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Official Review by Marc Viquez, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
The St. Louis Ambush of Major Arena Soccer League are a resurrection of the former franchise that operated in the National Professional Soccer League, first in Tulsa in 1991, from 1992-2000. That organization appeared in four championship series while calling the Scottrade Center home, winning its lone title during the 1994-1995 campaign.
In 2013, the name and colors of teal and black were once again revived for a new franchise to operate out of the Family Arena in St. Charles, Missouri, a 30 minute drive from downtown St. Louis.
The Family Arena debuted on October 3, 1999, at a cost of $27 million in order to provide an alternative for sporting events and concerts in the St. Louis metro area. In 2013, there were over $800,000 put into renovations to improve the facility; two large video boards and ribbon boards were added in each end of the seating bowl.
The arena has seen its share of minor league hockey, indoor football, and concerts from Taylor Swift to Judas Priest. The arena’s capacity is officially 9,643 for indoor soccer games, but only the lower bowl is open for Ambush games.
The arena itself is nestled close to the St. Charles River and a few miles away from the town’s historic downtown shops, bars, restaurants, and museums. The game of indoor soccer is fast pace and the club provides a nice little alternative to the sporting action that takes place in downtown St. Louis.
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".
The arena features the usual concession items such as hot dogs, brats, pizza, nachos, pretzels and popcorn at various permanent stands on the main concourse. A few of them are closed for games, but there are more than enough options to choose from at the game.
A few of the more notable items include supreme nachos that are topped with chili and pulled pork and chicken tenders basket with fries. The options are basic and not over the top, but the prices are honest and on par with other venues of its caliber. The prices range between $4-$6 for most items, the supreme nachos are $8.
There is wide variety of beer and spirits that include Seagram's wine coolers, Jack Daniel's coolers, party bomb shots, wine, Lime-a-rita, and wine slushies between $6 and $10 each. Draft beer sells for $6, mix drinks are $8, and double mix drinks are $14. If you are driving or do not drink, Coca-Cola products sell for $5 each.
The arena is broken up into two seating sections, with the concourse closed off to the public. The main seating bowl houses the majority of the fans, along with a high school band playing its own in-game music throughout the contest of the match.
The field level seats are table tops and are located adjacent to the Ambush bench. Fans have an up close and personal view of the game and enjoy a buffet of deep fried mini tacos and fried raviolis among other drinks and concession items.
There is always action during stoppage of play including local high school cheerleaders and dancers, on-field contests for lucky fans, and various announcements. When there is in-game music piped through the speakers it's a mix of house, remixes, and pop songs of the past 30-years. The Ambush even piped in "Midnight Express (The Chase)," a 1980s staple at the Checkerdome during the old St. Louis Steamers days in the MISL.
Bushwacker is the team's lively mascot dressed in team colors of teal and black; he is extremely active and greets fans young and old throughout the game. He even shows off some wicked dance moves when he is introduced before the game. However, be careful of his mustache, its big.
Halftime also provides various events and activities including a family soccer match, a bowling contest with soccer balls, a wedding proposal by an Ambush player, and a touching tribute to St. Louis legend and Indoor Soccer Hall of Famer Slobo Ilijevski whose family was on hand for bobble head day in his honor.
The Family Arena is located a good 30 minutes from downtown St.Louis; however, the city does have a historic neighborhood along the St. Charles River that includes restaurants, shops, and bars. It is recommended to visit the picturesque little town.
The options include Hendricks BBQ, 2865 Brewhouse, Amerisports Bar and Grill, and Big Woody's BBQ. Sugarfire Smokehouse makes some of the best barbecue in the area and offer a wonderful Asian slaw and corn souffle as side options. The Old Mill Stream Inn has a fantastic patio to enjoy dinner or drinks during the warmer months of the year.
A fun and relaxing way to get through town is to take the St. Charles Trolley which provides service with a 30-minute loop ride through the historic downtown. If you are looking to venture outside of downtown, the area is known for its many vineyards and wineries.
The fans at the game enjoy themselves in various ways. They cheer on the Ambush in hope of a goal, talk with friends and families, or dance in their seats when certain music is played or when the camera is looking for fans to show on the two main screens at the arena. No matter what, the crowd is always in the mood for fun and show a lot of love towards the Ambush players.
Arriving to the arena is best by car off State Road 364; there is clear signage for the arena near the exit and it's visible as you approach the parking lot entrance. Once inside, the main concourse wraps around the entire arena providing clearly marked signs for bathrooms and seating sections. The upper concourse hallways are draped off and the first 7 rows of seats from the bottom provide the best legroom for patrons.
