Enterprise Center – St. Louis Blues
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In nearly 50 years of play, the St. Louis Blues have thrilled fans with a blue-collar style of hockey, spanning generations. Since becoming the sixth and last of the expansion franchises in 1967 to join the NHL, the team has represented a community which has remained intensely loyal to their club. It is hard to believe Baltimore nearly was awarded the final expansion club, after the Wirtz family and James Norris cut a deal to get rid of their fiscally hemorrhaging St. Louis Arena.
Like many teams, the Blues have enjoyed a cast of characters in their history, players named Mr. Goalie, the Golden Brett, Barc, and Wick. Fans immediately know who is being talked about when they hear these nicknames. And upon their retirement, scores of former players have remained to call the Gateway City home, like Noel Picard and Bob Plager, a person who is the longest serving team employee at 50 years of service.
Recent ownership has given cause for new optimism, although the team has struggled in the post-season despite so much regular season success. Along with the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Note has gone the longest without winning a Stanley Cup.
This new ownership and an infusion of solid off-ice leadership have vaulted the team to the second largest increase in franchise value at 15% (the Montreal Canadiens hold the top spot in franchise value increase at 18%). And there are many reasons for this.
The team has introduced a theme called the Heartland of Hockey. Combined with a dedicated commitment to growing the game and expanding amateur hockey in the area, you will see this play out in the team introductions as Blues players are joined by youth players and with references at various places during your visit. I live in the city and the increased participation in growing the game over the past few years has been solid.
The team has been clever in developing and expanding vital revenue streams without overpricing the traditional means for making money. Not owning the building where they play hinders this, but the team forges ahead and is conscious of the image while they do it.
The better quality product on the ice helps, even despite post-season disappointment in recent seasons. But the real benefit comes from the experience each fan enjoys when they step inside the Enterprise Center for a professional hockey experience. Taking a page from the St. Louis Cardinals, who play baseball just one mile east at Busch Stadium, the Blues listen to their fans. It is not easy-speak, it is action and application.
Food & Beverage 4
The culinary offerings are an ongoing process which continues to upgrade year after year. And for the most part, prices have pretty much remained the same on most items. How often do you see that?
Along with the standard choices, there are a few new and improved options. There are new BBQ (section 123), Mexican (section 111) and Wok (section 124) stations serving cuisine-specific menu items from $9 to $12.
Not new, but still pretty neat, is Hat Trick Helmet Nachos, served with BBQ chicken or pork for $9.75. Served with a soda and it is $15.
Main entree items include the St. Louis Beer & Pretzel Dog (a jumbo beer dog with bacon, dill pickle, brown mustard and beer cheese – $12), Pile Up Burger – $12, Philly Cheese Steak Sandwich – $12, Jumbo Hot Dog – $9.25 or Regular Hot Dog – $8.
As for items commonly found at NHL hockey arenas for comparison sake, prices are pretty fair for the most part.
For adult beverages, Anheuser Busch products are sold at Scottrade Center. A 16 oz. bottle of beer is $8.50 to $9.25, wine is $8, 16 oz. draft beer is $9.
For soft drinks (Pepsi products are sold) and other beverages, a 20 oz. bottled soda is $5.50, bottled water is $5, coffee, hot chocolate or 10 Tim Horton Timbits are $4 each. A regular fountain soda is $5.50 while a bottomless soda is $8.50.
Upstairs, carnivalesque food, deep-fried Oreos, funnel cakes, and cotton candy are available for your sweet tooth.
You can choose from a variety of snacks where regular popcorn is $5, but bottomless popcorn is $7.50. A soft pretzel with cheese and a small soda is $5.50.
I remain surprised the Blues could not come with nachos with BLUE and GOLD chips to go with the yellow cheese (or for that matter BLUE CHIPS with GOLD CHEESE, to further the branded identity). Whether they be Blues Nachos or Mucho Nachos, the price is $9.50.
There are several options for a slightly better cut of food offerings, one of which requires a club ticket, the other wide open for all fans.
14th and Clark, which faces the intersection it is named after, offers a carving station, pasta options, hot dogs and numerous snack options along with all drinks included in the price of your ticket. The club tickets range from $75 to $125 and you can get in an hour before gates open to the restaurant.
