When the National Hockey League doubled in size in 1967, few expected the St. Louis Blues to contend. Fans had become accustomed to witnessing exciting hockey in the form of the St. Louis Braves, the Central Hockey League farm team of the Chicago Blackhawks, but success never came their way at the St. Louis Arena.
But things were much different with the Blues. Owner Sidney Solomon and his family created an extended family environment by bringing in veteran players and treating them as one special group taking them to Florida for vacations and rolling out the finest owner-player environments in the League. St. Louis was the place to be for players and under the leadership of Head Coach Scotty Bowman, the club and the city enjoyed early success and a new found form of sports entertainment to call their own.
Aligned with the five other expansion teams in one division, the Blues advanced to the Stanley Cup Finals their first three seasons. In those early years, the Arena was packed, fans dressed up in suits and dresses and the experience was special. If you had Blues tickets, you were someone special. Despite being swept in those series, the franchise remained competitive despite two very short spans in the mid 1970s and during the mid to late 2000s when losing seasons were common. In fact, the club held a record playoff appearance streak from 1980 to 2006.
Many great names once wore the blue note such as Hall of Fame coach Scotty Bowman, current Michigan head coach Red Berenson, Hall of Fame goal scorer Brett Hull and Hall of Fame playmaker Bernie Federko. Other notable former players include Jacques Plante, Glenn Hall, Dickie Moore, Brendan Shanahan, Adam Oates, Grant Fuhr, Scott Stevens (for one season) and even Wayne Gretzky (for just thirty-one games including playoffs in 1996).
The team had a successful 2011-12 season where they challenged for the NHL’s top spot until the last game of the regular season. The Blues now have all local ownership thanks to Tom Stillman and his group. Coach Ken Hitchcock was named NHL Coach of the Year and General Manager Doug Armstrong was named General Manager of the Year. Times seem to be good again in St. Louis.
The Blues current home, their second since 1967, is the Scottrade Center. Opening in 1994 under the name Kiel Center, a nod to the historic and adjacent facility, the first Blues game was not played until December of that year due to the labor impasse. The building has undergone several changes to include a color change in seats (the original ones were all fuscia) and the development of more open spaces where fans can congregate, eat and drink while watching the game from something other than a seat. Just six years ago, the team was struggling to get 14,000 fans at their games. Things have changed for the better including new local ownership which changed hands in June 2012. The future is bright for the current version of the Blues providing a new level of excitement for fans, not seen in these parts for well over a decade.
With exciting, winning hockey, there comes popularity and increased demand for tickets. Prices are rising as well which is helping the arrival of the area’s newest minor league hockey team, the St. Charles Chill, with being able to take a piece of the competitive entertainment pie. Witnessing a game at the Scottrade Center is thrilling with lots of local flavor and an opportunity to immerse yourself in blue-collar hockey, a hallmark of the Blues in the Gateway City. Take advantage of the Midwest hospitality and a lengthy hockey history which is sure to satisfy.
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".
As for the items commonly found at NHL hockey arenas, the list is endless. It is all pretty high-priced with the snack prices being most outrageous. A few of the samplings for comparison sake of what you might be used to are below with some special and unique options listed at the end of this section.
DRINKS - A 16 oz. bottle of beer is $8 while a draft beer or any craft draft beer is $9. Premium cocktails range from $8.25 to $9. Wine is $8, a regular soda is $5.50, bottled water is $5 and a can of Red Bull is $4.
MAIN COURSE - For food, a bratwurst is $6.50, a Nathan's jumbo hot dog is $6.25 while a regular Nathan's hot dog is just $5. A burger basket with fries is $9.50 and chicken tenders with fries are $9.25. A BBQ sandwich or BBQ nachos are $10, a St. Louis Beer & Pretzel Dog for $9 is fantastic, but importantly, includes beer IN THE CHEESE SAUCE (as opposed to what it might imply in that it is a combo of a beer and a pretzel dog).
Other options include a Philly Cheesesteak for $8.50 (note: this is a side bar in this review. NEVER eat this item anywhere but at a street corner in Philadelphia. Otherwise, it is just beef on a bun with cheese poured over it. IT IS NOT THE SAME AND NEVER WILL BE; DON'T BE FOOLED. Go to the corner of 9th Street & Passynuk in Philly and get one from Geno's and then walk across the street and get one from Pat's. After you eat both, you will be adding me to the beneficiary list within your last will and testament).
