Mizzou football made it's highly anticipated return to the dome in St. Louis this past Saturday in a tough 34-27 win over the Memphis Tigers to move to 4-0 on the season. It was a great atmosphere as over 45,000 fans packed into the dome to watch their team and relive memories from when both the St. Louis Rams and Mizzou football both played games in the dome years ago.
It was the first time Missouri played in the dome since 2010, when the Tigers used to take on the team from across the river in a heated rivalry. The possibility of playing in the dome came from the collaboration of the University of Missouri and Athletic director Desiree Reed-Francois, the "Zou to the Lou" organization, and the St. Louis Sports Commission, the group that handles sporting events in the dome.
Missouri's athletic department bought out the original game that was supposed to be played in Memphis in order to move it to St. Louis and the goal was to help deepen Missouri's roots in the St. Louis area.
The game provided a great opportunity for Mizzou to show off to the city what their program is about and showed commitment to growing its presence in St. Louis. St. Louis is where most of the elite high school talent in the state comes from and Missouri has struggled to gain full support of the metro area in the past. Missouri's roster also carries 18 players that come from St. Louis so it was an opportunity for them to play in front of their family and friends in the city they proudly represent.
All of this had people wondering; Why not play in St. Louis annually? Why was Missouri absent from playing in St. Louis for so long? It's great for recruiting and it provides for a unique tradition that consists of creating excitement for Mizzou Football in the St. Louis area which seems like a no-brainer given the city lost out on professional football when the Rams moved to Los Angeles in 2016.
There's just one issue with continuing playing games in the dome, though. The dome is badly in need of a renovation. While many enjoyed the prospect of playing in St. Louis again, fans couldn't stop talking about the horrid field conditions of the old dome turf. Missouri experienced lots of attrition throughout its game against Memphis and many are blaming the turf for the increase in injuries.
Not only were the field conditions less than ideal, but the dome looked dark, dingy, and decrepit on the broadcast. While the dome holds a lot of nostalgia for football fans and St. Louisans across the area, it's an uninspiring place to play football, but that doesn't mean that games can't still be played there.
In order for that to happen, however, there needs to be an increased financial commitment directed towards making improvements to the dome. Now, we aren't asking for a complete tear down and a complete makeover of the dome, but a few minor improvements would go a long way towards making the dome an attractive place to play for sports teams as well as a more attractive destination for conventions, concerts and other events.
So, what would that look like? what would fans like to see done to improve the dome, you ask? Maybe some new and improved video boards would be nice. Maybe a jumbotron in the middle of the dome. Also, knocking out some of the roof to add windows for natural light would make the games look better on TV. Even a fresh coat of paint around the place would do wonders for its presentation.
It's not like St. Louis and the dome don't have the means to make some of these improvements either. Many are wondering where all the money from the $790 million settlement from the NFL following the STL-NFL lawsuit is going. It would only make sense that a good chunk of the money goes towards dome improvements given the entire lawsuit was centered around the dome and why the Rams left for greener pastures in Los Angeles.
While St. Louis green-lit a plan for how to divide the settlement money last December and is reportedly giving a percentage of the funds to the dome at America's Center, we don't actually know what the money is being used for. Nonetheless, St. Louis is still taking surveys from citizens about what they want to see the money go towards.
You'll likely find people arguing that the city shouldn't invest so much money in a place that only holds so many events per year, but St. Louis would likely see a substantial return on investment by sprucing up the dome and attracting more events and a potential permanent tenant in the future.
Speaking of potential permanent tenants, the St. Louis Battlehawks of the XFL are returning to the dome in 2024 and the XFL even chose St. Louis as their destination for next season's XFL championship. The XFL appears here to stay, especially after their apparent merger with the USFL, another spring football league that was initially competing with the XFL for support. That said, it would appear that there's enough going on in the dome to make improvements and football may be making a permanent return when you combine the Battlehawks along with the potential of Mizzou playing games there annually.
At the very least, let's get rid of that old turf and give these guys a better surface to play on. That's the least St. Louis could do and it would show seriousness in maintaining football in St. Louis and would promote player safety. Not to mention it would just look better.
St. Louis could be a special place to host sporting events and play football games for the foreseeable future if the city would consider making some of these upgrades. Mizzou football and the XFL should embrace playing in St. Louis every year, but in order for that to realistically continue, the city has to embrace football and do what it takes to give teams a viable surface to play on and improve fan experience by making necessary upgrades,