Echoing the sentiment of my fellow columnist, Craig Vonder Haar, it is of utmost importance that the St. Louis Rams and St. Louis Convention & Visitors Commission work out their differences to keep the Rams in St. Louis.
The two sides seem to be embroiled in a high-stakes game of chicken over the team’s future in the Gateway City.
Anyone with a blog has speculated about the team’s future home, whether it be here or back in Los Angeles. There are many left coasters openly calling for the team to move back to its “home.”
I’m sorry, Los Angeles. Like Snake Plisskin, the Rams escaped from your burg. They’re in St. Louis now and you can have them back when you pry them from our cold, dead hands.
(I’m very familiar that the first “Escape From” movie was shot just blocks from the dome.)
Yes, the Edward Jones Dome needs to be upgraded to stay within the team’s parameters. But the type of public money the team wants just isn’t there.
Having spent much of the weekend in the area of the dome, there is a lot of turnover among businesses in that area.
The old St. Louis Centre shopping mall is getting some new life and a bunch of new businesses have moved into the dome area.
But that’s not going to generate the millions the team wants. It’s going to be extremely hard for the city, region and state to justify spending all of their money on the dome when there’s plenty of other things which need to be fixed.
I believe Stan Kroenke, the Rams owner, is a fair and just man and will play ball with St. Louis as long as a reasonable effort is made from the city’s part. I believe there is room for compromise between the two parties to take place. Even though there’s more loyalty to the Cardinals and Blues, I believe there are a lot of people who love the Rams and want to keep the team here. The Rams have gone to two Super Bowls since they’ve been here and have won one. The Greatest Show on Turf days were special and we’ve seen some outstanding players wearing Rams colors throughout the years.
The dome, and its adjoining convention center, serve many other purposes as well. This past weekend, it hosted the Presidents’ Day/Dennis Lafata Classic volleyball event.
The entire convention center and much of the floor of the dome played host to volleyball teams. (It was mainly boys volleyball in the dome section.) The three-day event pulled in some of the top teams throughout the midwest and midsouth regions.
One of our local players, Borgia freshman Audrey Arand, raised a championship during the event. Her CYC 15-1 team captured the championship in the 15 Open Division, dominating most of the other teams it faced.
CYC didn’t even drop a set until it reached the final, winning over Indiana’s Circle City 15 Purple in Monday’s title contest, 27-25, 23-25, 15-11.
Chris Reid already had a strong team. Anyone who watched last fall’s MSHSAA Class 2 state championships will remember Festus St. Pius’ best player as being freshman Jena Otec. She’s on that team with Arand. Both were on the PrepVolleyball.com Frosh 59 list.
Last year’s USA Volleyball 14 Open semifinalist added 6-2 middle blocker Elizabeth Orf from Villa Duchesne to an already-potent lineup and this team is ready to do some damage when the qualifier season starts.
Circle City is no slouch either. That team had multiple PrepVolleyball.com Frosh 59 award winners with outside Griere Hughes and rightside Courtney VanLiew from that list. Coach Chris Due also pointed out outside Avery Brown and libero Rylee Cookerly as honorable mention selections.
In the 16s, a lot of buzz was given to Invasion 16 Black from of Kansas City. That squad features Jenna Gray and Audriana Fitzmorris, two standout players who helped ASICS MAVS capture last year’s 16 Open national title and were key cogs in the St. James Academy (Kan.) volleyball machine which won the mythical national title. St. James Academy beat Lafayette this year, so that shows how good that team was.
Those two played up last season and are big reasons a lot of people feel Invasion has a strong chance at winning the national title this year.
However, it’s still a work in progress. While Invasion was impressive, it had to settle for fifth after losing to High Performance 16 Gold in the Gold Bracket Monday.
I think the best match I saw all weekend was between Invasion and KIVA (Kentucky-Indiana Volleyball Academy). Invasion won a very close first game, but KIVA came back to capture the second game. In the third game, Invasion led most of the way, but KIVA started to rally until Invasion’s Elizabeth Sandbothe finished it off. When that team finally comes together, it’s going to be a force.
Taking home the 16 Open title was Union 16 ASICS Ken from Kentucky, coached by Ken Garvey. When I saw that team play during the weekend, the one thing that impressed me was that everyone attacked the ball. I don’t believe they gave their opponent a free ball while I was watching. Everyone got up to swing whether they played front row, back row, libero or setter. I believe the confidence they carried into the tournament pulled them through.
The runner-up in the 16 Open Division came from Circle City, which always fields some very powerful squads.
I saw Circle City play two Rockwood Thunder squads, including the 16 Navy team of Washington High School’s Amanda Vollmer. Rockwood’s second squad slugged it out with Circle City in a close match. On Sunday, Circle City handed Rockwood Thunder 16 Mizuno, coached by Gretchen Moser (and with Borgia’s Emma Kriete) its first loss in the event.
Kriete didn’t play due to injury, but that Rockwood Thunder squad should be one of the teams to watch down the road.
Another impressive Gateway Region team in the 16s division was SWI Crush 16 Black.
Other locals playing at the tournament included Borgia’s Alivia Brinker and Jordan Kriete with Momentum 17 Navy. I’m sure there were others playing, but with that many courts and teams, it’s hard to keep up.
I ran into a lot of folks with area ties there. Borgia Assistant Coach Andy Halaz was helping to lead a High Performance 13 girls team. Former Washington assistant Shane Weber is the head coach of Rockwood Thunder 15 Mizuno, a team which was seeded pretty high, but has some key injuries right now. Former ECC Assistant Coach Ben O’Day is the head coach for the High Performance 17 Gold squad.
It seemed to be a well-run event and another positive for the St. Louis Convention & Visitors Commission. This year’s field was stronger and the event should get better next year.
Who knows, maybe St. Louis will have the Presidents’ Day event which draws in the big teams in the near future, even better than Chicago or Omaha.
And, by hosting events like that, St. Louis can continue to build a strong reputation in the sports world. Keeping the Rams would solidify that even more.