SNACKS - You can choose from a variety of snacks where popcorn is $4, funnel cakes are $8, pretzels are $5, nachos are $6.75 and a nachos supreme is $7.50. Kettle corn (also known as lightly sweetened popcorn) is sold in medium and large sizes at $8 and $10. If you like nuts, there are shelled peanuts at $4.50 or visit the stand in the main concourse offering bags of sweetened pecans, almonds and cashews for $5 a bag, get two bags for $9 and three for $12.
Perhaps two of the better deals are the bottomless soda for $7.25 and the bottomless popcorn for $6.50.
Recently, two popular tastes unique to St. Louis, toasted ravioli and fried Oreo cookies, were added to the Scottrade menu. At $9 and $8 respectively, they are worth trying. You won't find toasted ravioli anywhere else in the country as it was created here.
For those who crave ethnic food, Mexican selections are provided by Chuy and can be found at two stands near section 112 and section 306.
There are several options for higher grade food offerings; two are open to all fans while the other requires possession of a club seat ticket.
Near section 124, fans can choose from a specially selected menu and offering which changes from game to game. On this night, Cajun Smoked Quesadillas were offered for $9.50. The slightly upscale appearance and the unique choice is a nice option. Other choices for future games include seafood specials during lent and pastas.
RESTAURANTS - Another option (which was formerly by membership only) is The Bud Light Zone. Located at the east end of the club level, you will find a wide array of culinary stations, wide open areas to stand and talk with friends and about fifty tables on multiple levels all with a view of the end of the ice where the Blues shoot twice.
A final option for a higher grade of food is The Blue Note Lounge, formerly 14th and Clark and still located across from section 10 and situated at the intersection it is named after. It offers a carving station, pasta options, hot dogs and numerous snack options along with all drinks included in the price of your ticket. The club tickets range from $75 to $125 and you can get in an hour before gates open.
Come and go as you please at this multi-level spot before, during and after the game. Watch play on the ice through closed-circuit television. When you are ready to see the action with your own eyes, step right out to the main concourse and then into the main seating bowl at the main concourse level.
Sadly, though, gooey butter cake cannot be found at the arena. However, you can try this while in town at most local grocery stores and at a number of restaurants. See the neighborhood section for some excellent dining suggestions.
Although fans no longer dominate the seating areas with suits and dresses as they did during the early years at the Arena, there still is a nod to tradition with the throwback jerseys adorned with names of fan favorites since the early years and many players who were cult figures if even for just a short time. The Blues went through ten significant jerseys in their 45-year history and the crowds now provide an adequate display of it every game.
It is very common to see fans wearing 1967-style jerseys with Ron Schock's name and number on the back (he scored the game-winning goal against Minnesota to send the Blues to their first Stanley Cup in 1968).
Walking right next to him, you might see someone wearing the jersey of Tony Twist who in the 1990s played in 294 games for the Blues scoring 10 goals, but amassed 684 penalty minutes as one of the most feared brawlers of his era.
Of course there are plenty of Hull, Oates, Federko and Sutter jerseys which are equally balanced in many cases with Unger, Berenson, Fuhr and Gretzky jerseys. Wearing player names on the type of jersey the player never wore remains a no-no.
Although not quite like attending a Cardinals game where red is the color of choice, it would still be a good idea to wear either blue or navy blue, the latter thanks to the popular alternate jersey with the accompanying Gateway Arch primary logo.
It doesn't have to be a jersey, but the color choice of your apparel is important to Blues fans. If you wear attire supporting the visiting team, you will be welcomed with open arms. Just leave any obnoxious behavior you might possess somewhere else before you enter the arena.
WHERE TO SIT AND BEST SEAT OPTIONS - Now that you have prepared for what to wear or see what others are wearing, consider where to sit. Let's address a few facts regarding sections and rows.
In the lower levels on the sides (sections 106-126 and sections 113-118), there are 21 rows before club seats begin. There is a distinct division in these seating areas as the club seats rise with 7 additional rows containing more comfortable seats than you will find in other areas of the upper and lower bowls. Concession service is available at your seat.
On the ends of the lower level (119-125 and 107-112), there are 15 rows from street level to the ice and 16 rows from street level to the top of the upper level.
On the upper level, there are between 16 and 22 rows of seats in most sections with the exception of the Pepsi Plaza sections.
There are two bands of private boxes and party suites which pretty much encircle the building splitting the upper and lower levels and rimming the building above the upper level.
For perspective in this review and my personal preference, I like to sit facing the benches up high near the end where the home team shoots twice. Relative to this, consider as you read this section as though you were sitting in section 320. This is directly behind the broadcast booth in the upper level on the center red line. This side is also where the penalty boxes are based.
