Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Singing the Blues at Kiel

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Singing the Blues at Kiel

Article excerpt

When the anniversary of the St. Louis Blues' first game at the so-called fabulous Kiel Center arrives Jan. 26, the media will undoubtedly issue proclamations of heroism for project manager Jud Perkins, architect Joe Diesko and those nameless, faceless fellows - the Kiel Partners. Excuse those of us who once sat in the cushionless, hard-backed blue seats in the upper reaches of The Arena when we decline to rise for this orchestrated ovation.

We were the hard-core fans, the ones who filled The Arena in bad seasons and who scrambled for seats during good times when front runners and Brett Hull watchers poured into our province. Now, from our new perspective, sitting some 100 feet farther from the ice, the Kiel Center stands as a monument to modern professional sports: built for maximized profit, subsidized by tax dollars, designed for the corporate elite and oblivious to the average fan.

Much of the reason we became hockey fans - that intangible spectator experience of being part of the game itself - was lost forever when The Arena was padlocked and we were ushered into the spotless, gleaming and sterile Kiel Profit Center.

Ambiance and Intimacy. In Kiel, there is neither.

Conversely, people walking into The Arena could feel the electricity generated by the crowd. The fans' emotions swayed back and forth with the game's energy, which flowed from ice level to The Arena's upper reaches and back.

The Arena's intimacy - totally lacking in Kiel - made such emotional circuitry possible. The Old Barn's single-tiered seating arrangement massed an unbroken meld of fans from the first row to the rafters. Those of us in the upper blue seats sat so close to the action that pucks routinely deflected into our domain.

In the second tier at Kiel - where we sit so far from the ice that the players are viewed as distant stars - the hope for a puck can be realized only through purchase at one of the many Slap Shot Sport Shops located throughout Kiel.

Luxury Boxes and Club Seats. We can thank those in the luxury boxes for our mile-high, unobstructed sight lines. In today's vernacular, the boxes are referred to as "suites," with costs ranging from $37,000 to $120,000 per season.

To maximize short-term profitability, the Kiel Partners opted for the two-tiered seating arrangement so luxury boxes could be attached to the upper tier's leading edge. Consequently, our seats were extended to the stratosphere.

From their private viewing perches - complete with television, bar, private bathroom and suite captain - the corporate elite can see the game and be seen.

In a statement worthy of "Alice in Wonderland's" doublespeak, architect Diesko defended the status demarcations: "There seems to be more social stratification in the design when you market to families." Sorry, Joe, but most families we know cannot afford Kiel's economically stratified prices. …

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