Tale Of The Tape: Which Team Would St. Louis Support – MLS Or NBA?
- HistoryTaking a tour of the St. Louis Soccer Hall of Fame is like a walk through the history of soccer in the United States. From the 1950 World Cup team that upset England to the 10 national championships won by Saint Louis University, the city of St. Louis is widely recognized as one of America’s soccer hotbeds. Just a glance at current MLS rosters will reveal a healthy St. Louis presence in the league.The St. Louis Hawks won the 1958 NBA Championship, defeating the mighty Boston Celtics in six games after losing to them in the finals the previous season. Bob Pettit, one of the greatest players in the history of the game, scored 50 points in the ’58 clincher. But ten years later, the franchise moved to Atlanta and the NBA never returned to St. Louis.
- VenueThere is currently no venue in St. Louis that is suitable for an MLS franchise. Securing the land and money necessary to build a new stadium is easier said than done (just ask the Rams). The process could take several years of planning and development, but the end result has a chance to be spectacular if done right (see Sporting Park in Kansas City).An NBA team could move to St. Louis tomorrow and have a place to play basketball. Scottrade Center is a hockey arena first and foremost, but its design is perfect for basketball. There are plenty of suites and advertising opportunities. The arena, however, just celebrated its 20th birthday and isn’t getting any younger.
- Fan SupportSt. Louis is one of the most active youth soccer cities in the country. One needs to only look at the recent international matches held at Busch Stadium and the Edward Jones Dome to understand that soccer fans here have a deep knowledge of the game and would almost certainly come together to support a major professional team. The question: Who will fill the other seats in a new stadium? Is soccer a big enough draw to bring the casual sports fan back to games, week after week? And after spending hours upon hours each week in youth soccer, will soccer fans commit to attending MLS games as well?The star power of the NBA is undeniable. A night featuring LeBron James or Kevin Durant would sell the building out in minutes. Would fans come out to see 40-plus games? That’s debatable. If the St. Louis team is winning – and most importantly, shows the commitment to winning – then absolutely, yes, they would show. Fans, regardless of their knowledge of sports, would come out to be part of an NBA scene that has a strong national appeal.
- Financial SupportThis is the big one. These days, owning an MLS franchise – and buying into the league -- virtually requires a billionaire at the helm. Is there a billionaire that would like to take a shot at it? Maybe the one that also owns an American football team in St. Louis? It would seem that the corporate community would get behind an MLS franchise if the location, venue, team all came together the right way. There’s a lot of room to grow.Who wants to share Scottrade Center with the Blues? The last couple of times we’ve gone through this, it didn’t end well for the basketball team. In the late 60’s, the Hawks moved out of town when the Blues moved in. Over a decade ago, attempts to bring the Vancouver Grizzlies and Charlotte Hornets to St. Louis fell through. Would an NBA franchise be able gain enough corporate support to sell out the suites inside Scottrade? Since the Blues have struggled to do just that, it seems unlikely.
St. Louis' soccer history trumps the chance for the NBA to thrive here like an MLS team could. While we'd love to see both leagues in town, if we had to pick one sport that St. Louis could get behind, it would have to be soccer.