The Blues shoot twice to your right, a goal that is directly in front of sections 109-110 (the aisle splits the goal right down the middle). The Blues occupy the bench to the left of the red line in front of section 102. The visitors defend the goal to your right in front of sections 122-123.
Both teams enter their ice through the bench along the goal line side along the blue line. To offer high fives and good fortune in advance the impeding game, find your way to section 102 for the home team and 104 for the visiting team. The arena restaurant which offers views of the ice is to your right at the club level above sections 108-111.
Seats are comfortable and padded unlike the hard back and hard seat options you might find at many arenas. The space between rows can be a little tight in the upper levels. Aisles are wide with handrails up the middle.
If you are walking DOWN an aisle closer to the ice to get to your row, a #1 seat will be to your left while a high number seat is to your right. Of course it is the opposite if you are walking UP an aisle to get to your row. Most rows seat 16 to 22 seats depending upon the section. It is good information if you like to avoid the aisle seat.
Sections are pretty much right on top of the ice, or at least as much as current zoning laws allow. The upper deck is constructed to where you feel like you are right on top of the ice surface as opposed to set back far away from the action.
Avoid the sides down low, a staple in NHL cities to be very expensive seats in which the glare from the glass prevents a clear view of the action. Up high in the lower level is nice, but for the price, I would rather see the play from a balcony than set back too far off the ice (as opposed to up high and over the ice).
BEST SEATS FOR VALUE - If forced to tell you the best value on where to sit for a game, I would tell you section 318 in the upper deck, row B as the best for the money (A row seats in the upper deck are anywhere from $14 to $23 higher than row B).
Seats in this section provide you a view of both benches, on the end where the Blues shoot twice and, depending upon the opponent, are at a face value of $29 as opposed to $37 just across the aisle in section 319. Here you get the best views of everything you want and you are near the escalator which connects this 300 level with the main concourse.
With respect to selecting tickets and games to see, consider the Blues employ a tiered program which determined ticket prices based on opponent, popular days of the week and other factors. For example, a ticket in the lower section of 318 for a Tuesday night game against Edmonton is $30, but against Anaheim on a Saturday night and you will pay $49 for the same seat even though the teams have comparable appeal.
If you want to spend just a little more, consider section 320 and row D. The section is right at center ice behind the home broadcast team and still facing the benches. There is no one to talk in front of you as this is the railing seat with the first three rows removed for the broadcast team.
A third option is one of the two rows which are directly in front of Pepsi Plaza. This area stretches from 326 to 330, includes a few rows of seats, a platform to put your food and drink behind the last row should you wish to stand behind the last row, wide open spaces and plenty of food options to choose from all while watching the game. Also, just across the aisle from this area closer to the perimeter of the building are about 40 tall tables away from view of the game, but providing a nice option for gatherings and a platform for your concessions.
Seats are 18" wide and 18" deep and provide a soft, comfortable feel with armrests on both sides and cup holders at your feet mounted on the seat support in front of you. There is 14" of space between the chair back in front of you and the edge of the seat you are sitting on. This provides a little room, but not much, for those to pass in front of you while they walk down the row to their seat.
The scoreboard is large and like other NHL venues, includes video replay on multiple screens. In St. Louis, the scoreboard is dual-tiered. On the top end, of the eight graphic boards, four provide the essential game details such as score, shots, time and penalties while the other four provide revenue streams through advertising.
The lower-tier of the scoreboard serves to provide replays and game action with a healthy dose of advertising for more revenue streams. The two seating levels are separated by a very active electronic ribbon which is well-integrated with promotions, advertising and staging climactic events such as announcing line-ups and leading cheers.
TICKET PROMOTIONS - The good news is that you should never have to pay for a full price ticket on most games. There are a number of great promotions.
For young fans, there is a special program called the Jr. Blue Note Club. For a $25 membership fee, you get two upper deck tickets for one of several designated games along with a bunch of other goodies which are picked up at your selected game accompanied with special activities.
For the shortened 2013 season, the club selected six games with a mix of weekend and weekday choices with opponents from within the division and among the other two divisions of the Western Conference. Membership is limited so join early.
After the game, kids get to come down with their parents onto the ice, shoot the puck a few times and get their picture taken with Louis, the Blues mascot. Bring your own camera as well. Who wouldn't want their photo shooting the puck on NHL ice standing below the huge hanging scoreboard?
The club also has developed T-Shirt Tuesdays, a package of two tickets and two Blues t-shirts starting at $49. McDonald's Family Packs contain four tickets and four McDonald's food coupons all for just $89 for Thursday games. Blues Family Packs include four tickets, four hot dogs, four sodas and two boxes of popcorn starting at $119 for Friday and Sunday games.