Come and go as you please at this multi-level spot during and after the game, even watching play on the ice through closed-circuit television. When you are ready to see the action with your own eyes, step right out to the main concourse and then into the main seating bowl at the main concourse level.
Just above this more formal area is Top Shelf, a large area of open space with raised tables for groups to gather and dine. Food can be bought from the concession areas to this viewing area, also at the end where the Blues shoot twice between sections 326 and 331.
The stage is set when you watch fans walking to the arena. The jerseys span multiple decades from Gassoff to Liut, from Berenson to Hull and from Joseph to Oates. And most match the correct era of when the player played as to what jersey he wore. With more than twelve major uniform changes since 1967, the variety of these jerseys is wide-ranging.
As you consider where to sit, keep in mind a few things. Know prices listed below are face value for a single seat. There are plenty of promotions and special pricing packages available, though.
For purposes of this review, imagine you are sitting in section 320. This is directly behind the broadcast booth in the upper level on the center red line. This is also the side where the penalty boxes are. The benches face your seat.
The Blues shoot twice to your right in front of sections 109-110. Across the ice, the Blues are at the left in front of section 102; the visitors are to your right in front of section 104. Both teams enter their ice to the blue line side of the bench. To slap hands and wish the players well, find your way down to 102 or 104.
The arena restaurant, known as The Bud Light Zone, used to be open to the general public but is now open strictly to club seat holders. This will likely change for the 2016-17 season. It offers views of the ice and provides a perfect atmosphere for dining while enjoying the game. The 500-seat venue is on the club level above sections 108-111.
In the seating bowl, seats are comfortable and adequately padded. Space between rows can be a little tight in the higher levels of the arena. Aisles are wide with handrails up the middle. Sections are pretty much right on top of the ice.
Avoid the sides down low which tend to be some of the more expensive seats. The glare from the glass prevents a clear view of the action unless play is directly in front of you. Up high in the lower level is nice, but for the price, get an upper-level ticket on the sides.
Dynamic pricing is a clever way to upwardly adjust prices before the season begins based on the opponent and/or the attractive dates on the NHL calendar. The Blues determine how ticket prices are adjusted, with the popularity of an opponent, day of week and time of year dictating price. For instance, a game against hated rival Chicago would have a higher value than a game against Florida if all other things are equal.
In addition, overall prices have increased, a reverse of the undervaluing of overall ticket prices under previous ownership. For comparison sake, consider during the 2011-12 season, the cheapest face value ticket in section 322, row K (or higher) on a Tuesday night against Phoenix was $21. Two years later with all conditions the same, that same seat is priced at $38.
Let’s say for that same class of game, you want to sit a little closer to the ice, right behind the goal where the Blues shoot twice in section 109. During the 2011-12 season, that ticket would cost $51, but for the 2015-2016 season, it costs $60.
Now, if you consider a popular, high-value game from both seasons, you will find the cheapest face value ticket has risen from $48 to $105. The highest priced face value ticket for a highly popular game along the glass in row A approaches $300.
With respect to these upward pricing changes, the team should not be criticized for these moves as they aim to yield a profit. The former approach of lower prices, but quantity as an offset, simply did not result in profitable results. The current approach of higher ticket prices AND getting nearly 20,000+ nightly is the track the club is on now and should be expected to continue. It is the right balance they seek.
The best seat for the money is section 318 in the upper deck, row B on the balcony. Seats in this section provide a view of both benches on the end where the Blues shoot twice. Here you get the best views and are near the escalator which connects this 300 level with the main concourse.
Why not row A, you ask? It’s simple. Depending upon the game, a seat in row A costs $17-$34 more than a ticket in row B. Choose row B.
Once you have selected your seat and game day arrives, focus on getting to the arena early. Gates open one hour before game time and will be stacked in the main lobby. As you enter the main gate, make a quick right and follow the outer perimeter to visit the Blues section of St. Louis Sports Hall of Fame. It covers all former and current local pro and collegiate sports. Until a permanent site can be found, the artifacts are cleverly displayed in large glass cases throughout the outer perimeter of the main concourse and in several areas of the upper concourse. It is worth spending time viewing.
