The St. Louis Rams won the Super Bowl 20 years ago and today, instead of basking in NFL glory, still won’t embrace reality why a 2nd team moved out of town.
The Super Bowl proves why St. Louis is out of the NFL. The so-called St. Louis leadership failed miserably for 20 years to embrace and do what’s required to keep an NFL franchise. That’s no surprise to me because it failed in 1995 to have much influence over Rams’ ownership regarding the team’s home and at the same time, deceived taxpayers of St. Louis who are paying $720 million through 2022 for a domed stadium that now is home to a team in some league called the XFL.
St. Louis leadership was so feckless from 1995-2015 that Kansas City, with solid ownership more in partnership with their stadium authority than St. Louis, actually put themselves in a better position to host a Super Bowl, in a stadium that didn’t have a roof!
I sensed in 1995, against the prevailing emotion of St. Louis, the city would fail again just as it did when it was the home of the Football Cardinals from 1960-1987. That’s because it quickly soon was revealed from great journalism by a weekly paper, The Riverfront Times, the city had amazingly bargained with a position of weakness even though the cornerstone of its attraction to land the Los Angeles Rams was a spanking new domed stadium.
Led by late U.S. Senator Tom Eagleton of Missouri, the stadium’s authority trumpeted a 30-year lease when in fact, it was three 10-year leases, renewable only if St. Louis would meet standards established by the league’s other cities.
In 2005, five years after the St. Louis Rams Super Bowl victory, Kansas City negotiated a massive upgrade of Arrowhead Stadium, home of the Chiefs. It put the $850 million plan on a 2006 voter ballot, and included renovating Kauffman Stadium next door, home of major league baseball’s Kansas City Royals. One of the ideas bantered about from 2003-2005 was to erect a retractable roof over Arrowhead Stadium – then bid to host a Super Bowl.
That dream never materialized. But voters approved the massive tax hike funding for renovations. No one ever heard of the Hunt family thinking of relocating their team, which it did in 1963 moving the team to Kansas City. The Chiefs are in the Super Bowl. The Rams are in Los Angeles, to open its brand new stadium in 2021 – and will host the Super Bowl in 2022.
The Arizona Cardinals, which called St. Louis home for 28 seasons, will host the Super Bowl in 2023, and hosted the game three previous times, the last two in State Farm Stadium formerly known as University of Phoenix Stadium.
St. Louis? It never lifted a finger to host a Super Bowl. It never did anything to make its domed stadium suitable to host a Super Bowl. Heck, it only worked to do just enough to satisfy the first lease with the Rams from 1995-2004, and that wasn’t anywhere near the requirements to get the NFL interested in hosting its big game there. Don’t give me a “NFL won’t hold a game in a cold weather city” excuse. It’s been held twice in Minneapolis. It’s been held in Indianapolis, which in the lore of Kansas City sports irony, convinced the NCAA to move it’s headquarters from Overland Park, Kansas in 1997. The Super Bowl has been held outdoors in a cold weather city, New York.
Yet today, St. Louis – it’s so-called leaders and die hard Rams’ fans – are in denial. Today, they pillory Rams’ owner Stan Kroenke. Never mind the city and it’s fans embraced a lease deal that Donald Trump, famed for Art of the Deal, would laugh about if asked. Never mind that for 21 seasons, St. Louis watched Super Bowls on TV. St. Louis was super happy about playing in 2 Super Bowls. Hosting one? Not so much.
St. Louis’ domed stadium hosted an NCAA basketball final, but their standards aren’t nearly as stringent as the NFL requirement to host the Super Bowl. The St. Louis domed stadium hosted a Mass in 1999 celebrated by Pope John Paul II, which is a big deal in St. Louis with the strong influence and population of the Catholic Church and faith in the market. But when it comes to the Super Bowl, it did nothing.
Do you think Los Angeles would be home for the Rams had St. Louis hosted a Super Bowl sometime between 1996-2011, the year before the Rams began negotiating with the dome’s authority for a lease between 2016-2025? If you do, then put yourself in the denial camp, because the reality is the NFL considers cities big time who will do what it takes to host the Big Game. Your bid to upgrade the dome in 2014 was considered “too late.” You should have done it 10 years earlier.
I lived in St. Louis from 2007-2017 and watched the leadership implode to cause the mess that cost the city another NFL team. I now live in Las Vegas. Make book we’ll get the Super Bowl in either 2025 or 2026 in our new $2 billion Allegiant Stadium, the home of the Las Vegas Raiders. When that happens, there will be a few cities in the country that think they’re ready to host the big game who’ll be on the outside looking in, like St. Louis, because they won’t have done enough like St. Louis did for 21 years.
To it’s credit, St. Louis has a solid hockey franchise, the Blues, who won its first Stanley Cup last June. That’s a great thing and the lesson to be learned is a city can’t be host to everything unless it does everything to be a magnet for everything pro sports.
Just ask Kansas City. It build a modern arena downtown. It still doesn’t have the NHL and NBA, and lost teams from both leagues many years ago. Good luck Chiefs in Super Bowl LIV. Enjoy your NFL success. St. Louis? Move on. The whining about Stan Kroenke and the NFL four years later is old and hollow. It’s your fault for not doing enough. A Super Bowl would have been the super glue to have kept the Rams.