Among the most antiquated stadiums in the NFL, the Edward Jones Dome stands on the southern edge of a blighted area with very little reason to visit. It is a checkmark, that symbol which you can use as you seek to achieve witnessing a game at every stadium in the league.
For several years now, the St. Louis Rams and the St. Louis Sports Commission have haggled over improvements needed to keep the building a viable NFL home. Among other key details, terms of the lease call for it to be in the top quarter of all league venues. It is in the lower quarter and has been for some time.
The 2015 news of team owner Stan Kroenke planning to build a venue in Los Angeles has sparked panic in the Gateway City. Is this a prelude to the Rams moving back to Los Angeles? It might be the impetus for owners dissatisfied with their current stadium situation to move there. Oakland and San Diego have to be keeping a keen eye on things. Either way, Kroenke is set, either with a new home for his Rams or as a landlord for another NFL team.
As this news was unfolding on the West coast, there was news on the St. Louis Stadium front. Local officials, with involvement from Missouri Governor Jay Nixon, unveiled a plan to build a new open-air stadium, just north of the current site in a currently blighted area. The venue would be located along the Mississippi River and provide a magnificent view of the Gateway Arch to the south. If this plan goes through, construction would start in 2016 with completion set for 2020.
For now, though, there is the Edward Jones Dome and it will be home to the Rams for 2015, but possibly not beyond that season. The shame of it all, and there is blame on both sides, is that the Rams could be doing so much more to enhance the game experience with very little cost. My guess is they have lost their desire to improve anything at their current home, including the quality of the team, as it is a lost cause. What this means for visitors is a checkmark on a list or a chance to see their team play on the road, and nothing more.
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Yes, you can get food and drink at Edward Jones Dome, but at a high price delivered by an uninspired group of stadium workers. It won't take long for any visitor to see the slow pace with which workers operate with no sense of urgency. Heaven forbid they realize fans paid to see the game live instead of on one of the television monitors overhead.
Lines tend to be long, clogging the already narrow concourse. It would not be uncommon to be fourth in line and miss ten minutes of game time. You can get molasses at any concession stand, but know it is in the speed with which they work, not the flavor in which you can taste.
As an example, at one game in 2014, I had a taste for a hot pretzel with cheese. When I finally found a cart on the upper level concourse, they were out of ready-to-eat product and were having to thaw the dough, which would take another 15 minutes. I passed as it would involve missing more of the game. The workers were in no hurry to get things back online and caused me to wonder, why couldn't one of the two employees see they needed to cook more before they ran out?
There are many other examples I could share, but just know this way of operating is clearly a culture at the Edward Jones Dome. You would be hard pressed to have a respectable experience at the concession stands. And with such high probability, why chance it? Eat and drink before you walk inside.
As to the details should you venture into the Dome hungry or thirsty, know Anheuser-Busch products are prominent. It is what you would expect in a city where the brewery is just a few miles south of the Dome. Domestically, large draft beers and specialty beers are $9. Small domestic draft beer is 4.50, the lowest price in the NFL. Domestic, metal bottled beer is $8.25.
For soft drinks, RC Cola, 7-Up, Dr. Pepper Sunkist Orange and Sun Drop are the primary soft drinks. A souvenir soda ($7) and a small soda ($5) are offered, but the best deal is the $9 bottomless soda.
As for other standard items you expect to see offered at concession stands, there are nacho supreme ($8.50), cheddar bratwurst and hot dogs ($6.50 and $6), cheeseburger with fries or BBQ chicken sandwich with fries ($10.50) and chicken tenders ($9). A kid's meal ($7.50) includes a hot dog, apple sauce and juice.
A few healthy options have been added with a Time-Out Turkey sandwich ($7) or a Summer Salad with cranberries and almonds ($6).
Some selections are better buys than others. Two small Bavarian pretzel sticks with a cup of processed cheese for $7, but Bavarian, hand-twisted pretzels are $8 with a variety of seasonings. Bottomless popcorn for $7.50, bottled water for $4 and $4.00 for a box of candy are not among them.
Among the separate food carts across the concourse from the permanent concession counters and usually in the corners are Pile-On Nachos ($11), BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwich ($10) or at an American Carvery stand, a slow-roasted turkey sandwich or braised beef brisket served with chips ($12). Soft shell beef or chicken tacos (3 of them per order) are $9.