As you first walk into the arena, one of the first things you might notice here is, unlike the new arenas of the last twenty years, the entire main concourse is closed off from viewing the game live. You must enter one of the thirty-foot corridors to each section and then enter the seating bowl to watch play live. The top shelf offers a limited open view on the one end with high tables to set food and drink down, but that is it.
The concourses are wide at the lower level but quite narrow at the upper level. At both levels, walkways are often congested largely due to the concession lines spilling into the open areas. It is congested up top and less congested throughout the main concourse.
Restrooms, food choices, and merchandise are plentiful at all levels, but if you want some of the specialty items, visit the main level before heading to your upper-level seat. Access to the upper levels can be gained through escalators and an elevator or two for those with mobility issues.
To see the pre-skate, get to the lower level along the glass no later than 50 minutes before game time and position yourself at section 117. You will get a great seat for the 18-minute warm-up which starts 35 minutes prior to game time. The home team walks from their dressing room across the ice from this section.
As you wait for the sound of skates, take in the team’s pageantry: division, conference and other distinctive banners hang above the West end of the ice. Banners honoring the six retired numbers belong to #2 Al McInnis (1994-2004), #3 Bob Gassoff (1974-77), #8 Barclay Plager (1967-77), #11 Brian Sutter (1976-88), #16 Brett Hull (1987-98), and #24 Bernie Federko (1976-89).
The four distinct symbols (one of which is unofficially retired) hang above the east end of the ice. One represents longtime HOF broadcaster, Dan Kelly (with a DK inside a green clover honoring his Irish heritage). Another represents Bob Plager, a longtime defenseman and employee with the Blues since year one (with a #5).
A third symbol (#14 with a flame inside it) honors Doug Wickenheiser (1983-87), a popular forward and owner of the game-winning goal against Calgary, the night of the “Monday Night Miracle” in 1986. The fourth and last symbol is #7 which honors four former star players; Red Berenson, Gary Unger, Joe Mullen, and Keith Tkachuk. This number is not worn by a current Blues player and is “unofficially” retired.
Of the things you will see, hear and experience that are unique to the Blues, the famous march when the Blues step onto the ice, another is when the crowd revs up for a power play and then finally, once things have slowed down after a home goal is scored, a special celebration after they score a goal from a person named “Towel Man”.
Unlike too many pro hockey arenas, the classic pump organ is a fixture at the Scottrade Center. Since their inaugural season, the team has entered the ice to the sound of the W.C Handy song, “St. Louis Blues.” The team’s organist sits among the fans near the stairwell to section 328. Perched near the Top Shelf Deck, Jeremy Boyer bangs out the classic organ tunes.
Just after “St. Louis Blues” plays, the music changes tune to the song made popular by the hometown company, Anheuser Busch, with “Here Comes the King.” You will also hear this song during slow moments where the fans need a jolt. It works at Cardinals games, too.
When a goal is scored, the top of the arena comes near to being blown off. In addition to the loud foghorn (an added feature in all NHL arenas with St. Louis being the last club to adopt the post-goal alarm), the organ blares a modern version of “When the Saints Go Marching In.”
It’s not over yet, though. At the first break after a home goal is scored, train your eyes to the front railing of section 314 in the upper deck. Out of seat 18 in row F, The Towel Man descends to perform. I’ll leave it at that. Ron Baechle puts on quite a show.
Intended arena noise also includes Charles Glenn, a jolly and rotund fellow who can’t be missed or heard. He roams the arena with a microphone in hand, encouraging fans to sing “When the Blues Go Marching In,” a play on when “The Saints Go Marching In.” He also belts out memorable versions of both national anthems in distinctive fashion, a real gem in the crown of witnessing a game in St. Louis.
For the 2015-16 season, the team has added a pep band, stationed at The Bud Light Zone. They rock the house near section 330.
One of the things the Blues are doing during the 2015-16 season is adding more nights which honor the team’s heritage. Now attending a game on a night where the team honors its captains or goaltenders might not sound like fun for an out-of-town visitor. But I can tell you it is pretty neat to attend a Flames game when Owen Nolan is honored for playing in his 1,000 game or witnessing the Sabres game when they honor Hall of Fame broadcaster Rick Jeanneret. Consider one of these types of games in St. Louis.
