Why St. Louis is not a ‘dying city’

Too many times I’ve heard people tell me “St. Louis is a dying city.”

Nearly every time it’s by people who have never even been there, or who have only passed through.

So I want you to hear it from someone born and raised in STL of what the city has to offer.

Historic Sports: The legacy of St. Louis sports is far from over, but we’ve laid a pretty solid foundation. The St. Louis Cardinals, housed at Busch Stadium, is the second-greatest team in all of baseball history (behind the New York Yankees). With 11 World Series championships, the Cardinals have a beloved fanbase known as some of the best fans in Major League Baseball. That’s because when you go to a game, you won’t see fans throwing things on the field at either team. If you’re a fan of the away team, you might get some heckling, but it’s all in good fun. Busch Stadium isn’t known for being a place to cause fights or scare anyone, but a family-fun atmosphere where you can make memories. I know I’ve made plenty at both the “new” and old Busch Stadium.

Building on the importance the Cardinals play in our City, you now have to mention Ballpark Village. It’s a sports fans paradise filled with ginormous flat-screen TVs and all the food & beer you could want. Plus, if the game gets over late at night, head upstairs to the different bars and keep the night going. Or walk across the street to the Hilton St. Louis at the Ballpark and go alllllll the way up to the Three-Sixty bar. This is probably the greatest view in all of St. Louis, next to being on top of the Arch. But we’ll get to that later.

St. Louis is not only known as a ‘baseball town,’ but also a hockey town. The St. Louis Blues have a strong fanbase who love the team no matter how many times we lose in the playoffs. So many years I remember growing up and watching the Blues be one of the top teams in the entire league… then they lose first or second round in the playoffs. But, finally! Gloria! The St. Louis Blues became Stanley Cup Champions in 2019. The first ever cup for the team, fans finally felt a sense of peace. The Blues impact goes much further than just their games on the ice and the fans in the stands. There are other teams based around the Blues. One is known as the Junior Blues, which is basically a “select” team filled with some of the youngest stars. I knew a lot of kids in high-school who went played on this team, some ended up in the NHL. There’s also the St. Louis Blues Warriors hockey team. It’s a team built of veterans who play hockey together to build community and combat PTSD. I learned about this team when I did a story on the Central Illinois Veteran Warriors. These teams have tournaments playing Veteran Warriors teams across the country.

Sadly, to talk about St. Louis’ sports history, you have to mention the St. Louis Rams. The NFL team taken out of the city and sent out to LA. Stan Kroenke didn’t think St. Louis was a “football town.” No, Stan, you just had a horrendous team shell out losing seasons over and over. Fans still showed up to your games, I was one of them, but your lack of care for the team and the City proved to be the downfall of the St. Louis Rams. And don’t try to tell me the fanbase in LA is any better. When 65% of the fans at Sofi Stadium are from the opposing team, you don’t really have a fanbase. Luckily, the STL Rams gave us some of the greatest stories in NFL history. Kurt Warner’s Super Bowl victory is one of those. Go check out American Underdog starring Zachary Levi, it’s a fantastic movie. It showcases the side of Kurt Warner fans never really got to see.

But after talking about St. Louis’ pro sports past, you also need to talk about the future. St. Louis is the home of the next MLS team, ‘St. Louis City SC.’ Not only is the soccer fanbase strong in St. Louis, but the youth soccer programs in the city are second to none. You have clubs like Scott Gallagher, Ajax, and Lou Fusz that are helping athletes become the next stars. If your kid isn’t ready for that high level of soccer, they can play in leagues at Vetta which has locations around town that offer camps and leagues. In high-school I went to an exhibition game (hosted at Busch Stadium) between Manchester City and Chelsea. Tens of thousands of fans flooded the stadium to watch two of the greatest soccer teams play. All the bars surrounding the stadium were also packed. This showed me the desire for professional soccer is there in St. Louis. One of the greatest parts about the soccer team coming to St. Louis, is the location of the stadium. Let’s talk about that next.

Union Station: As a kid, Union Station was a place I never went to. It wasn’t kept up well, it was known to have crime. Now if you go, it’s been completed reinvented. If you go, you’ll find a world-class aquarium, restaurants, shops, and activities for the kids like zip-lining and major jungle gyms. Not only that, but there’s a pond right in the middle of it that does light and fire shows to the beat of the music at night. And if you need a date night, the Wheel is the perfect place. It’s a ferris wheel that was brought to the Lou a couple of years ago. I’ve been up in it a few times, and each time I’m blown away. You get a great view of the City, and you can grab a beer at an Anheusur beer truck before you go up. One of the main things you can see while you’re up in the air, is the Arch.

