Run through the standard things you expect to see offered at concession stands and there are plenty of nachos with cheese, hot dogs, popcorn and burgers. Some selections are better buys than others. $2 for a processed cheese cup to go with your pretzel or $4 for a box of candy are not among them.
If you look close enough at the menu boards at the permanent concession areas, you can order combo meals named after popular Rams players. There is the Laurianitis Crunch (nacho grande and 22 oz. soda for $9) or the Jackson Rush (premium hot dog, popcorn box and 22 oz. soda for $11).
If you are looking for something special, something unique to St. Louis, try the toasted ravioli. It's a St. Louis tradition of a deep-fried ravioli served with marinara and parmesan cheese sprinkled on top.
Or you can do what I do at most games; eat before the game at one of the nearby restaurants or diners or tailgate in one of dozens of lots surrounding the stadium.
If there has been anything that has made watching a game at "The Ed" special, it has been the quality of play on the field. When the Greatest Show on Turf was in town, it wouldn't matter if the team was playing in a sand lot, it was fun to see the Rams play. But when the team's fortunes turned south as they did from 2005 up until the 2010 season, fans were staying away in droves, I could not give my tickets away to strangers in grocery stores.
There are a handful of stadiums that regardless of how the tenant performs on the playing field, the fans will relish the experience at the venue. Green Bay and Chicago are amongst these special places. St. Louis is not and it is probably the worst on the list of thirty-one NFL stadiums. Unless St. Louis is on your NFL bucket list, take a pass on this indoor gridiron and instead travel to another stadium for a visit.
A big part of the story could be that the team leases the stadium from the City of St. Louis and has an escape clause in the contract to get out of their lease in the next few years if the stadium is not within the top 25% of NFL. I am not sure how that is measured, but it is possible until the team gives the City a long-term commitment, they will not invest in improvements.
This arrangement and the impending lease details have caused many to wonder if the Rams will return to Southern California to fill the soon-to-be-built Farmer's Insurance stadium in Los Angeles. The Edward Jones Dome is nearly twenty years old and offers few high value fan options as compared to other stadiums.
Many of the few noticeable improvements over recent years have included non-permanent banners and new paint to "Ram" the team's short history in St. Louis down the throats of fans. You can see the date, opponent and an image of some of the greatest plays in team history like "The Tackle" from Michael Jones to preserve a victory in Super Bowl XXXIV against Tennessee or the "The Catch" by Rick Proehl to advance the scoring drive that would defeat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers that same season in the NFL Championship Game.
These are some nice touches, but they are banners which will easily be replaced should the team move to another city. Why not make these great moments a little permanent. For instance, in Pittsburgh, Heinz Field has one of the best team history concourses in sports, showing off their six Lombardi trophies among other proud franchise moments.
Although there are Rings of Honor encircling the seating areas on two levels recognizing Cardinals and Rams players, there is no team Hall of Fame area with a Super Bowl trophy displayed, no retired numbers with a photo or video gallery of team history and essentially, nothing substantive.
The video replay boards at both ends were recently upgraded, there was a party area added and wrap-around electronic message boards now exist to help generate cheering and perform advertising functions.
On opening day of the 2011 season, there was to be a special series of events prior to game time commemorating the September 11th attacks. When asked about the start time for these activities, not one usher or guest relations person had any idea. I would have expected far more awareness to people there to serve their guests.
The field is on ground level so when you enter in either of the four entrances, you show your ticket, grab your program and take a quick ride up an escalator. This gets you to the Concourse Level and the 100 level seats. Escalators take you up to the 200 Suite Level and 300 Club Level where you will need the appropriate tickets to gain access. One final trip up an escalator gets you to the 400 Terrace Level. There is ample space in the corner of each level, but along the concourses which hug the straightaways there is lots of congestion.
For entertainment, just outside the stadium, however, there is a very talented saxophone player you can see perform as you approach the southwest gate (Gate A) by foot from the Metro Link light rail station at 6th and Washington toward the south end of the Dome. His name is Rufus and he prefers small bills to coins.
This is a mixed neighborhood, one that includes some old abandon buildings. To the East of the Dome, there is the Lumiere Casino. You can park there and take the underground walkway to and from the game. There is a park between the two and west of the elevated Highway 70 that is filled with sponsors, concerts, food and entertainment. It is always packed on gameday.
If you decide not to tailgate, to the east of Highway 70, there are about a half-dozen spots to nourish your pre-game hunger. Consider Morgan Street Brewery at 721 North 2nd Street or Jake's Steaks at 708 North Second Street. You can count on these two spots for value and good food.