Scottrade is in downtown St. Louis, just a mile or so west of the Gateway Arch. It seems like just yesterday the downtown area was a bustling place. There are just a few places to eat within walking distance of the arena.
Despite the urge, do not go inside historic Union Station no matter what the curiosity. The once busy transportation hub and, more recently, a shopping and dining destination, is pretty much abandoned now. While there are plans to revive it, one involving an MLS stadium, wait until you hear the effort has been completed.
Across the west side street from it, though, there is a restaurant at the Drury Inn. Lombardo’s is a magnificent place to dine and you can park on the street for free and then walk to the game.
Maggie O’Brien’s caters to a pub crowd and serves a tasty array of sandwiches and brews. Also consider Harry’s, a little more upscale and just west of Union Station. This is certainly the place to be after the game, too.
One last nearby place is Syberg’s, on the first floor of the Hampton Inn along Market Street just west of Union Station and across the street from the earlier, mentioned Harry’s. When at Syberg’s Restaurant, order shark chunks as an appetizer. I have never seen them offered anywhere.
Anyone visiting St. Louis would be well-served in finding barbeque in the Gateway City. Keep in mind, though, St. Louis style BBQ is different than what you might be used to. In this city, you will find a heavily sauced morsel on your plate and in flavor is described as a very sweet, slightly acidic, sticky, tomato-based barbecue sauce.
If you like barbeque, visit Pappy’s, a little more than two miles west of Scottrade at 3106 Olive Street. The line can be long, but be assured; it is worth every minute you wait. Consider their famous ribs and pulled pork, order the fried corn on the cob and sweet potato fries as sides, and wash it all down with their sweet tea.
Just south of the arena a few miles is the Soulard area, near the Anheuser Busch brewery and filled with a farmer’s market and plenty of eateries with shopping. Parking is cheap or free and offers good fun either before the game or just after. Some restaurants allow for fans to park there, enjoy a meal or drinks before the game and a shuttle to the Scottrade Center, free of charge.
Also while in St. Louis, find time to visit The Hill neighborhood, a community steeped in rich Italian tradition just ten minutes southwest of the arena. The neighborhood’s north edge is along Highway 44 while the east edge is along Kingshighway. The west edge is along Hampton while the south edge is along Southwest Avenue. The area is home to some of the best Italian restaurants in the area, some just large enough for a dozen tables. St. Louis Bocce Club is also here.
Also, whatever you do, do not leave the area without having a cannoli for dessert. Missouri Bakery at 2012 Edwards Street is where you find the best.
Lastly, if you like Frozen Custard, you cannot go wrong with Ted Drewes. Along historic Route 66 since 1941, this location is just nine miles southwest of Scottrade at 6726 Chippewa. The famed custard stand swells after a hockey game, but don’t be concerned as the staff really moves the crowd through the line. Try one of their “concretes” and when you order, ask them to show you what makes it a concrete.
Things to consider doing while in St. Louis when you have open time are the Gateway Arch ground, currently undergoing a massive, multi-year renovation. Travel up one of the trams inside one of the legs to the top and underneath the ground, be sure to walk through the museum of westward expansion and see the movie on how the Arch was constructed.
The St. Louis Zoo is one of the best zoos in the country (and it is only one of three United States zoos free to the public) all contained in Forest Park, a multi-purpose city jewel actually larger than New York City’s Central Park.
A few things describe the three generations of Blues fans, but chief among them is “intense loyalty.” Through thick and thin, Blues fans have supported their club, of course, more fervently since the team has been highly competitive the last few years.
Get to know them as they are friendly, informative and highly passionate. There are many generations of fans who are regulars at Blues games. If you come to support the visiting team, simply do so with class and dignity. If you wish to practice “in-your-face” cheering, you might just go home with a different looking face.
There are several options for parking should you choose to drive in the multitude of small lots and several nearby parking garages. Of course, there is metered parking as well. The garage next to the arena is reserved for season ticket holders who buy parking memberships. Parking garages near the arena range from $5 to $20.
Small parking lots of various sizes can be found south and west of the arena. The further you go away from the park, the less you pay, but you can get a pretty good spot for $10 and only have to walk just a quarter mile.
