St. Lou…is Leader in Sports & Sportsmanship
By Robyn Frankel
“St. Louis has a long sports legacy, but its history of ‘firsts’ is legendary,” says Frank Viverito, president of the St. Louis Sports Commission, the privately funded nonprofit organization that makes St. Louis a better place to live, visit, work and play.
The list of “firsts” includes
- Football’s first-ever forward pass thrown in 1906 by St. Louis University players
- First-ever Olympics held in the United States and in the Western Hemisphere in 1904, which also was only the third Olympiad
- The St. Louis Soccer League, founded in 1907, was the nation’s only fully professional soccer league of its day
- Women’s International Bowling Congress was founded in St. Louis in 1916
- The National Senior Olympics was formed in St. Louis in 1985
- The birthplace of corkball and the Gateway Corkball Club, the oldest cork ball club in the world was established in 1929 in St. Louis
- Tennis’ renowned Davis Cup was created by St. Louis native Dwight F. Davis an American tennis player and politician
Over the years, St. Louis has demonstrated a vibrancy and resiliency that is unmatched in cities across America when it comes to sports. “St. Louis consistently ranks in the top tier of the best sports cities in America,” says Viverito.
Beyond the renowned major leagues’ St. Louis Cardinals and St. Louis Blues, two independent league professional baseball teams are also located in the St. Louis area, the River City Rascals who play in O’Fallon Missouri and the Gateway Grizzlies who play in Sauget Illinois. The area also has professional horse racing at Fairmount Park in Collinsville Illinois and two professional car racing and drag racing tracks. One is the Gateway Motorsports Park in Madison Illinois and the other is the Tri-City Speedway in Pontoon Beach Illinois.
But, St. Louis’ love of sports extends far beyond professional sports. Minor league, college and high school teams attract large crowds, and marathons and half-marathons, run/walk and bicycling events, and adult and children’s teams for soccer, softball, volleyball, basketball, lacrosse and other sports attract large numbers of participants, as well as spectators.
Nationally, nearly three quarters of all adults claim to be sports fans and report spending, on average, nearly eight hours per week tuning in to their favorite sport or about 11 hours playing their favorite sport.
St. Louis likely exceeds national norms, according to Viverito. Indoors, outdoors and all across the metropolitan region, people of every age and income bracket not only watch sports, they actively participate in a wide range of organized and informal team and individual sports activities.
“Being a sports fan is a deeply-rooted heritage that has connected generations of St. Louisans to one another and to the community because nothing compares to sports in overcoming many of the barriers that divide people generationally, economically and socially,” says Viverito..
The St. Louis Sports Commission has been a vibrant part of St. Louis’ sports history since 1989. In addition to attracting major sporting events to St. Louis, the St. Louis Sports Commission operates the St. Louis Sport Foundation, a charitable affiliate focused on promoting sportsmanship, creating positive environments for youth sports, and reinforcing the importance of respect, civility, selflessness and integrity. Go to www.stlsports.org for more information about the organization and volunteer opportunities.