If you decide to not tailgate and want cheap or free parking, but a quick bite to eat at a restaurant or diner, I recommend 12th Street Diner at 1137 Washington Avenue, right at 11th Street or The Dubliner at 1125 Washington Avenue. There are at least a dozen restaurants worth visiting along Washington Street within a half mile of the dome. All have a clean setting and very good food.
Again, the quality of play seems to dictate the reaction of the fans. For 2011, there are Rams Rules designed to get fans more involved in establishing a home field advantage. You will see lots of ornate costumes and face paint and many creative signs displayed. It is not uncommon to notice thousands of fans arriving late for games and if the team's fortunes aren't good on that day, expect early departures in the 3rd or 4th quarter.
Unlike some stadiums with large spanses of land for hundreds or thousands of cars, the area around the stadium is weak on large flat spaces. However, just north of the stadium, the best tailgating area is a large gravel lot that for $20 per car you can drop anchor and tailgate as early as 6am and then walk two blocks to the game.
There are lots of well-behaved fans here and relatively clean porta-a-potty units for both men and women nearby. This lot borders an elevated section of the very busy Highway 70 which runs north to south here, just east of the Dome. Do not park too close to Highway 70 or you might come close to being hit by a streaking tire coming off a speeding vehicle. Don't laugh! It happened to me once and had it hit me, I wouldn't be writing this review.
There are many other lots scattered throughout the downtown area near the Dome and as you can expect, the price drops the further you get, all the way down to $5 about a mile away. If tailgating is not your thing, drive to the game, but park along Washington Avenue which runs a block to the south of the Dome and West. Metered parking is free on Sundays and there are at least two dozen restaurants and diners along this thoroughfare. On most gamedays, if you arrive in this area by three hours before game time, you can park within a half-mile of the Dome and take the easy walk to the game after a quick meal.
If just getting there regardless of means is of top importance, take the light rail method, known as Metro Link. Take it to the Convention Center stop and it lets you out just two blocks from the south edge of the stadium. Walk north and you run right into Gate A in the southwest corner of the Dome.
Ticket prices are a good value if you pay about $40 a ticket. Tickets in the upper level on the corner are the best value. I have season tickets in section 435, row DD. If I moved closer to the sideline, my tickets would jump about $15 a seat and I would have to buy a $500 PSL instead of sticking with my $250 PSL. Move further behind the end zone and the ticket price is low, but good luck trying to see if the play has made a first down. High corners are your best ticket value.
The program is always top notch, one of the best in the League. Typical programs have a game day sponsor and cover two games instead of the typical one (at least as indicated on the front cover). The program is full of a large proportion of team articles and special interest stories as opposed to the typical, heavily-weighted advertising vehicle many teams utilize. The balance is nice. The $5 price, which has not changed since the first season, is a good value for the standard-sized program.
The St. Louis Rams, who have been varying degrees of terrible the last few years, play their home games at the Edward Jones Dome, a huge, charmless structure that crouches on the northeast corner of downtown. Fans enter this venue through a pleasant, airy lobby, but the actual stadium area is entered by navigating a labyrinth of large, nightmarish hallways that look like the crowded terminals of the average Midwestern airport. These hallways are where most of the stadium's concession stands are located. Finally, there is the dome itself, whose metallic gray roof and noise level make the building resemble a large airplane hangar, which is appropriate for a place originally called the TWA Dome. More morbid minds would surmise that the place bears a vague resemblance to a tomb, which, considering how bad this team has been lately and its ownerships' constant threats to pack up the team and move it to a more profitable area with a nicer stadium, might be another apt analogy.
The Edward Jones Dome was constructed in the early 90s, and the shifting and turbulent economic conditions of the NFL have led to this being one of the oldest venues in the sport. Unfortunately, this venue's advanced age has not added to its charms. It is lacking in character, convenience and architectural flourish.
Still, there is fun that can be had while viewing a game here. Generally, every one of this stadium's seats that I've ever plopped down in has provided me with a good view of the field. Games here feature plenty of pyrotechnics, cheerleaders and entertainment to distract the casual fan from the generally horrible level of play that the home team displays on the field. The noise level in this stadium is very impressive, during the few occasions that the Rams actually give their shrinking fan base anything to cheer about.
So, if you ignore the inflated ticket prices or the incompetence of the Rams, the Edwards Jones Dome is a decent place to see a football game, but the venue itself is nothing special.
721 N 2nd St
St Louis, MO 63102
708 N 2nd St
St Louis, MO 63102
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