Sporty St. Louis
Fans, spectators and athletes (chess champions, too!) step up to the plate for fun
By Mary Hendron
It’s always sports season in fan-tastic St. Louis. Cheer on the pros or the best young athletes in the nation as they compete on fields, pitches, ice, ovals or courts.
Baseball rules and the Cardinals are kings in this baseball-crazed city on the Mississippi. Busch Stadium teems with Redbird supporters from April through (hopefully!) October. Visiting teams and their fans receive warm welcomes at the ballpark and in the lively Ballpark Village entertainment complex next door. Legendary players and teams from the team’s 125-year-long history are honored within the hallowed halls of the Cardinals Hall of Fame Museum, located at Ballpark Village.
Take a tour
Outside the stadium, lifelike bronzes depict stop-action motion of Cardinals players who are enshrined in Cooperstown. Inside, fans can follow the game on giant-sized replay screens, nibble on traditional snacks or order up world cuisine, and score official MLB collectibles from specialty shops. Visiting during the off-season? No worries. Tours of Busch Stadium and the Cardinals Hall of Fame & Museum take place all year long, no rain delays guaranteed.
More than a game
There is affordable family fun at the minor league home of the Gateway Grizzlies. The professional baseball players in the Frontier League put on an entertaining show and the Grizzlies are the highlight of it all. Located off the very first exit when entering Illinois, GCS Ballpark is a picturesque stadium in the heart of Sauget, IL. From the Hot Tub Suite to the new all-inclusive area, the game can be viewed from many different angles. Hang out afterwards for great events such as concerts, the kids’ Marshmallow Fight Night, the mom’s Diamond Dig Night or the dad’s Big Screen TV Hunt. The club has been featured in USA Today, Sports Illustrated and The Travel Channel’s Man vs. Food for “Baseball’s Best Burger.” The thick, bacon- and cheese-topped all-beef patty is sandwiched between a sliced Krispy Kreme doughnut.
St. Louis has been singing the Blues NHL-style since 1967. Fast-paced, powerful play is the name of the game within the cool confines of Scottrade Center—home of the St. Louis Blues. The team sports “Blue Note” jerseys when players take to the ice accompanied by their brassy, namesake tune, W.C. Handy’s classic St. Louis Blues March. Loyal Blues fans, faces painted blue and gold, heat up the icy atmosphere with board-bashing cheers. Warm up with a furry hug from Louie, the team’s frosty blue bear mascot, who roams the arena between slap shots.
Mats and hoops
The quick-change artist set-up crew at Scottrade Center transforms the arena from ice to mats to boards. Spot top collegiate athletes making their moves at the NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships. Between championship sessions, wrestling enthusiasts celebrate the sport at Fan Festival events held at St. Louis Union Station. When the mats are rolled up, the boards are put down. It’s nothing but net during Arch Madness, the Missouri Valley Conference Men’s Basketball Tournament. The stakes are high at this 10-team tourney: the winner gets an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
Chaifetz Arena is home court for the Saint Louis University Billikens basketball teams. The men and women’s Billikens compete in the NCAA Division I Atlantic 10 Conference and play before enthusiastic crowds of students, alumni and local hoops fans.
Get your kicks
Get your kicks cheering on the St. Louis Football Club of the United Soccer League. The STL FC’s home turf is the ultra-up-to-date World Wide Technology Soccer Park in suburban St. Louis. Soccer is a time-honored sport in the Gateway City, which is known as a hotbed of the game in the U.S. Sports trivia buffs take note: five St. Louis kickers played on the U.S. team that stunned the soccer world by defeating the dominant British team during the 1950 World Cup.
Have a need for speed? Gateway Motorsports Park has you covered. Just a five-minute drive east from the Gateway Arch brings the fast-paced, revved-up action of NHRA and NASCAR to four-wheel aficionados. BYO or rent a kart to push the envelope on the Kartplex track. For an awesome indoor karting adventure with speeds up to 45 mph, check out Pole Position Raceway.
Brains trump brawn at the Chess Club & Scholastic Center of Saint Louis. The center trains the next generation of players in the tactics of one of the world’s oldest and best-loved board games. Major professional chess championships are held on-site and the World Chess Hall of Fame honors the accomplishments of the game’s grandmasters.
Hit the slopes
Each winter, what goes up must come down at Hidden Valley Ski Resort’s Ski.Tube.Ride., where snow bunnies hop aboard a new beginner’s chairlift, serious skiers and snowboarders tackle the slopes, and everyone can swoosh down the 1,200-foot-long Polar Plunge Snow Tube course.
From tree to tree
Put a little zip in your life. The Go Ape! Zip Line & Treetop Adventure course in Creve Coeur Lake Park really swings with rope ladders, five zip lines and a treetop obstacle course. Nine zips ranging from the smallish Baby Bear to the super-lengthy Barnburner comprise the Grafton Zipline with its Mississippi River vistas. At Meramec Caverns, the iconic Route 66 roadside attraction, head underground on the fabled cave tour and above it all on Caveman Zipline’s three swinging sky-bridges and four zip rides.