Military appreciation nights are held on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday games with mezzanine level tickets at just $14 for bronze games and $18 for silver games. The offer is available to all active, reserved and retired military personnel.
Student nights offer $20 mezzanine level tickets and $38 plaza level tickets for Thursday and Friday games. Students must show ID to receive the discount.
WALKING THE CONCOURSE AND ENJOYING THE ARENA - After you have made your ticket selection and game day comes, it is time to take in the experience. As you enter the main gate just to the right of the ticket office, make a quick left and follow the outer perimeter to begin a visit to the St. Louis Sports Hall of Fame.
It covers much more than Blues hockey. On this level in at least five distinct areas, you will find memorabilia on Cardinals baseball and Cardinals football, Rams football, St. Louis Hawks pro basketball, three indoor soccer teams (Steamers, Storm and Ambush), St. Louis Stars outdoor soccer, college basketball and other events.
The upper level includes one area with St. Louis Browns baseball represented. The displays change artifacts from time to time. Until a permanent site can be determined, the artifacts are cleverly displayed in large glass cases throughout the outer perimeter of the main concourse.
The Cardinals are currently building a Hall of Fame at Ballpark Village just north of the stadium. Years ago, all St. Louis sports were represented at a Hall of Fame in the old ballpark. No word yet on if the new facility will include sports other than baseball.
As you walk the concourse, one of the first things you might notice here is unlike all of the new arenas of the last twenty years, the entire main concourse is closed off from viewing the game live while fans stroll to get food, visit a restroom or shop for merchandise. You must enter a long corridor for each section and then enter the seating bowl to see the game in the lower level.
Fans will find televisions at concession stands and overhead on the concourse to ensure you do not miss any of the action while doing other things away from your seat. The top shelf offers a limited open view on the one end, but that is it.
While walking the concourse, you will see many volunteers administering the always popular 50/50 promotion armed with electronic scanners to take credit and debit cards as well as cash. This is an activity which takes donations for a chance to win 50% of the total pot. The other 50% of the pot goes to support the 14 Fund, a charitable organization named after popular Blues sniper Doug Wickenheiser who lost his fight with cancer in January 1999 at the age of 37.
On a recent night at a 7:00 PM game, the total went from $250 at 6:42 PM to $2,825 at 8:05 PM to finally $5,260 at 9:10 PM. The total collected is posted in the main scoreboard below the game score and at the ends of the ice along the ribbon board near where the game shots are posted. It has become a pretty fun tradition.
The concourses are wide at the lower level, but quite narrow at the upper level. At both levels, conditions are frequently congested largely due to the concession lines spilling into the open walkways. I still cannot understand why human beings cannot figure out the queue to order food and drinks can bend out of the way of the walkways. Furthermore, why can't venues guide fans this way when lines start to form? Anyway, just know it is congested up top and less congested throughout the main concourse.
Restrooms, food choices and merchandise are plentiful at all levels, but if you want some of the specialty items, get those on the main level before heading to your seat in the upper levels. Access to the upper levels can be gained largely through escalators and an elevator or two for those with mobility issues.
TEAM BANNERS, ACHIEVEMENTS, HONORS AND RECOGNITION - In terms of team pageantry, the limited number of division, conference and other distinctions banners hang above the west end of the ice.
The banners honoring the Blues six retired numbers belong to #2 Al McInnis (1994-2004), #3 Bob Gassoff (1974-1977), #8 Barclay Plager (1967-77), #11 Brian Sutter (1976-88), #16 Brett Hull (1987-98) and #24 Bernie Federko (1976-1989).
The four distinct symbols (one of which is unofficially retired) hang on banners above the east end of the ice.
The first represents longtime broadcaster, Dan Kelly (with a DK inside a green clover honoring his Irish heritage), who passed far too early in February 1989 at the age of 52.
Another banner represents Bob Plager, a longtime defenseman and employee with the Blues since year one (with a #5 inside a heart). He continues to be an integral part of the Blues alumni and is very involved in team events.
A third symbol (#14 with a flame inside it) honors Doug Wickenheiser (1983-87), a popular forward and owner of the game-winning goal the night of the "Monday Night Miracle" in 1986. This was Game 6 of the Campbell Conference Final where the Blues hosted the Calgary Flames and rallied from down three goals to win in overtime.
The fourth and last symbol is #7 which honors four star players, Red Berenson, Gary Unger, Joe Mullen and Keith Tkachuk. This number is not worn by a current Blues player and is "unofficially" retired.
