The Top Stories of 2015 In St. Louis
2015 was a bit calmer for the St. Louis region than 2014 was. The year saw the St. Louis Cardinals win 100 games in the regular season but exit all-too-early from the postseason. IKEA opened its long-awaited first store in St. Louis. Uber finally came to town, while questions still remain about the future of the St. Louis Rams in town.
2015 In St. Louis
St. Louis Cardinals Win 100 Games, Fall To Chicago Cubs In NLDS
It’d be hard to find a year in recent memory where the St. Louis Cardinals weren’t involved in one of the top three stories of the year in town. Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch started 2015 really with a 10 Questions for the St. Louis Cardinals piece posted at 11:30 PM on December 31, 2014.
The top question asked if the team would try to sign native son Max Scherzer before the 2015 season or David Price before the 2016 season. Scherzer would sign a 7-year deal with the Washington Nationals on January 21, 2015 while Price would play for Detroit and Toronto in 2015 and sign earlier this month with the Boston Red Sox.
Surprisingly, given the 100 wins the team would rack up, pitching and injuries would become major issues for the Cardinals in 2015. Ace Adam Wainwright started and got the opening day win on April 5, but would suffer and Achillies injury on April 25 that would keep him out for much of the season. With Wainwright out, the team leaned on a staff of John Lackey, Michael Wacha, Carlos Martinez, Lance Lynn and Jaime Garcia. The group posted a 66-41 record on the season in leading the team to a 100-62 regular season record, the best in the league. The staff’s cumulative 2.94 ERA was also the best in Major League Baseball.
Injuries limited Matt Holliday to playing just 73 games during the season while Matt Adams saw action in just 60. These led to players like Mark Reynolds and newcomers Tommy Pham and Steven Piscotty seeing action at the MLB level. Randal Grichuk also saw an increased role for the club.
The injury-plagued team lost the final three games of the regular season and were promptly dispatched by the rival Chicago Cubs 3 games to 1 in the NLDS. The Cardinals also lost 25-year-old rightfielder Jayson Heyward to the Cubs when he signed a free agent contract earlier this month.
The 2015 MLB season was mildly disappointing for a Cardinals fan base that has seen so much success as of late. 3,520,889 fans came through the turnstiles at Busch Stadium over the course of the season, good for the second-highest in the league. The team passed the 3 million attendance mark for the 17th time in the last 18 years.
St. Louis Rams: Will They Head To LA?
A question that St. Louis started the year with is guaranteed to still be a question it will end the year with, although we might be closer to an answer. Will St. Louis Rams majority owner Stan Kroenke pack his team up and head to Los Angeles?
Around this time a year ago, the Rams were ending a 6-10 campaign where they lost the final three game of the season. Quarterback Sam Bradford, who the Rams had drafted with the #1 overall pick in the 2010 NFL draft, was injured in a preseason game and missed the entire regular season. Shaun Hill and Austin Davis split time during the season on a schedule that only coach Jeff Fisher seemed to know. The team’s defense, dubbed “Sack City” before the season, started off with a whimper before eventually recording 40 sacks on the season.
In March, the long-suffering Rams fans were given a glimmer of hope as Sam Bradford was traded to the Philadelphia Eagles for Nick Foles and a second-round pick in the 2016 NFL draft. Eagles fans hated the trade, but St. Louis fans were relatively ecstatic. Foles gave fans and the team more hope in pre-season camp, where his performance led the team to sign him to contract extension.
Alas, it was not meant to be in the River City. While Foles played well in a season-opening win at home against the Seattle Seahawks, he has regressed almost every game since. Coach Jeff Fisher has essentially benched Foles in favor of Case Keenum, who has started the last four game for the Rams. It remains to be seen what the Nick Foles era will be remember as in St. Louis. A local columnist recently wrote a piece asking if the team could finally find their “QB1” in this year’s draft.
The major question in regards to the St. Louis Rams asks what the team’s future is in St. Louis. Stan Kroenke, despite hailing from these parts, wants to move the team to Los Angeles. Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon appointed a task force earlier in the year to come up with a proposal to build an NFL stadium in St. Louis capable of keeping the Rams here. The entire relocation process and where St. Louis stands can’t really be broken down in simple terms. A much-debated proposal that would use an estimated $400 million in public funds for a riverfront stadium was passed by the St. Louis Board of Aldermen and sent to the NFL on December 29. League owners will meet around the middle of January 2016 and a decision on the relocation of either the St. Louis Rams, Oakland Raiders or San Diego Chargers to the Los Angeles market may be decided then. Then again, it may not be and the Rams may be playing at least one more year at the Edward Jones Dome.
Hello Todd Gurley!
When the St. Louis Rams drafted Todd Gurley with the tenth pick overall in the 2015 NFL Draft, many fans were skeptical. The running back had rushed for 1,385 yards as a true freshman at the University of Georgia and followed that up with a 1,430-all-purpose-yard sophomore season. His junior season was marred by an NCAA investigation for him allegedly getting paid for autographs and an ACL tear.
Questions remained still on draft day about his health. He sat out the team’s preseason schedule as he recovered. He saw his first taste of NFL action when he carried the ball six times for nine yards in Week 3 of the regular season. Gurley started in Week 4 and set an NFL record with 566 rushing yards in his first four NFL starts.
While having fairly mediocre rushing games since that stretch, Gurley has still given the St. Louis Rams a needed spark on offense. His 10 touchdowns are one shy of the 11 touchdowns the team’s quarterbacks have accounted for this season. His 1,106 total yards on the ground ranks third in the league heading into the final game of the season and “Gurley, Gurley” chants are frequently heard at the Edward Jones Dome.