If you want to drive to the game, but desire a cheaper option, try the metered parking north of the arena one block along Market Street. If you cannot find a spot there, keep going north to find a spot along one of the streets which parallels market. Although you will need to be conscious of the one-way streets which surround the arena, it is worth it.
If you choose the meter option, know after 7:00 PM, meters are free Monday through Saturday. They are free all day on Sunday. On weekdays, because you can park for a maximum of two hours at a time during chargeable meter time, find a spot around 5:00 PM, load coins (quarters preferred) in the amount of $2.00 ($0.25 per fifteen minutes) and your parking ends up being pretty cheap.
Another good way (and the method I use) to get to the game is through MetroLink, St. Louis’ light rail system. The trains are neat, clean and safe and there is a station right at the arena, the Civic Center Station. This is also the same complex which shares a facility with Greyhound bus service and Amtrak train service. Although the light rail system is pretty identifiable, make sure you board the right one.
MetroLink lines run from the Western suburbs to downtown and stretch across the Mississippi River to Illinois where there are eleven stops.
One train begins in the northwest part of St. Louis County at the Airport station (where there are actually two stops, one for each terminal) and heads east to the Shiloh-Scott Air Force Base station. This is considered the RED line.
The other train begins in the southwest part of St. Louis County at the Shrewsbury station and heads east to the Fairview Heights, Illinois station, five stops short of the Shiloh-Scott Air Force Base station. This is considered the BLUE line.
From either of the furthest west stations on either the RED or BLUE line, it takes about 30 minutes to get to the arena. The southernmost trip has a little more scenery than the northernmost trip.
Cost is $2.50 one-way or $5 round trip. Reduced fares of $1.25 are offered to seniors 65+, customers with disabilities, customers who possess a valid Medicare ID, and children aged 5 through 12.
The system operates on a pseudo-honor system. Buy your ticket at the automated kiosk, validate it only when you are ready to board. From the time of validation, you have two hours to use the ticket. Security randomly checks tickets and issues citations on the spot so be careful.
Return on Investment 5
You will come away with good value here. Park on the street, walk a short distance to the arena, save a little for the bottomless souvenir soda cup and sit in the $29 seats and you are in great shape.
Although with team success comes the likelihood of increased prices, it still is a good value, it always has been.
Merchandise is fairly priced as well with always something offered at a special value, something most teams seem to be doing these days. While it might not be the best-looking hat or shirt, it still is of good value at the $10 or $15 price point.
Free WiFi is available as of late season at STC_Public and will soon become a catalyst to even more worthwhile guest experience at the game.
GAME PROGRAM – although the club is in the process of returning to selling a standard game program, fans must currently settle for the $1 roster card which comes with current stats and a photo of a featured player on the reverse.
MERCHANDISE – the club offers an array of merchandise throughout the arena, but their main store, True Blues, is just to the left of the main gate along Clark Street (also known as Brett Hull Way). Check the rear of the store for close-outs on items from previous years and discontinued models. There are good values here as well as some high-end items including autographed goalie masks from some of the greats.
Also, the team offers a featured item each night, normally a standard type product at a highly attractive price point. On the other side of the arena from the main store, fans can purchase various eras of team jerseys and have them lettered and numbered during the game.
HOF PLAYER STATUES – just before entering the building at 14th and Brett Hull Way, be sure to visit the three statues outside Scottrade which honor Hall of Famers Bernie Federko, Al MacInnis, and Brett Hull.
LOUIE – the Blues’ fuzzy bear mascot is quite the lovable symbol to young fans. He is everywhere and a key fixture in the Jr. Blue Note Club.
CLEVER PROMOTIONS – it used to be intermission was a time for yawning, stretching and finding something to do for 15-20 minutes. At Scottrade, there is always something going on, at breaks, intermissions, pre-game, post-game, etc. It is a 3-4 hour event which requires rest and preparation before you enter. I love it and you will, too. It is a sensory treat to witness a Blues game and the club realizes, as the Cardinals long have figured out, you have to add value to the experience. Good stuff, and, as compared to the other 30 clubs, stands as one of the best experiences in the league.
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