The price for tickets begin at $15 for general admission tickets and top off at $47 for VIP seats on the field adjacent to the playing boards. The price of a ticket depends on your price point, but with the cost of parking set at $10, a night at an Ambush game is on par with a majority of other league franchises. However, if you are frugal like me, grab a $15 ticket, find your seat, and enjoy the game.
One star for the Northwest High School Pep Band that adds a college/high school atmosphere throughout the contest and also make for a nice change of pace from the dance and house music that is usually played at the arena.
Another star for the various activities that take place during stoppage of play. There are ball tosses, free pizza to a lucky fans, and shirts thrown by staff into the stands between quarters of play..
Thirdly, for the table top VIP seats next to the Ambush bench. The fans are provided with food and beverage and have the best seats in the house.
Finally for the variety of music played during the game. In-game music is a staple of indoor soccer and what's being played at the Family Arena is a collection of various club, dance, and pop standards of the past few decades.
The St. Louis Ambush provide a wonderful experience at each home match for diehard fans and ones who are just there for a night out of fun. The music, on-field activities, concession prices, and interaction with players make for a joyous good time.
Member Review by puckhound2469 on Apr 04, 2014
Back in the late 1970’s with pro hockey waning in popularity, the growth of soccer took a significant turn in the St. Louis area. The NHL’s Blues had fallen on hard times both financially and on the ice, fans did not show up at the old St. Louis Arena as they had the previous decade since their inception.
At the same time, an already popular sport at the amateur level, soccer, began to morph into a new game. Indoor soccer arrived in 1978 in the form of the Major Indoor Soccer League, a six-team league with clubs in Cincinnati, Cleveland, Houston, New York, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. It was a blended sport combining the playing field boundaries of an ice hockey rink with boards and glass, Astroturf as the surface and six players aside in similar positions as that of a hockey team.
The ball was a bit smaller than that used in the outdoor game. Competition was to be based on speed, ball control, physical play as in hockey and greater, uninterrupted excitement than the outdoor game provides. In 1979, St. Louis joined the League as the Steamers competing with ten other teams.
While the St. Louis Blues traditionally played home games mostly on Saturday nights, the newcomers to The Arena scheduled their home games mostly on Friday nights. It did not take long for the Steamers to outdraw the Blues. I can remember the opening Steamers game against the Hartford Hellions selling out by the time we arrived at The Arena. I have the program bought outside the turnstiles, but no ticket and no game. St. Louis was going nuts for the new game, playing it and watching it.
In 1988 and after ten years, the Steamers and pro indoor soccer gave way to a resurgent St. Louis Blues hockey squad which was more competitive than it had been during the Steamers’ inception. Interest remained tepid at best for indoor soccer, but still, several ownership groups continued with teams in alternative indoor soccer leagues.
The St. Louis Storm (1989-92), the original St. Louis Ambush (1992-2000), and finally a re-born St. Louis Steamers franchise (1998-2006) have all tried and failed at a return. Now the new St. Louis Ambush take the field in an attempt to rekindle interest in the indoor game. In their inaugural 2013-14 season, the team posted a 4-16 record, good for 6th place, but drawing an average of 5,636 fans ranking 3rd among the seven teams.
With the St. Louis area’s long soccer legacy and interest in soccer continuing to grow, the new Ambush seem to be doing all the right things to generate interest. The next step is getting talent on the field to register a better competitive record.
Member Review by puckhound2469 on Feb 11, 2015
St. Louis continues its long soccer tradition which includes the St. Louis Steamers (1979-88), St. Louis Storm (1989-92), the original St. Louis Ambush (1992-2000), the re-born St. Louis Steamers franchise (1998-2006) and the re-born Ambush (2013-present).
In their inaugural 2013-14 season, the team posted a 4-16 record, good for just 6th place, but drawing an average of 5,636 fans ranking 3rd among the seven teams. For 2014, the team transitioned to the Major Arena Soccer League with franchise coverage throughout North America.
Despite a poor record in the 23-team league in 2015, the Ambush still rank among the top teams in attendance. Currently, they hold the third spot with a 6,005 average attendance, just behind Rochester (6,415) and Baltimore (6,192). Teams play a total of 20 games and this total is through nine games of the home Ambush schedule.
The new Ambush seems to be doing all the right things to keep interest high and generate a following.
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