If you are looking for something special, something unique while in St. Louis, try the toasted ravioli sandwich ($7) or the Pork & Ten sandwich ($10) at the Bud Light Party Zone in the North end of the 200-level. It's a St. Louis tradition of a deep-fried ravioli served with marinara and parmesan cheese sprinkled on top. Consider this option as the quality and variety of food seems to be a little more plentiful than in the main concourse.
New for the 2014 season are four offerings from local eateries. I would recommend you visit the original locations separate from the game at Strange Donuts, Crown Candy, Gus' Pretzels and Sugarfire BBQ. But if you do choose one, select Crown Candy and their famous BLT sandwich, just $15 (or drive a few miles north of the stadium and hit the original, one-location Crown Candy, and order it for about half that AND order one of their famous malts - not open on Sunday, though).
Or you can do what I do at most games; eat before the game at one of the nearby restaurants or tailgate in one of dozens of small lots surrounding the stadium. Save yourself the trouble, time and anguish, eat and drink before arriving inside.
There is always an excitement about entering a sports venue no matter the city or the sport. The heart pumps, anxiousness overtakes you and the excitement builds as game time approaches. In St. Louis for a football game, welcome to the mortuary.
The franchise continues to drop the ball (similar to their ball carriers) and fall short of efforts to improve things. And this has nothing to do with needing a new stadium. The failings are wide-ranging and very apparent.
How does a stadium operation explain using outdated NFL team marks used when showing out-of-town scores? Of these logos used, the Dolphins and Panthers marks changed two years ago, the Seahawks three years ago.
The in-game statistics are far from current, usually being a full ten game minutes behind the actual game clock on the scoreboard. Whereas the Rams could do things such as generate their own cheer or fight song, like the Chicago Bears and Philadelphia Eagles prominently practice, you will find nothing.
I understand not making widespread changes, which would likely best benefit a more permanent structure. But there is nothing to truly bond fans to this team. There has not been for quite some time. You can only talk about and reminisce about a Super Bowl from 15 years ago. That was a generation ago.
Bad luck, poor play and failed head coaching experiments are continuing on the field. Blandness, no vision and lack of appreciation for the loyal fans is the message off the field.
As to the facts you need to know, for each home game, gates open 90 minutes prior to kick-off. The field is on street level so when you enter one of the four entrances, you take a quick ride up an escalator. This gets you to the concourse at the 100 level and those in the lower sections walk down to their seats.
Escalators take you up to the 200 Suite Level and 300 Club Level where you will need the appropriate tickets to gain access to most of the areas except for the Bud Light Party Zone on the north end. One final trip up an escalator gets you to the 400 Terrace Level. The good news is that you will ascend to your seat level exclusively by escalator as ramps are only used for descending fans at the game's conclusion.
Keeping in mind the relative "temporary" nature of the Rams playing in the current building, other than paint on the walls, there are very few elements which let you know the home of the St. Louis Rams is the Edward Jones Dome.
On the 100-level concourse, you can see several dozen banners which include the date, opponent and an image 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 to reach the NFL Championship Game.
Also on this level and at the north end at section 101-102, a special children's area has been set up where youngsters can enjoy playground equipment, bounce around and generally be appeased while at the game. Rampage, the team mascot, often makes appearances here.
Although there are Rings of Honor encircling the seating areas on two levels, recognizing former Cardinals and Rams players, there is no team Hall of Fame area, no Super Bowl trophy displayed or video gallery of team history. Once a permanent home with long-term viability is determined, you can bet this will change.
On the North end of the stadium at the 200-level, the Bud Light Party Zone awaits fans who wish to gather in a sports bar environment. Hundreds and hundreds of square feet of space with multiple bars, eating areas, couches, televisions and views of the field to watch the live action are available to all fans. Having opened several years ago, this nice addition provides a nice alternative to sitting in the seating bowl for the entire game.
There is ample space in the corner of each level, but along the concourses which hug the seating area, there is quite a bit of congestion. This will frustrate some people for sure.
During the pre-game an hour before game time, you will likely find ushers who are quick to ask those without tickets to these seating areas closest to the field to leave. Seeing the pre-game workouts is a ritual for most fans and I have only witnessed this non-fan friendly policy at home games of the Montreal Canadiens and Miami Marlins.