St. Louis finally became a real city in the eyes of some with the opening of an IKEA store. The long-awaited and long-rumored St. Louis location of the Swedish chain opened at the corner of Vandeventer Avenue and Forest Park on September 30. People began lining up on Monday for the Wednesday opening of the store. The first 41 customers in the store received a free sofa while others received items like toys, chairs and mattresses in the subsequent days.
The huge store immediately became either a favorite place to visit or a favorite place to stay away from for many St. Louisans. Even people from the suburbs have been know to grudgingly enjoy a visit.
Uber Comes To St. Louis
As with the above IKEA opening, many saw Uber coming to town as something that increased the city’s status in the world. Before the ride-sharing service began operating in St. Louis, this city was the largest metropolitan city not to allow it. It’s still not technically allowed, many officials are just looking the other way and not actively fighting it.
After trying to work with the Metropolitan Taxi Commission, Uber officially launched its UberX service (what people commonly consider “Uber”) in St. Louis on September 18. The company also sued the MTC for antitrust violations. The MTC had earlier voted to allow UberX and other ride-sharing services as long as all drivers were subject to fingerprint background checks and had valid class E Missouri commercial drivers licenses. Uber took issue with both of those requirements, saying the background checks already in place at the company were enough to keep riders safe. Four St. Louis-area taxi drivers have also filed a lawsuit against Uber.
Prior to UberX’s arrival in St. Louis, the city saw a war against the MTC waged by local entrepreneur Ed Domain. Domain was horrifically injured and came very close to dying while riding in a Harris Cab that was not properly insured back in 2013. Domain waged his war largely online via social media against the MTC and its long-time chairman Lou Hamilton. Domain also made a memorable appearance at a meeting held by the MTC regarding Uber. Hamilton resigned earlier this month from the MTC after 12 years on the commission.
Chris Sommers, owner of local pizza chain Pi, was appointed to the MTC last year by St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay. He was often the loan supporter on the commission of changes to allow more ride-sharing services in St. Louis. He is resigning from the MTC as of December 31, 2015.
Penguins Return, Kali Arrives At The Saint Louis Zoo
The Penguin & Puffin Coast exhibit reopened at the Saint Louis Zoo back in March after being closed for 18 months. The reopened exhibit allows visitors to again get astonishingly up close and personal with the penguins and puffins that make the zoo home.
Kali the polar bear arrived in St. Louis back in May to make his home at the new McDonnell Polar Bear Point exhibit at the Zoo. The 40,000-square-foot exhibit cost $16 million and was made possible by private donors.
Kali was orphaned in Alaska as a young cub. He grew up in the Buffalo Zoo in New York. Now weighing 850 pounds, Kali was transported to St. Louis in a special container via air and ground travel. The entire cost of the special container and transport was donated by FedEx.
Before, Kali’s arrival, a polar bear hadn’t made St. Louis home since 23-year-old Hope died back in 2009. Two polar bears tragically died within five weeks of each other at the Saint Louis Zoo back in 2005.
The Gateway Arch Turns 50
What would have been a gran celebration of the 50th anniversary of the completion of the Gateway Arch in downtown St. Louis was curtailed this year by the ongoing CityArchRiver construction. Construction on the $380 million renovation of the Arch ground began in 2013. The first portion of the renovation, Luther Ely Smith Square, opened in November. The museum and new entrance to the national park is scheduled for a 2017 opening.
The CityArchRiver Foundation and Great Rivers Greenway hosted Arch 50 Fest in October to commemorate the 50th anniversary. 10,000 people attended the event at Kiener Plaza, which ended with a fireworks display framed by the Gateway Arch that night.
Vladimir Tarasenko Emerges For St. Louis Blues
The St. Louis Blues continued in a fashion that has become familiar to St. Louis sports fans as of late. The Blues went 51-24-7 during the 2014-2015 season to top the NHL’s Central Division. They then lost in the first round of the playoffs to the Minnesota Wild.
Something that Blues fans hadn’t been accustomed to in previous seasons did emerge, however. Vladimir Tarasenko came into his own last season and is making a name for himself as the first true sharpshooter this town has seen since Brett Hull the player left town. The then-23-year-old recorded 37 goals and 36 assists during the regular season last year. He added another six goals in six games during the playoffs.
In July, Tarasenko signed an eight-year deal worth $60 million to continue playing hockey in St. Louis, to the delight of many.
In the first 28 games of the 2015-2016 season Tarasenko has 22 goals to go with his 17 assists. The Blues are second in the NHL’s Western Conference and Tarasenko is among the league leaders for goals scored.
Mild Start To Winter Leads To Near Record Flooding Late In 2015
An “El Nino” weather event has led to a very mild St. Louis winter thus far. It will be 2016 before any snow hits the ground in St. Louis and temperatures in the 70s were felt as late as December 12. St. Louis has seen more than its share of rain, however.
The Meramec River recently crested at 44.11 feet, four feet above the previous record, which was set in December of 1982. Two sewage treatment plants run by the Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District have had to be shut down due to flooding. A 24-mile stretch of Interstate 44 had to close because of water over the highway, as did a portion of I-55.
Many other smaller state highways were also forced to close. Some levees in the area broke under the stress of the water. In other areas, the problem was flood waters flowing over the top of levees, leading to homes and businesses being evacuated. More than 20 deaths in Missouri and Illinois were attributed to the flooding.
Flood levels in downtown St. Louis were expected to crest just shy of levels seen in 1993 and 1973.
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