This past Sunday I made a trip to see my St. Louis Rams play against the Dallas Cowboys on the road. The trip itself was a blast, going with 25 friends and family and spending four days in the Lone Star state. The game itself, was not so much fun for us Rams fans. However I knew prior to going on that trip I wanted to take notes on Cowboy Stadium (yes I know it is now re-named AT&T Stadium but I refuse to call any stadium or ballpark by their name of the week). The reason I wanted to take notes on the stadium is because of the current debate here in St. Louis in regards to Stan Kroenke and the Rams wanting a new one. So I figured what better way to compare.
First let me say that I have never really bought into the “we need a new stadium” hype. I feel stadiums are more of a cosmetic feature, something as an added bonus for teams. I get the whole generate revenue thing for teams on the business side. More suites means more money. But for fans to demand new stadiums it seems kind of silly. You are there to watch a game correct? You know that thing being played on the field. If you want true comfort I am sure you have nice sofa at home. Now that being said Dallas Cowboy Stadium……WOWWWWWW!!!!!
I went on a VIP tour on Saturday to get the full effect of the stadium and let me say it is obvious they spent the $1.2 billion on the stadium well. There are so many little touches that they included that just make the place outstanding. From the blue tinted marble flooring on the suite level concession stands to 3,200 50″ televisions around the stadium to even football shaped light fixtures. This stadium went top notch on everything. Even the blank concrete walls, which many Rams fans I am sure are aware of in the Edward Jones Dome, those are even covered with various pieces of art. The stadium is truly a magnificent building and worth every penny. Obviously the GIANT jumboscreen is the most talked about feature. This screen is so clear I laid down at midfield almost directly under it and looked up and could see a clear picture.
To offset some cost of course there are advertisements but the Cowboys did well. They have several party areas in each endzone dedicated to standing room only fans. This is a good idea because these seats are cheaper and guess what more affordable for the typical fan, you know the fans most likely to make noise. So by placing them in the end zone was a novel idea to boost home field advantage.
One of the coolest ideas was their Miller Lite zone section. This area is where the Cowboys come running out before games and go back into at halftime and the end. Where as most teams run out of the corners of the stadium the Cowboys do their midfield thing. This section is located under the stands at midfield and is a giant party sports bar area. The Cowboys team walks directly through to music, flashing strobe lights and smoke IN THE BAR AREA. Pretty neat experience for those fans who bought field level suites. Which brings me to another great idea by the Cowboys. Everyone is familiar with suites and the high demand organizations have to build more and more. Well Jerry Jones found a way to get more in than just the normal places. He put them on the field. Normally a suite on the field level wouldn’t be all that attractive. I mean you have players, camera crews, photographers, etc. all standing in your way. However by purchasing a suite he included the first two rows above the suite (in the normal seating area) as well as a private valet parking under the stadium and access to the Miller Lite zone. Needless to say these suites are sold out.
As you may have noticed the common theme for all of my notes about Cowboy Stadium was cosmetics. Like I said before stadiums have very little to do with success on the field and even drawing fans. You know what draws fans? Winning. Even Dallas, a team with strong tradition and much stronger years (even if they are just .500) than the Rams was lacking in the attendance. The announced crowd was just over 80,000 but the empty seats there looked much the same as what you see at the Edward Jones Dome on Sundays for the Rams. So I don’t want to hear our local media dissing fans anymore. It happens. People do not have the money to just spend freely on to go to an NFL game and quite frankly some prefer to watch at home. There is a bigger picture than the Edward Jones Dome being outdated, it is a poor economy and a poor team.
Did anyone ever say back at the turn of the century when the Rams were the Greatest Show on Turf how poor the Dome was? Nope, sure didn’t. In fact they had one of the best home records during that time. Support and attendance was outstanding. Guess what they won. Now that they are in a funk for the last decade is it a surprise fans aren’t going? I guarantee if the Rams start playing well the fans will come back.
Now don’t get me wrong the Dome is outdated. But this notion that by building a Dome will automatically draw fans is ridiculous. Anyone remember Marlin stadium in MLB? Yeah how is that going? In the end the city of St. Louis and the Rams will have to work out and agreement for a new stadium or a renovation. The Rams and Kroenke want the city to foot the bill but they are fighting that. Ultimately it would be a good move for the city to give some towards the stadium. Having the Rams leave downtown would be a negative. I am not a financial expert but I know that on game days downtown is hopping. The restaurants and bars would miss that business. You say oh well the business will just be generated elsewhere, possibly. But downtown already has enough vacant buildings. I would like to see a renovation of the Dome. The CVC’s proposal looked good. Knocking down the wall closest to the river and placing some skylights in the roof to bring in more light is a start. Kroenke wants suites but Stan needs to realize that St. Louis simply does not have the Business headquarters that Dallas does. Build your suites but include perks like the Cowboys did.
Also Stan, you are a great business man and I am sure you do not want to part with money if you don’t have to. But one of the most interesting facts about Cowboy Stadium. The city of Dallas and Jerry Jones made an agreement that each would pony up $325 million when the stadium was initially being planned. And Jerry said he would cover the overages. That amounted to him spending almost $1 billion of his OWN money. Just a thought Stan. In the end a new stadium will be built for the Rams. But whether it is in downtown St. Louis, or Fenton or L.A.; I will tell you this unless the team is rebuilt on the field then no matter how nice the rebuilt stadium is the fans will not be in attendance.