The other day in The Fast Lane, we were talking about the Football Cardinals leaving town and the Rams moving here. Being a student and player at the University of Washington at the time, D’Marco…like many of you who were young then…didn’t know this, but we almost had ANOTHER NFL team after the Cardinals left for Arizona in 1988 and before the Rams moved here in ‘95.
The NFL planned expansion in 1993, and St. Louis icon Jerry Clinton had laid the groundwork for that expansion by spearheading the effort to get the Dome built downtown. Clinton and his partner, unfortunately a flim-flam man named Fran Murray, enlisted the help of then all-time leading rusher Walter Payton to convince the NFL to come back to town.
With construction of the Dome approved, our market size, the presence of Anheuser-Busch and Payton, most St. Louisans thought we were a lock to get one of the two expansion teams the league was going to award. The name of the team was going to be the St. Louis Stallions, and pictured above is the logo they would have used. John Auble even penned a fight song called “Go, go, go you Purple Stallions.”
However, right before the NFL meetings in Chicago at which the owners were going to award the franchises, the league told Clinton he needed more money. He had a $900 million dollar lease that provided guaranteed funds, but needed more in his account. After unsuccessfully trying to recruit an investor, Clinton was left out in the cold when a group of prominent St. Louisans recruited Stan Kroenke, strong-armed Clinton out of the process, and took Kroenke to the meetings as the prospective club owner.
Guess who owned the lease to the Dome? Right, Clinton did. With Clinton in charge of the lease, owners didn’t want to get into a political battle and awarded the first franchise to Charlotte. They ruled out Baltimore, and gave St. Louis thirty days to get its act together.
Alas, we couldn’t. No agreement on the lease was forthcoming. With a fractured ownership, Clinton’s dream of the expansion St. Louis Stallions died. In one of the most heart breaking days of my life, the league dramatically awarded the league’s thirtieth franchise to Jacksonville. Two years later, we lured the Rams from Los Angeles.
There are still some remnants of that possibility from sixteen years ago pictured here. Can you imagine rooting for the St. Louis Stallions?