The depth of St. Louis fans’ excitement over the arrival o
ST. LOUIS (AP) _ The depth of St. Louis fans’ excitement over the arrival of the Rams won’t be known until sales begin on the more than 40,000 seat licenses required by the move agreement.
But if Tuesday’s outpouring is any indication, fans here are ready for some football.
``I never thought it would happen,″ said an exuberant Steve Beishir, 34, as he clutched a beer in one hand and a Rams bumper sticker in the other. ``With all the letdowns over the years, and not getting an expansion team, to see it actually happen is wonderful. It’s a great day to be in St. Louis.″
Beishir and several dozen other fans gathered at a downtown restaurant to watch on television as Rams owner Georgia Frontiere signed the agreement to move the team to St. Louis. The city has been without professional football since the Cardinals skipped to Phoenix in early 1988.
Applications for the personal seat licenses, which range in price from $250 to $4,500 per ticket, were streaming into FANS, Inc. offices.
``We have 15 operators on duty and they have been busy all day,″ spokesman Ray McDonald said. ``We’ve been busy all day, but we’ve been backed up since the announcement was made.″
``So far,″ McDonald said Tuesday afternoon, ``we’ve taken about 2,000 applications, with an average of about six tickets per application.″
The fans at the restaurant seemed unconcerned at the high price of the Rams, who were 4-12 last season. The Rams will get a $260 million domed stadium to play in, a $15 million practice facility to prepare in and a friendly $250,000 annual lease that won’t cut into profits. The city is covering the Rams’ $30 million debt to Anaheim, Calif., and paying $15 million in assorted relocation fees.
``They paid a lot,″ said James Sardo, 46, a vacationing mail carrier. ``But I guess you have to pay a lot to get into the big leagues. We needed something to fill that stadium. How many tractor pulls can you book?″
John Wantz, general manager of the TGI Fridays restaurant, greeted the announcement with a sigh of relief.
``It will really help,″ said Wantz, who opened the restaurant about a month after the St. Louis Cardinals baseball team went on strike in August. He noted that several restaurants and bars in downtown had folded since then.
``This looked like an ideal location when it was planned,″ Wantz said. ``We’re two blocks from the baseball stadium, five blocks from the new football stadium and eight blocks from the new hockey arena. And no one was playing in any of them.″
``It’s about time they put together a team that could get a team,″ said Jeff Eilert, owner of Jay’s on the Landing, a sports bar even closer to the new, still unfinished stadium. ``It looked bad for us there for a while. There were too many egos involved and everyone was looking for what was good for them rather than what was good for the city.
``St. Louis deserves this. We needed this to be a first-class sports city. Now all we need is an NBA team.″