Monday, May 21, 2012

St. Louis's Terrible Choices for the Rams

As far as the Rams requests for renovation of the Edward Jones Dome, it seems the St. Louis region faces these unappealing options:

  1. Spend money we don't have to help a billionaire construct a facility that will print money for himself for a team that has provided precious few positive memories over the past few years, and only plays 8 home games a year.
  2. Essentially declare that we are not a big-time city anymore.
I despise the idea of handing Stan Kroenke, a man who has spent most of his time owning the Rams acting like someone who's not that into us, a single dime to help him build a new stadium.  He's made quite a bit of money off of us.  If some other city want to empty its coffers to show him how much it wants the Rams, they can go right ahead.  As a reminder of how these ballpark deals typically work out for the cities, the Cardinals just announced plans for Ballpark Village, which was supposed to open with the stadium in 2006, though I was always skeptical.

If the Rams move, it's lights out for St. Louis as an NFL city. We'll forever be known as a two-time loser that couldn't keep a spot in the nation's most popular sports league.

This isn't just about football, either. When the city, St. Louis county and state cooperated to fund the original stadium deal, it was part of a wider project — the expansion of the downtown convention center to improve the slumping convention and trade-show business.
Saying no to Korenke would essentially be withdrawing our membership from the club of NFL cities.

So what? Well, name a prominent American city without and NFL city.  Ok, Los Angeles, the once and perhaps future home of the Rams.  And a city that has a few other things going for it, inluding 2 BCS college football programs.  Las Vegas.  Again, with a few other things going for it, and some other reasons for not having a team.  Then what? Portland? Salt Lake City? Columbus? Austin? San Antonio?  Does St. Louis really want to join this club, and drop a tier below cities like Kansas City, Indianapolis, and the Twin Cities?  Might we want to be a city that draws events like big bowl games, the Final Four, maybe even this new SEC-Big 12 bowl game?

Like it or not (and I'm firmly in the "not" camp), making an NFL owner happy is part of the price of being a top American city.  

But that doesn't necessarily mean it's a price St. Louis should be willing to pay.  Just that by not paying it, we'll be admitting that we've slipped to the second or third tier of American cities.  And that's a hard thing to admit.
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