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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 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 is more variety and a few value options for the 2013 season. There are lots of options at the Edward Jones Dome and offerings have improved over the prior season.
For beer, Anheuser-Busch products are predominant, as you would expect from a brewery just a few miles south of the Dome. Large draft beers and specialty beers are $9. Small draft beer is $5.
For soft drinks, RC Cola has replaced Pepsi and offers their standard cola, 7-Up, Dr. Pepper, Sunkist Orange, and Sun Drop products. A souvenir soda ($6.50) and a small soda ($5) are offered, but the best deal is the $7 bottomless soda.
As for other standard items you expect to see offered at concession stands, there are nachos with cheese ($8), bratwurst and hot dogs ($8 and $6) cheeseburger with fries or BBQ chicken sandwich with fries ($10.25) 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) now available.
Some selections are better buys than others and $7 for two small Bavarian pretzel sticks with a cup of processed cheese, $5 bottled water and $4 for a box of candy are not among the better values.
Among the separate food carts across the concourse from the permanent concession counters and usually in the corners are Pile-On Nachos ($10), BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwich ($10) or at an American Carvery stand, a slow-roasted turkey sandwich or braised beef brisket served with chips ($12).
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.
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 lots surrounding the stadium.
Important to note, for the 2014 season, the concession contract is up for the current provider, Levy Restaurants. I am told there will be significant changes to the food and beverage options, and the quality and speed with which food is served and delivered. For 2013, however, you will likely experience a very slow line in the main concourse areas and some of the prices are quite laughable.
The franchise is making an effort to improve things without making widespread changes which would be best applied to a more permanent structure. After years of poor play and failed head coaching experiments, it seems the Rams are finally turning the corner on and off the field. It is translating into an improved fan experience, even if it is still below that provided by the majority of the teams in the league.
For each home game, gates open 90 minutes prior to kick-off. The field is at 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. 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. 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 the paint on the walls, there are few elements which scream St. Louis Rams at the 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 of square feet of space with multiple bars, an eating area, couches, televisions, and views of the field to watch the live action are available to all fans. Having opened several years ago, this addition provides an 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.
An hour before game time, you will likely find ushers who are quick to ask those without tickets to the 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 like Seattle has with Touchdown City in their adjacent convention facility. The adjacent America's Center and Garden Atrium could provide such a venue and include an indoor tailgating party with former players, football skill contests, autograph signings, live pre-game broadcasts, and more. The park alongside the east edge of the stadium along Broadway is a poor effort.
If you are standing in the aisle facing the 50 yard line behind the Rams bench, section 114 is to your left and 113 is to your right. The Rams' logo is in front and legible (as opposed to upside down). The Rams' players enter the field at section 121 (to your near left) while the visitors enter at section 106 (to your near right). While sitting in an aisle seat with the aisle to your right and facing the field, you are sitting in seat number 1. Most rows have at least twenty seats.
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 the home opener to the 2013 season, I found it interesting the scoreboards still showed the old logos used by Miami and Jacksonville in 2012. As a nice surprise though, at halftime, live action of the only other late afternoon game was shown. Fans seemed to like this instead of the typical corny contest.
Lastly, I have learned a future plan of the team is the desire to acquire more space surrounding the building to enhance the pre-game atmosphere and tailgating outside. The Rams are seeking to continue to improve the ingress/egress in the building and around the building to prevent the lines from getting too long. The team is working with the Convention & Visitors Commission, owners of the Dome, to try and put in new WIFI and antennas so fans can follow other games or stats on their phones.
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.
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 above this walkway at street level 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 2nd 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.
In recent years, with the prospect of another poor showing, the Dome has been filled with Packer, Bears and Chiefs fans. For 2013, there are Rams Rules designed to get fans more involved in establishing a home field advantage. 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 to see 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 Edward Jones Dome is weak on large flat spaces. However, just one block 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 a few steps to the game. It beats the $40 for places like New England.
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. Really.
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 and west of the Dome. 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 $2.25 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, especially for the $45 face value ticket. On most days, you can find plenty of tickets available at less than face value, though. 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 low, but you will not have a good view of the ball advancing and reaching the desired yard line for a first down. 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 - it is always top notch, one of the best in the League. Typical programs have a game day sponsor and cover one game unless two games are within a week of one another. The program is full 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 Rams first season in St Louis, 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 the Dome despite being in an indoor venue.
TEAM STORE AND MERCHANDISE - the new and improved team store is at the south end at section 126. It is large and roomy for even those most packed crowds.
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.
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.
721 N 2nd St
St Louis, MO 63102
708 N 2nd St
St Louis, MO 63102
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