What's Union Station Have To Do With The Rams Staying In St. Louis?

St. Louis Union Station, set to be rehabilitated once again by a group including St. Louis Rams owner Stan Kroenke. Photo by Ron Reiring.

Union Station is about to be bought by Stan Kroenke's realty group. What's that mean for the St. Louis Rams? More importantly, is The Fudgery still there?

One of my friends at work is pregnant.

Last week I told her I owed her lunch for a project she’d been helping me on and that she could pick wherever she wanted to eat. So of course she chose Quizno’s. (Mmm, mmm, mmm, toasty.)

Closest Quiznos to our work? Union Station.

Opened in 1894, Union Station is a national historic landmark and once was the WORLD’s busiest train station. At its height, it housed the hubs of over 22 railway lines and by the 1940s it was transporting over 100,000 passengers per day. You know that famous picture of Harry S. Truman holding up the Chicago Tribune that said ‘Dewey Defeats Truman’? Union Station.

As trains gave way to cars in the 50s, 60s and 70s, Union Station fell on hard times, and in 1978 the last train to ever leave downtown STL through the station departed.

It took years, but finally in 1985 the place re-opened as a newly imagined mixed use space that included a 500-room hotel, restaurants and a bustling mall. Throughout the rest of the 80s and into the 90s, Union Station thrived in its new incarnation, aided by the opening of the then-Kiel Center two block west to house the St. Louis Blues.

But the 00s brought a precipitous decline in revenue for downtown STL and Union Station got pinned against the ropes. Somehow, the recession starting in 2008 hasn’t knocked the venerable mall out.

Make no mistake, though. It’s a depressing place as it currently stands.

As we ate our Quizno’s in the food court, I got a good look at the now-defunct Hooter’s location sitting vacant and thought about how in the late 90s, when I partook in a Senior Skip Day trip to the restaurant, this place was already kind of on the decline. Now? I wish I would have taken a picture of this, because it’s true, but someone has actually put a birdhouse on the elevator shaft going up to the third story Hooters was on.

Yes, The Fudgery is still there. No, there aren’t any people watching them anymore.

Yes, there are some stores open. No, none are actual ‘chains’ or ‘places you’ve heard of.'

It’s like visiting a loved one with Alzheimer’s… the body still looks the same, but inside, nothing’s really left. As someone who remembered really loving going to Union Station, It was a sadder lunch than I had anticipated.

Worse, they charged me two dollars to park in their lot (yes, we could have walked, but again, she’s prego) for the trip down sad memory lane. I feel like there are probably a lot of people out there that are just like me. Would love to go to Union Station, but have absolutely no reason to go to Union Station.

Enter Stan Kroenke.

The owner of the St. Louis Rams, who’s been making headlines on this site and others for months with his stoic negotiations for a new stadium, is about to close on a deal with his company THF Realty to buy Union Station. Specifics of the project are not yet available, but sources are reporting that the group has plans to reinvest an initial 50 million dollars into making over the entire complex. Better yet, STL Development Corp. is considering using a 5 million dollar tax credit to help get the whole remake under way.

It’s welcome news for St. Louis and the region. And ultimately it has been Stan’s juice that’s gotten it this far.

While we’ve taken a critical stance of using any public funds to rehab the Edward Jones Dome, to what could ultimately be the demise of professional football in St. Louis for good, we have to applaud Mr. Kroenke for stepping up for St. Louis in another way that’s far less mentioned.

I’m going to put the cynical asshole on pause here for a second and not think that this is all a part of a master plan that involved Stan doing this far less cheaper project in the hopes that when he does move the Rams back to LA he can point to Union Station and say HEY—I at least did that for you people.

No. We’re not going there.

I find it hard to believe that if Mr. Kroenke really did want to leave STL and really thought it was going to happen, that he would waste his time screwing around with Union Station. 50 million dollars isn’t going to bust his bank account one way or another. But you don’t get 50 million dollars by pissing it away on projects that you don’t think can be successful and publically supported. If Stan yanks the Rams from STL, then people are going to punish Union Station. I’d like to say I’d be above that, but I wouldn’t be.

Let’s hope this is part of Mr. Kroenke’s plan to take over St. Louis if not 100,000 people want to visit in a day, at least something that people would want to visit at some point.

Oh, and you know, keep the Rams in St. Louis.

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