The Savvis Center (formerly known as the "Kiel Center") is one of the larger and one of the more comfortable arenas of the National Hockey League. With itīs blue seats and itīs great exterior design the Savvis Center is also a real optical treat!
The St. Louis Blues, just as many other NHL teams at that time, moved to their new home during the 1994/1995 season. Prior to this move the Blues played at the historic St. Louis Arena with itīs 17.188 seats, which was regarded as too small and not comfortable enough for todayīs sports-world. Build in 1929 the St. Louis Arena was also not fitted with any VIP-areas or corporate suits, important income-sources in the current time.
Early on the seating capacity of the Kiel Center was 19.260 but after various renovations and additions in 2000/2001 the capacity has been increased to almost 21.000 today (also counting all seats at the restaurants). The Blues also donīt have to share their arena with a local NBA franchise as there is none in St. Louis. The only other constant tennant of the arena in downtown St. Louis are the St. Louis Billikens (university basketball), in addition to that you can find many other sports- and non-sports-events such as Indoor-soccer or various concerts. With approximatly 175 events per year the arena is definetly one of the more busier places in the league!
The Blues themselves play in the NHL since 1967/1968. They were one of the first six expansion teams when the NHL was doubled in size from the Original Six (Boston, New York, Chicago, Montreal, Toronto and Detroit) to then twelve teams. Immedeatly the team became a huge hit on the ice and reached the Stanley Cup finals three times under head-coach Scotty Bowman (who, as of June 2002, is still coaching in the NHL). Twice they lost to the Montreal Canadiens, once to the Boston Bruins, a Stanley Cup has not been won so far but ever since 1980/1981 the Blues have not missed the postseason in more than 20 consecutive seasons, so that one could conclude that Blues fans have not experienced a real bad NHL team over the past thirty years or even during the whole history of the franchise. Quiet different when compared to the typical New York Islanders fan...
But even though success has become a routine with the Blues, who also won the Presidentīs throhpy for the leagues best team in the regular season in 2000/2001, St. Louis has never been an absolute hockey-city. The Super-Bowl-winning St. Louis Rams and the St. Louis Cardinals are the toast of the town, and their two home-arenas definetly stand out by comparison to other arenas from their respective leagues and sports as well (at the left the Ramīs TWA Dome, at the left the Cardinalīs Busch Stadium).
The Savvis Center itself features an upper- and a lower bowl. Just as in most other NHL-arenas corporate suits are located between the upper- and lower bowl, at the far ends of the ice one can also find restaurants from whose balconies hockey can be watched. Four escalators transport people between the lower level (Plaza Level) and the upper level (Mezzanine Level). Between periods or prior to the game nachos, hot dogs and pizza can be found just as in most other arenas, chicken wings and good barbecue sandwiches might be a bit special. 24 sites all over the arena sell those concessions and also the local Budweiser beer, which isnīt really such a good beverage after all. By comparison to standing in line for a bad beer the crowd entertainment between periods seems almost attractive again, especially human bowling (see pics on the picture part) appears to be a rather creative game. I know, itīs not serious hockey, itīs fun and entertainment but for once itīs not plain simply annoying but also rather funny stuff happening betwenn periods and yes, entertaining....
Scoreboard-wise the Savvis Center boasts an eight-sided jumbotron with flags of all NHL-teams ontop of it. Itīs one of the better jumbotrons in the league and definetly leaves one wondering again, why there are still teams buying new four-sided jumbotrons (New York Islanders for example, in their case itīs probably because the four-sided screen was a dollar cheapre).
With more than 90% of most tickets sold on the average the Savvis Center is always a great place to watch hockey. The team drew average crowds of 19.520 in 2000/2001 but those numbers have dropped at least a bit so that getting tickets (preferably in advance at ticketmaster.com) shouldnīt be such a big problem unless the Blues play historic rivals such as the Detroit Red Wings. Tickets are ranged between 25 and 80 dollars, just the way you know it from other NHL-arenas, no suprises in St. Louis...
Atmosphere-wise the Bluesī fans are also some of the louder ones in the National Hockey League. The arena gets pretty pumped during the players introduction when their team-song "We are the Blues" blasts through the speakers in the building and you definetly donīt have the feeling of attending a church (just as on some Madison Square Garden nights) when youīre there. For desperate Blues fans praying might still be a way to get closer to the elusive Stanley Cup though, no hope the team will do it on itīs own anytime really soon despite their good regular season records. Something seems to be missing...
A large fan-store ("Blue Note Authentic Shop") is also located on the lower level and can be entered from the street as well. The store opens up hours prior to a game but the prices are typically high so that many visitors will have to live with a souvenir cup or some other cheap stuff instead of the Blues jersey, which, as an authentic jersey with a playerīs name and number, can easily cost up to 200 $.
Tips for visitors
When youīre already in St. Louis be sure not to miss the "Gateway Arch". The Gateway Arch might be the biggest building in the world lacking any comprehensible idea or sense behind it. Sure, itīs the "gate to the west", but itīs also quiet some fun to move up that building with a gondola and to take a look at St. Louis from the birdīs perspective. Underneath the Arch one can also find the Archīs museum which happens to be more interesting than your usual museum somewhere around the world...
Prior and after the game the nearby Union Station can easily be recommened. Tons of stores and shops can be found around the station, the Hard Rock Café St. Louis is located there as well.
Around Union Station you will probably also run into other Blues fans who donīt feel like seaching for a place to park around the arena or who are willing to pay the horrendous parkng-fees at the arena.
Another gigantic point of interest of St. Louis is the Anheuser-Busch brewery (Budweiser, still no good bear) at the south end of the city. A visit and a guided tour should be a part of every stay in St. Louis as the brewery in St. Louis produces about as much beer as 1100 breweries in Germany so that one can be sure to see quiet a bit. It still doesnīt taste all that good though...
How to get there
The Savvis Center is located at the corner Clark Avenue and 14th street. If youīre travelling by train you can reach the arena easily by feet from the Union Station (about 10 minutes to walk). If youīre staying at a downtown -hotel you also donīt really need a car as well unless youīre travelling in and out of the city a lot as well. But with parking-rates being rather high throughout the year and especially during events in the inner city where all sports-arenas are located I clearly wouldnīt recommend risky parking maneuveurs.
The bottom line
I can only stongly recommend av isit of the Savvis Center. The arena is just great to look at, the fans are pretty loud and the whole city is located rather perfectly about four hours from the windy City of Chicago, another huge touristic attraction!
Map of downtown St. Louis and itīs sports facilities
Seating chart of the Savvis Center
Seating chart provided by www.eishockey.com.
Links to the team
Official homepage of the St. Louis Blues: www.stlouisblues.com
Homepage of the arena: www.savviscenter.net