PRE-GAME BUILDUP - As you settle in for pre-game, you will find like most NHL clubs, the Blues utilize the icy playing surface as an effective pallet to kick-off what is usually an electric atmosphere.
With nearly 50 years of tradition and many great moments in team history despite an elusive Stanley Cup victory yet, the club does a great job in blending the Blues of yesterday to the Blues of today. Long Live The Note! is the 2012-13 marketing campaign and the video and sound are effective in creating a warm embrace to the past while providing an encouraging nod to the future.
As an added local feature to spice up the atmosphere, the Blues employ Charles Glenn, a jolly, rotund fellow who can't be missed. He roams the arena with a microphone encouraging fans and leading them in song with "When the Blues go Marchin' In", a play on when "The Saints Go Marchin' In".
Until recently, the Blues entered the ice to the famous march of the W.C. Handy song, "St. Louis Blues". In the last few years, though, the club has shelved it in favor of heart-pumping rock 'n' roll. The classic pump organ remains a fixture to some degree at the Scottrade Center.
Another pre-game song which has recently gone away is the popular song by the Anheuser Busch company with "Here Comes the King". Immediately after entering the ice for their quick skate minutes before the game starts, organ music used to transition from St. Louis Blues to the Anheuser Busch theme song. Sadly, this has recently been replaced with hard rock music as well, but here is a sample of the long-popular energy-generating song at Blues games.
As with most crowd reactions to a home team goal, the top nearly comes off the arena. In addition to the loud fog horn which would make the largest cruise ship blush, the organ blares a modern version of "When the Saints Go Marching In."
THE TOWEL MAN - While the music and crowd ordinarily dies down in most cities, that is not the case here as a new dimension to celebrating a goal is performed by The Towel Man. After each goal, a bell is sounded with a chime for each marker the home team has registered on the night counted out by the crowd, i.e., 1-2-3-4, etc.).
Since 1990, though, Ron Baechle, a man known as the Towel Man, descends from his seats in section 314, row E, seat 13 to lead the crowd in the celebration. The Towel Man approaches the edge of the balcony swinging a white towel above his head like a helicopter blade. He leads the count of each goal with a fist pump and then finishes by throwing the towel into the crowd at the end of the count.
The Towel Man wears a Blues jersey and specially-designed pants which evoke his love for his hometown Blues. He rarely misses a game and is currently on a three-year streak of not missing one.
When he does miss one, though, a stand-in, Ms. Dee Loris (affectionately known as Towel Gal), steps in. She sits directly behind him and reports are she is much prettier than the original. When attending a game, drop by and say hello to the famed towel-whippers. Just stay out of their way when a blue-note wearing sniper lights the lamp.
Noise accompaniments are a mix of traditional organ and canned, ear-drum splitting music. The sound is good, but a little too loud sometimes. No one should have to scream in order to talk to the person next to them.
Scottrade Center lies in the downtown area of St. Louis, a few miles west of the Gateway Arch. At one time, the downtown area was a bustling place, but typically, after work lets out, downtown clears out unless there is a game.
For starters, there are a few things to avoid. There is no reason to go inside historic Union Station. Avoid it all costs. The once busy transportation hub and more recently shopping and dining areas are pretty much abandoned now. While there is hope to revive the space, it will not come before you visit within the next five years.
NEARBY RESTAURANTS - Landry's Seafood and Hard Rock Café are under the large canopy along the partially covered parking lot at Union Station. Neither will provide the local flair you deserve, but will nourish you before entering the arena.
For local, though, a little further and across the west side street from Union Station is a restaurant at the lower level of the Drury Inn. Lombardo's is a magnificent place to dine and you can park on the street for free and then walk to the game. This long-standing establishment redefines Italian and their garlic bread bites served at each table are addictive, just a warning.
Maggie O'Brien's caters to a pub crowd and is situated a little North of the Drury Inn at Market Street at the west side of Union Station. They serve a tasty array of sandwiches and brews. Also consider Harry's, a little more upscale and just west of Maggie O'Brien's. This is certainly the place to be after the game, too.
One last nearby place is Syberg's, on the first floor of the Hampton Inn along Market Street just west of Union Station and across the street from the earlier mentioned Harry's. When at Syberg's, consider ordering the shark chunks, served in warm butter as an appetizer or entree. I have never seen them offered anywhere. Get them here!
Closer to the arena, across 14th Street and then across Clark Street from Scottrade is the Sheraton St. Louis City Center. In the same building, Bernie Federko's Steakhouse once operated, but is no longer in business. The space is still occupied by the restaurant, but it has closed. Rumor has it there are plans to re-open, but as of this writing, nothing has opened there.
