Arena football, played inside on a floor that doubles as a hockey rink or basketball court, has a history in the St. Louis area.
Previous teams included the RiverCity Raiders, St. Louis Attack, River City Rage, River City Renegades, St. Louis Stampede and Missouri Monsters. Now, there is a new St. Louis Stampede, which is set to kick-off its inaugural season at The Family Arena in St. Charles on Saturday, April 6.
The new team is part of the National Gridiron League [NGL] that plays in 12 U.S. metropolitan areas through the country. The league was founded in 2017 as a minor league alternative to the National Football League and owns all 12 teams. So it is not “owner franchised,” said Stampede President Kallie C. Klein. She said the league’s ownership is backed by a group of investors in Jacksonville, Florida, and that the NGL offers more stability that may add to the longevity of the league.
Klein, along with head coach Patrick Pimmel, St. Charles Mayor Sally Faith, County Finance Director Bob Schnur and other team officials and players, talked about the new team at a press conference on Dec. 13 at The Family Arena.
Arena football, featuring eight players playing full-contact football on a smaller arena surface, has roots that go back to 1987 and features high-scoring games and rules that differ from outdoor game. Klein said games will feature a lot of activity and family entertainment. The team is hoping to fill the 9,755-seat arena.
“One of my key initiatives as the president of St. Louis Stampede is to really overcome some of the perceptions of what indoor football has been in the St. Louis market,” Klein said. “We’re not ignorant to the fact that there hasn’t been a lot of longevity … [but] We are here to stay. We are going to be encouraging our players, our coaches and everyone … to be really involved in our community.” She suggested that visiting children in a hospital and being involved in other community events was important to the team.
Klein said another one of the ways the team is going to change perceptions is by providing jobs in St. Charles.
“We are paying our players better than they have been paid in the past,” Klein said.
Pimmel brings more than 30 years of football to the Stampede’s inaugural season. In 2015, he came in at mid-season to become head coach of the St. Louis Attack. He also spent a season as the offensive coordinator of the Orlando Predators. In 2012, he was the head coach of the Indoor Football League’s Allen Wranglers. He also was the defensive coordinator and assistant head coach for the Nebraska Danger and, in 2010, he served as head coach for the Omaha Beef.
In 2009, he was the head coach of the River City Rage, which won a conference championship and was the United Bowl runner-up.
A St. Louis native who attended Hazelwood East High and the University of Missouri, Pimmel has coached at various high schools in the St. Louis area. He said he was retired and wasn’t enthused with the way some arena football team owners were running their operations and the lack of pay for players – some as low as $50 per game. But The Stampede has signed more than 20 players including defensive end Corey Henry, former Florida Atlantic quarterback Greg Hankerson, and former Southeast Missouri State quarterback Mike Tindall. He said The Stampede is offering players a “tiered” pay program. Players can make from $1,250 a game to down to $325 on the practice squad. Other arena leagues pay $250 to $200 game.
“Kids can spend more time working on the craft of their game rather than being broke all the time,” Pimmel said. He acknowledged that making money isn’t likely for many arena players but the chance to keep playing remains attractive.
A tryout is being held from 7-11 a.m. on Jan. 12 at Olympia Athletic and Events Centre, 49 Lawrence Street in St. Charles. Details are available online at www.stlstampede.com.
Pimmel said he would like to use younger players, many just out of college. That also may include some players who recently graduated high school.
“We don’t want these kids here two or three years from now playing for the same old team,” he said.
Pimmel said he has had players go on to the Canadian Football League and at least one t the NFL.
The proposed XFL football team, expected to start playing in St. Louis in February 2020 and owned by wrestling entrepreneur Vince McMahon, may offer some opportunity for Stampede players, Pimmel said.
Tickets to The Stampede’s home game will be priced from $11 to $64 per game with $10 parking and season ticket discounts. The regular season runs from March to July with a playoff in August and a championship game in Biloxi, Mississippi.
The Stampede will lease use of The Family Arena from St. Charles County, which owns it, Schnur said. The county also rent the arena to the St. Charles Ambush, an indoor soccer league, an arrangement that Schnur said has worked out well.
Faith lauded The Stampede, wished them luck and congratulated that county.
“If it’s happening, it’s happening in St. Charles,” she said.