Another glaring absence leading up to the game is the presence of a quality pre-game event area, similar to what Seattle has with Touchdown City in their adjacent convention facility. In Seattle, a large convention hall is converted to an indoor tailgating party with former players, football skill contests, autograph signings, live pre-game broadcasts and more fun than you can imagine. The adjacent America's Center and Garden Atrium could provide such a venue. The park alongside the east edge of the stadium along Broadway is a poor effort.
Video replay boards at both ends were recently upgraded in the last few years and provide appropriate, but not a stellar image. Electronic message boards now exist to help generate cheering platforms and perform advertising functions.
At halftime, live action of the other games are shown, a benefit for an environment which struggles to make appealing fan experience choices.
There is also an effort to have more fan centric videos and music while also trying to improve the music selection and have a dedicated touchdown song.
This is a mixed, but declining neighborhood, one that includes some old abandon buildings and certainly some less-than-safe options after dark. Just north and a bit east, within walking distance of the current stadium, the proposed new stadium would be placed, right alongside the Mississippi River.
To the east of the Dome, though, there is the Lumiere Casino and Hotel. You can park there and take the underground walkway to the game. There is a park between the two and west of the elevated Highway 70 filled with sponsor booths, live music and food options. It is always packed on game day. The street between the park and the Dome, Broadway, is closed to vehicular traffic as early as three hours before game time.
Two other quality hotels are nearby. One is the Drury Inn, across the street from the southeast corner of the Dome. Another just three blocks further south is the Hilton Garden Inn. A few blocks west of the Dome along Washington is a Marriott Renaissance. All are within walking distance of the Dome.
If you are driving in, but 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. These two spots offer good value and tasty food.
If you decide to not tailgate AND want cheap or free parking, but a quick bite to eat, I recommend The Dubliner at 1125 Washington Avenue. There are at least a dozen restaurants worth visiting along Washington Street just a half mile from the Dome. All are clean with very good food.
The Edward Jones Dome is a home away from home for visiting teams. Overwhelmingly, fans from other teams fill the stadium for a Rams game. Who can blame them?
The apathy is so great, there are rarely ever any moments which cause hometown fans to cheer wildly for their team. It gets to the point where the thrill of seeing visiting stars outweighs the likelihood of seeing a strong effort from the Rams.
In recent years, with the prospect of another poor showing, the Dome has been filled with Packers, Bears and Chiefs fans. 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, early departures in the 3rd or 4th quarter. Only quality play and close contests will improve this.
Unlike some stadiums with large pieces of land for hundreds of cars, the area around the stadium is weak on large flat spaces. However, just north of the stadium a block, the best tailgating area is a large gravel lot that for $20 per car you can drop anchor and tailgate as early as 6 AM and then walk a few steps to the game. It beats the $40-$50 for places like New England or Detroit.
There are plenty of well-behaved fans here and relatively clean portable toilets 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 tire coming off a speeding vehicle. It happened to me.
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 from the Dome, 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. 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.
If just getting there regardless of means is of top importance, take light rail, known as Metro Link for just $2.50 each way. Take it to the Convention Center stop and walk just two blocks from the south edge of the stadium. Walk north to Gate A, the southwest corner of the Dome.
Should you need it, the ticket office is located on the east side of the stadium along Broadway, the street which is closed off to traffic three hours before game time.
Ticket prices are a good value to see an NFL game, especially for the $45 face value ticket. On most days, you can find plenty of tickets available at much less than face value tickets, though.
As a season-ticket holder, though, my decision on whether or not to renew is based on what teams will visit during the 2015 season. At current, it will be the regular division rivals Arizona, San Francisco and Seattle along with Detroit, Chicago, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, and Tampa Bay. This is hardly a compelling reason to renew and I know there will be cheap tickets being unloaded by current season ticket holders.
Take for instance what happened this past season to me. After selling my tickets to an early-season visit by the Dallas Cowboys, I was invited to tailgate with some friends. The forecast was a perfect day and the Rams started with some promise. The more I thought about it, it seemed a good idea to not just tailgate, but see if a cheap ticket might come available. I waited until the night before to buy the ticket on StubHub and paid just $12.98 for an upper level seat.
Tickets in the upper level on the corner closest to the sideline are the best value. Move further behind the end zone and the ticket price is lower, but you will not have a good view of the ball advancing and reaching the desired yard line for a first down. Upper level corners remain the best ticket value. Just try to get within the first ten rows so you are below the lights which illuminate the field. Otherwise, you will feel like you are far-removed from the action.