BEST BBQ IN THE LAND - Anyone visiting St. Louis would be well-served in finding barbeque in the Gateway City. Keep in mind, though, St. Louis style BBQ is different than what you might be used to. In this city, you will find a heavily sauced morsel on your plate and its flavor is described as a very sweet, slightly acidic, sticky, tomato-based barbecue sauce.
If you have made the commitment to barbeque in St. Louis, look no further than Pappy's, a little more than two miles west of Scottrade at 3106 Olive Street Road. It is a little tough to find so visit their website to see the little niche they carved into this unique location.
A few tips include getting there when they open or off-peak. The line can be long and dissuade people, but be assured, it is worth every minute you wait in line to taste the famous ribs and pulled pork. Consider the fried corn on the cob and sweet potato fries as sides and wash it all down with their sweet tea. Be advised: you stand in line (often a long line), order your food, then stand at the counter to wait for it and only after that will you be directed to a table to begin eating. The location is relatively small, but don't be concerned as their system works and once you find a home at one of these tables, you will quickly learn how worth the wait was as you consume their award-winning barbeque.
ITALIAN HILL SECTION - Also while in St. Louis, find time to visit The Hill neighborhood, a community steeped in rich Italian tradition just ten minutes southwest of the arena. The neighborhood's north edge is along Highway 44. The east edge is along Kingshighway while the west edge is along Hampton. The south edge is along Southwest Avenue. The area is home to some of the best Italian restaurants in the area, some just large enough for a dozen tables. St. Louis Bocce Club is also here.
For light fare and casual dining, pick Zia's at 5257 Wilson Avenue. You can get toasted ravioli there and tasty pizza with a thin, cracker crust, a St. Louis original. For a wide variety of pastas and "fishbowl" beers, try Rigazzi's at 4945 Daggett.
For a more elegant experience, try Lorenzo's at 1933 Edwards, right where Edwards and Daggett intersect. Try their fish specials and if you want something you do not see on the menu, ask them if they can make it for you. They typically can. How cool is that?
Another elegant Hill restaurant is Giovanni's on the Hill at 5201 Shaw, right at Marconi.
Also, whatever you do, do not leave the area without having a cannoli for dessert. If you like Frozen Custard, you cannot go wrong with Ted Drewes, since 1929 and at their location along Historic Route 66 since 1941. This location, one of two in the area is just nine miles southwest of Scottrade at 6726 Chippewa.
The famed custard stand swells after a hockey game, but don't be concerned as the staff really moves the crowd through the line. Anything you order here is great, but you must try the concrete, an extra thick version of what most consider a shake. When your order for this item is ready, ask the person serving you to test it. That's when they will turn it upside down and nothing falls out, mmmmmm, good!
NEARBY HOTELS - within a slap shot of the front door is The Sheraton just south of Scottrade Center. Just west at Union Station is a full-service Marriott. A little further west along Market Street is the Hampton Inn to the north and Courtyard by Marriott to the south. While heading west on Market Street, make a left at Jefferson and cross over Highway 40/64. On the right there is a Residence Inn. Some of these hotels offer free shuttle service to the game.
OTHER THINGS TO DO IN ST. LOUIS - Things to consider doing while in St. Louis when you have open time are the Gateway Arch and the St. Louis Zoo one of the best zoos in the country and one of only three nationwide that provide free admission. If you are lucky enough to plan the right weekend with a Blues Saturday or Sunday night game, the Rams play at the Edward Jones Dome within a mile or so walk of Scottrade Center. You can also find a Cardinals game at Busch Stadium during hockey season if the Blues go deep into the playoffs or if the Cardinals go a few weeks into the post-season.
After years of threats to move the team if a buyer could not be found (this seems to happen once every decade), the fans have continued to support the team.
In the early 1980s when Ralston Purina (remember the arena was called the Checkerdome after the company's corporate brand image) unloaded the team, Bill Hunter almost bought the Blues and moved it to Saskatoon. At the time, bumper stickers were created which read "Where the hell is Saskatoon?", an effort to draw attention to its remote location that would certainly be a poor alternative to keeping the team in the Gateway City. There were other instances where the team had trouble attracting local investors who would keep the team in St. Louis, but each time, fans showed enough support when the time came and the team stayed.
Currently, a collection of local investors led by local businessman Tom Stillman, owns the team, committed to keeping the Blues in St. Louis, but making clear local support in the form of increased corporate suites and season ticket holders is needed to turn a profit. Fans are already seeing increased ticket prices and more difficult-to-find discounts, made possible with an incredibly entertaining team which seems poised to compete among the NHL elite for at least the next five years.