The Arch: I’ve always appreciated the greatness of the Arch. But ever since WWE Royal Rumble came to the Enterprise Center this year, I realized just how awesome it is. It was the centerpiece for all merchandise being sold. And compared to most other cities, I think the Arch made the apparel so much better. The City has done some work around the Arch to make it a place you can come and look at it and walk around. Of course, you can go up in the Arch, if you’re not afraid of heights. There’s also a museum where you learn about the nation’s history.

“Trace the story of the Native Americans, explorers, pioneers, and rebels who made America possible. Featuring six themed exhibit areas, this innovative and interactive museum celebrates America’s pioneering spirit,” the website says.

Food: This is a tough one for me. STL is home to so much good food it’s hard to choose what to talk about first. One of my favorite foods of all-time has to be BBQ ribs, specifically St. Louis style ribs. The dish is served all across the country, and I think it’s safe to say ribs is one of the best barbecue dishes out there. The main place I’d say you gotta try is Pappy’s. It’s well-known and has amazing food. A good middle of the road chain BBQ restaurant is good ole’ Bandanas. Smell that Smoke, amiright?

St. Louis Style Pizza. This one is a controversial one, I’ll admit it. But to me, there’s no better pizza than St. Louis thin-crust pizza. My favorite is Imo’s, but St. Louis Pizza and Wings as well as Deweys and Racanellis are fan favorites. The provel cheese is the key to the pizza. If you like regular pizza, we’ve got plenty of that too, but I’d recommend at least trying Imo’s once and seeing what you think.

If you mention the city’s pizza you gotta mention the Italian food. Yes, you’ve got the Hill which is full of options, but here are a few of my favorites. Rich N Charlies. I’m both an Italian food and seafood lover. So when I tried the tutta mare from Rich N Charlies, I knew I found one of the best dishes out there. You pay $15 for the meal, and you can turn it into 5 meals. It’s a never-ending pile of noodles, sauce, crab and other seafood meat. It’s incredible. There’s also both Bill Gianino’s and Frankie Gianino’s. Yes, they’re owned by the same family. And of course you have to talk about toasted ravioli. Yeah, you’ve probably had regular ravioli before, but toasted ravioli dipped in marinara sauce is a game changer. Let’s head now to the dessert options.

Gooey butter cake. A sweet treat found at just about any St. Louis grocery store, this has to be my favorite dessert out there. It’s very rich, so you’ll want to just have a little at a time, but topped with powdered sugar and filled with ooey gooey goodness, you’ll love it.

Frozen custard. I know this is available elsewhere, but STL has a very strong frozen custard scene. Everyone will tell you to try Ted Drewe’s, which I’d agree, it is great. BUT, I’d tell you to go to Fritz’s. Get the cake batter with cookie dough concrete or shake and you’ll never want a different flavor of ice-cream again. There’s also Silky’s which is really good, too. There’s also Andy’s. Yeah, it’s a chain, but you can’t tell me it’s not good.

Forest Park: What I love about Forest Park is the variety of activities it offers you. You can paddle-board in the beautiful lake, you can just walk and take photos, you can sled down Art Hill when it’s snowing. There’s also plenty of places to just sight see, museums to check out like the Art & History Museums, and a Boathouse Restaurant to grab some food. And of course you have one of the greatest zoos in the country.

St. Louis Zoo: Why does the St. Louis Zoo land in the top 3 zoos in the country every single year? Well for starters, it’s free. You can see all kinds of wildlife in the zoo like lions, tigers, bears (oh my!), penguins, zebras, and more. There’s an ape exhibit you can walk through that I think I can still smell since the last time I visited. For all you reptile and amphibian fans, there’s also a total mansion dedicated to these species. The future of the zoo doesn’t just stop at this location either. Set to debut in 2026, the 425-acre expansion will be called the St. Louis Zoo Wildcare Park.

Lone Elk Park: It’s a place full of elk and bison. You drive through certain parks of the park and then you can stop and walk around. My family loves coming here because you can drive right past bison and they act like you just don’t exist. I’ve also got some great middle school memories coming here and chasing geese across a field, but that’s a story for another day.