GAME PROGRAM - While the on-field product has been poor, the program to help you follow it is always top notch, one of the best in the League. Typical programs have a game day sponsor and cover two games no matter the amount of time between two games. 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 team utilize. The balance is nice. The $5 price, which has not changed since the first season, is a good value for this large-sized program.
RADIO - Play-by-play can be heard with just a few seconds of delay at ESPN 101.1 FM. Steve Savard calls the action while former Ram D'Marco Farr provides color. The signal is pretty strong inside whereas there are often issues getting connected to FM radio.
TEAM STORE AND MERCHANDISE - The large anchor team store is at the south end at section 126. It is large and filled with multitudes of merchandise from multiple eras.
St. Louis is the worst place to witness an NFL game. Having been to every NFL stadium and a few with similar challenges as the Rams in their current home, there are things the club can do to make the experience better, but they don't. And I understand why to a point, but adding a few temporary food carts with local eateries represented falls far short.
All it would take is a little creativity, dedication to further developing the brand and some subtle cosmetic changes, but fans see nothing at the Edward Jones Dome. Maybe resolution of the stadium issue and Stan Kroenke accepting the recent local proposal will help to change things. But I wonder what commitment the owner and his off-the-field leaders have when they do nothing to enhance the image of the team and have not done so in many years.
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 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.
It seems like just yesterday that the Los Angeles Rams packed their bags in Southern California for a move 1,800 miles east to the Gateway City in 1995. Awaiting the yellow-horned helmets and the players who wore them was a brand new stadium and tens of thousands of adoring fans deprived of pro football in their hometown since after the 1987 season when the Cardinals left for Phoenix.
The Rams left behind antiquated Anaheim Stadium, their home from 1980-1994, for what is now called the Edward Jones Dome. A domed venue built with the intent of luring an existing team (the New England Patriots) after an expansion effort failed in 1993, the stadium was built quickly without much thought beyond a basic plan. So sure was it that the Patriots would move there, 70% of the seats installed were red, a color once prominent in the Patriots color scheme. Those seats remain despite the alternative navy and gold identity of the current team.
With the facility being deemed unacceptable by Rams’ ownership, the franchise and the city are at a crossroads. For those who attend a game, it won’t take long to see why a change is needed. A smattering of temporary amenities dot the area in and around the facility on game-day. Currently, Rams ownership is holding the Dome’s owners accountable in compliance with an agreement with the City of St. Louis on being in the top tier of NFL stadiums (meaning the top 25% or top eight (8) stadiums). The Dome currently falls far short of that requirement and a process has unfolded to resolve the dispute.
After taking multiple steps in the agreed-upon process, on February 1, 2013 an arbitration body ruled in favor of the Rams $700 million proposal to tear down half the Dome and replace it as the only way to bring the Dome up to first tier status. Various city and county officials said it was unlikely that public funding would be found for such a project and the claim has been rejected by the Dome’s owners. The Rams are contractually obligated to play in the Dome until March 15, 2015 and there is no "buy out" provision to permit the Rams to move before then.
City and county officials are considering all options including construction of a new stadium elsewhere in the St. Louis area. Rams officials have indicated their preference to stay in St. Louis. My suspicion is a deal will get done for the Rams to remain in St. Louis, but play in a new stadium in either the 2016 or 2017 season. Taking an expansion city like Los Angeles off the table only serves to prevent the NFL owners from reaping revenues from expansion fees, likely to be upwards of one billion dollars, paid by expansion ownership.
Among NFL stadiums, the Edward Jones Dome remains one of five fixed indoor stadiums (Detroit, New Orleans, Atlanta, and Minnesota are the others with the latter two being replaced in the next few years). Still, with the team playing at the Edward Jones Dome, there have been some improvements to make the experience enjoyable if not as good as it should be in a modern facility. It is clear ownership is trying to strike a balance before a more permanent solution can be found.
The first place I have been kicked out of the lower section while taking pictures before the game. Food seems pretty typical, there isn't much of a pregame (although I attended on Thursday night) and the fans were pretty boring. Although prices are relatively cheap, the venue and team are not up to the NFL's standards.
Feels more like a big basketball arena than a football stadium, needs to be upgraded or replaced. Fans are not involved in the game as well, very disappointing.
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