While the fan base began as a mainly white collar crowd to follow in the early years, the fan base seems to have transitioned to a diverse mix of fans, each with their own attractive price points to enjoy live NHL action. A quick view of the crowds and you will rarely find suits and dresses as in the early years, but jerseys of their favorite player's name and number on their back. That player might well possess an obscure name and a record with the Blues that might have lasted just one season.
The fans know their current players, their past players and the many unique events which have defined the franchise. Ask someone what happened at the Monday Night Miracle, what Mike Crombeen is famous for and what Rick Heinz's first action was as a Blue and you will likely get not only answer, but one with many details.
For the record, the answers to those three questions are:
1) In the 1986 Western Conference Finals, the Blues came back from a 5-2 deficit in the third period to tie it and then win in double-overtime to defeat the Calgary Flames in Game 6 and send the series back to Alberta (where the Blues lost 2-1)
2) In the deciding game 5 of the opening round of the 1981 playoffs, Mike Crombeen scored the game-winning goal in double overtime against future Blues goalie Greg Millen to advance to the next round. The Blues lost to the New York Rangers in six games in that series.
3) Rick Heinz relieved Mike Liut who was struck below the belt by a Marcel Dionne slap shot. The first shot Heinz faced was a penalty shot which he successfully saved. The Blues won the game.
If you approach a Blues fan for conversation, select one with a vintage style jersey containing the name of a player who wore that jersey. Particularly consider people wearing those jerseys with Sutter, Federko, Liut, Berenson or Hull (or Hall for that matter) on their backs. It will make for memorable conversation.
PARKING - Several options of varying price and convenience are in play. Parking is ample throughout downtown, either in nearby parking garages, as well as small surface lots or meter parking. The garage next to the arena is reserved for memberships. Parking garages near the arena are $5 to $20.
Parking lots of various sizes can be found in all directions from the arena. The further you go away, the less you pay, but you can get a pretty good spot for $10 and only have to walk just a quarter to a half mile.
If you want to drive to the game, but desire a cheaper option, there is one; a metered parking spot near the arena. Although you will need to be conscious of the one-way streets that surround the area, it is worth it. Here is what I recommend if you choose this option.
After 6:00 PM, the meters are free Monday through Friday. They are FREE on Saturday and Sunday. On weekdays, because you can park for a maximum of two hours at a time during chargeable meter time, find a spot around 4:00 PM, load coins (quarters preferred) in the amount of $2.00 (at a rate of $0.25 per fifteen minutes) and your parking ends up being pretty cheap.
I like to park along Market Street or the parallel street, Chestnut, just north. It is far enough away to stay out of the traffic congestion, but short enough of a walk especially on those cold nights where the wind can be biting.
MASS TRANSIT - Another good way to get to the arena is by using MetroLink, the St. Louis area's light rail system. The trains are neat, clean and safe. There is a station right at the arena across and within a short walk north. It is the Civic Center Station. Know this is also the same station which shares a facility with the Greyhound bus service and the Amtrak train service. Although the light rail system is pretty identifiable, make sure you board the right one.
A few things you should know. The train lines run from the Western suburbs toward downtown most of the way, but it does stretch across the Mississippi River to Illinois where there are eleven stops.
One train begins in the Northwest part of St. Louis County at the Airport station (where there are actually two stops, one for each terminal) and heads east to the Shiloh-Scott Air Force Base station. This is considered the RED line.
The other train begins in the Southwest part of St. Louis County at the Shrewsbury station and heads east to the Fairview Heights, Illinois station, five stops short of the Shiloh-Scott Air Force Base station. This is considered the BLUE line. From either of the furthest west stations on either the RED or BLUE line, it takes about thirty minutes to get to the arena. The southernmost trip has a little more scenery than the northernmost trip.
Cost is $2.25 one-way or $4.50 round trip. Reduced fares of $1.10 are offered to seniors 65+, customers with disabilities, customers who possess a valid Medicare ID, and children aged 5 through 12. The system operates on a pseudo-honor system. Buy your ticket at the automated kiosk, validate the ticket when you get ready to use it, travel within two hours of validation and board the train. Security randomly checks tickets and issues citations on the spot so be careful.
You will come away with good value here. Park on the street, walk a short distance to the arena, save a little for the bottomless souvenir soda cup, sit in the $29 seats and you are in great shape.
With team success there is increased prices, but the experience remains a good value. It always has been.
Merchandise is fairly priced as well with always something offered at a special value, something most teams seem to be doing these days. While it might not be the best-looking hat or shirt, it still is of good value at the $10 or $15 price point.