Six Flags: It might not be the greatest Six Flags, but it’s our Six Flags. If you grew up in St. Louis, you probably took at least one field trip here, and maybe you came during the summer with your friends. I really got into roller coasters in sixth/seventh grade, so I started getting summer passes to go to Six Flags with friends whenever I wanted. Filled with great rides like The Boss, Screaming Eagle, Mr. Freeze, and The Batman… Six Flags is a good place for roller coaster lovers and people who might be a little timid. There’s Hurricane Harbor for the water park lovers and plenty of food around to keep yourself busy.

The Foundry: This is one of the newest hot spots in the City. The Foundry used to be Century Electric, which was… you guessed it, a foundry. Now it’s a hopping place for all kinds of food and drinks. The Foundry tries to be a place that offers foods from all over the world. Last time I went, which was early October 2021, they also announced they were bringing in more places like a pizza shop and fried chicken place. If you know me, you know I love both of those things, so I’m definitely going back.

Frozen alcoholic drink bars: In college, there was a place called “Trops,” or Tropical Liqueurs. I went to Missouri State University in Springfield, MO. While there is one of these in St. Louis as well, there’s also a place called Narwhals. Both establishments serve fruity frozen concoctions that are delicious. They go down smooth, but let me tell ya, they’ll get ya out of nowhere like an RKO. Had to give Randy Orton a shout-out, he is a St. Louis boy! If you don’t want to go that fruity, have no fear, the bar has regular beer, shots, and wells as well.

Livability: One thing I like the most about St. Louis are the variety of areas you can live in. I was born in South County, moved out to West County, and then later moved to Jefferson County for more affordable living. Instead of having the suburbs like Chicago, St. Louis is broken up into the City (Metropolitan) and the County. South County has a good mix of both new and older home neighborhoods. It’s full of good food and hard-working people who love where they live. Not to mention the parks they have there are a lot of fun, like Cliff Cave and Bee Tree. West County is definitely a more middle to upper class area in most parts. It has a lot of the private schools in town and the malls people can shop.

While these next two technically aren’t the “County,” there are outlying counties just outside of St. Louis County.

On one side, you have St. Charles. This is one of the most up and coming places the area has to offer. It’s very business-friendly and is an affordable place for people to live and raise a family. Centered on Historic Main Street, the brick roads there are filled with shops on each side that honestly… and I hate to say this… looks like it could be a Hallmark move. At Christmas, there are carolers out singing on the corners (pronounced carner in STL, by the way), decorating contests, treats galore, and so much more.

On the other side, you’ve got Jefferson County. Known as a more rural area, you can live in a decent home in Jeff Co. at an affordable price. What’s not talked about much out there is the outdoor activities it offers. You’ve got parks like Don Robinson and Mastodon State Parks. Don Robinson is great for hiking and when you’re done hiking at Mastodon you can check out the museum that has a mastodon skeleton replica. Also head over to Kimmswick and check out the cute, small-town shops and restaurants to have a good day. There’s a winery, bakeries, shops, and eateries.

What do I want for the future of St. Louis? I want it to thrive. I want it to be more and more business-friendly and a place that people want to travel to. I want the St. Louis City SC to really bring life to downtown and the surrounding areas. I got very excited when I heard there’s going to be another Top Golf near St. Louis University. This is an area that could really use the energy and be a nice connection between Union Station and the downtown area.

I’d also like to see Ballpark Village continue to grow. Recently, they’ve released brand new apartments. This is beneficial because the downtown area doesn’t really have a lot of living options that are attractive to young adults. This changes the game.

I hope the XFL Battlehawks come back. The team was the most successful team (in terms of fans) in the entire league, then COVID happened. I’m hoping the league brings the team back to St. Louis and professional football is back in the Lou.

St. Louis also offers some great options for college. You have Washington University, which houses some of the brightest students in the country. You also have SLU, which has a rich sports history and is great academically. Then, for more affordable college, you have University of Missouri St. Louis, commonly known as UMSL. This is also a good option for students to get their college degree. You also have Webster University where I know many people who studied theater and fine arts that went there. Not to mention St. Louis’ Community College options are plentiful.

I want to see crime go down. I’m tired of seeing St. Louis at the top of the list for “Most dangerous cities in the U.S.”

I think the city can get to this place, it will just take time.

I hope you enjoyed my review of a city that means the world to me. There are so many great areas of St. Louis, let me know what your favorites are!

Published by mattsheehanofficial

Matt Sheehan is a journalist based in Illinois. He grew up in St. Louis and went to college at Missouri State University. He's the host of On the Record, and secures exclusive interviews with celebrities for his TV morning show.

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