RADIO - Many fans listen to the live games they attend through KMOX 1120 AM with Chris Kerber and former Blues tough guy Kelly Chase. The broadcast is always good, but seems tough to get a signal in some areas of the arena. I hope they fix that because even with the expected several-second delay, it is still nice to hear their insight. The radio team is above and behind the top seating level at section 320.
TELEVISION - The television team of John Kelly and Darren Pang use the area in front of row D in section 320 as their office. The visiting announcers are in the area just to the right.
SPECIAL PROMOTION - When the Blues score four goals, at least for the 2013 shortened season, all fans get a free hamburger from McDonald's. Just redeem your ticket stub the day after the game at any St. Louis area location.
GAME PROGRAMS - The Blues are one of several NHL teams to not offer the traditional game program, something I enjoy getting at every game. The Carolina Hurricanes do not offer programs either. You can purchase the $2 roster card which comes with current stats and a player photo featured on the reverse.
Until last year, you could buy these as you walk in the door, but with programs taking less importance, you must now get them at one of the souvenir kiosks. Incidentally, the team does not provide a media guide for sale either.
Just outside the arena on the street, though, you can get a program offered to fans for $2, but it is not an NHL-sanctioned version. These sell quite well and tend to have a section slanted toward fighting and who might "dance" at the game. Consider it a "fight card" for the night's combatants.
MERCHANDISE - The club offers an array of merchandise throughout the arena, but their main store is just to the left of the main gate along Clark Street (again, also known as Brett Hull Way) near section 106. The outer door is locked on game days allowing just fans with tickets to enter. On non-game days, enter through the main entrance and to the left of the ticket windows. There are other team stores throughout the building, but the most comprehensive merchandise is at the one near section 106.
Check the rear of the store for close-outs on items from previous years and discontinued models. There are good values here as well as some high end items including autographed goalie masks from some of the greats. There are also a few "arena only" items such as t-shirts with their current marketing slogan "Long Live The Note!".
Across from section 118, you can have a variety of Blues jerseys, both current and vintage style, lettered and numbered while at the game. The focus of the store is to cater to the jersey customer, but there are a few other unique items you will find here.
ESCALATORS - can be found at section 104 and 116 for fans with upper level tickets.
TEAM MASCOT - For the kids, Louie, the team mascot, is active throughout the day in the concourse, the stands and on the ice, especially post-game on one of the Jr. Blue Note nights. This lovable bear and his bluish fur are easy to spot (like there is more than one of something anywhere near him roaming the building on a given night).
GUEST SERVICES - can be found on the main level at section 119.
MEMORY OF #38 / NEVBER FORGOTTEN - two former Blues players, Pavol Demitra (1996-2004) and Igor Korolev (1992-1994), perished in the plane crash which killed the entire Lokomotiv Yaroslavl hockey club on September 7, 2011. Both Demitra and Korolev wore #38 and their memory is kept alive high above the concourse along the inner wall between sections 124 and 125.
STATUES OF HONORED PLAYERS - Just before entering the building, be sure to visit the three statues outside Scottrade which honor Bernie Federko, Al MacInnis and Brett Hull. In fact, the street which runs east and west is known as Brett Hull Way (in addition to being known as Clark Street).
Located in the heart of downtown, the Scottrade Center is the home of the NHL's St. Louis Blues. The arena opened on October 8, 1994 as the Kiel Center, and the Blues became its permanent tenant after moving from nearby St. Louis Arena, a historic but run-down barn-style venue built in the 1920s. In 2006, the naming rights to the Kiel Center were sold to local online start-up Scottrade, giving the building its current title.
The Center has been used for numerous different events since its opening. Along with hockey, college basketball, arena football, and indoor soccer have been played at Scottrade, and it routinely hosts concerts, circuses, and ice shows as well. The biggest crowd in the arena's history is 22,612 for the 2007 Missouri Valley Conference basketball tournament, but its capacity for hockey is slightly lower at 19,150.
The success of the St. Louis Blues has fluctuated in recent years. They've never won a Stanley Cup, although several of their most popular players did with other teams they were traded to. They were a continuous playoff presence for 25 straight years, they struggled in the early part of the new Millennium, but they were never the worst team in their division until the 2005-2006 season. For all of the bad things you can say about them and their owners, they're always an interesting and entertaining team, and their home arena is a nice and comfortable place to watch them play.
Like most arenas in recent years, the corporate owned Scottrade Center has changed names a few times since the Blues started playing there in 1994. Fans attending a game in its current incarnation can expect to have as good of a time as in any other place to see a hockey game.
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