Answer Man

Turf and size make Edward Jones Dome all wrong for soccer

If one sports writer is right, St. Louis’ Dome at America’s Center could be home of the Las Vegas Raiders for one season until their new stadium is ready to go.
If one sports writer is right, St. Louis’ Dome at America’s Center could be home of the Las Vegas Raiders for one season until their new stadium is ready to go.

Q: Why can’t the Edward Jones Dome (or whatever they’re calling it this week) be used for the Major League Soccer team that St. Louis is trying to land? Didn’t they pack the place for a soccer match back in 2013? Why build a new stadium when the Dome isn’t paid off?

Mark Jasper

A: At first glance it would appear a perfect solution now that Stan Kroenke has flown the coop to L.A. and the Dome at America’s Center is gathering more cobwebs than usual on fall weekends.

After all, didn’t 54,000 rowdy fans cram into the stadium for an exhibition game between European soccer powerhouses Real Madrid and Inter Milan in 2013? Moreover, an MLS franchise would light up the place at least 17 times during the spring and summer compared to maybe 10 for the Rams. As you ask, why spend $200 million for a new sports palace when the Dome seems to be the ideal answer for all concerned?

The truth is, however, it’s anything but ideal, according to a recent posting by Zach Spedden at Soccer Stadium Digest, which tracks such goings-on in the soccer world. To make the stadium soccer-ready would cost hundreds of millions of dollars, far more than simply building a new arena, according to Kitty Ratcliffe, president of the St. Louis Visitors and Convention Commission.

Why? First, Ratcliffe says, the 20-year-old dome already needs major renovations merely to remain viable as a convention center, much less a soccer venue. You saw that last year when they were trying to bribe Kroenke to stay by unveiling plans for a $1 billion new stadium on the riverfront just north of the Gateway Arch. If the dome, which can seat 66,000, was no longer suitable to the Rams, how would you hope to lure a soccer franchise?

In truth, it’s even less suitable for soccer, because the dome’s artificial turf is a “non-starter” for the MLS, according to the soccer digest. But to replace the turf with real grass most certainly would require installing a retractable roof and new drainage and irrigation systems, which, again, would cost millions of dollars. (Yes, they did bring in real grass for the 2013 game, but it was dead in a few days, Ratcliffe said.)

Besides, even though St. Louis is known as a big soccer town, the dome is probably much too big and expensive for the MLS’s needs. When the league started play in 1996, it was forced to use multipurpose stadia, which were often shared with pro and college football teams. But the MLS wound up throwing tarps over huge sections of these places to artificially reduce capacity. In 1999, the Columbus (Ohio) Crew built Mapfre Stadium specifically for soccer. It seats just 20,145 and has a grass surface. Now, 13 of the MLS’s 22 teams have soccer-specific stadia that seat at most 27,000 (the LA Galaxy’s StubHub Center), and 16 have grass fields.

So, if St. Louis fans are going to get their kicks from pro soccer, it appears someone is going to have to pony up the cash if they want to score a suitable stadium.

Q: This morning I was watching Fox2 news, and Anne Elise Parks had on a kelly green top as she was giving the weather. There was no map overlay on her shirt. Does Fox2 have a different type of green screen? Or how was that done?

J.K.L., of Belleville

A: If you’ve never understood why TV meteorologists usually avoid wearing green on St. Patrick’s Day (or any other day, for that matter), let me explain. They’re not trying to be unseasonable Scrooges. No, they’re merely trying to avoid disappearing into the background on your TV. Here’s why:

If you’ve ever watched carefully, you’ve probably noticed that weathercasters are looking off to the side even as they point to features on the weather map behind them. That’s because they are actually doing all of their meteorological calisthenics in front of a totally blank green wall. Before the picture is transmitted to the TV in your living room, though, the maps and numbers are electronically superimposed on any area that’s green. That’s why weathercasters watch a monitor off to the side with the picture that’s going out over the airwaves so that they look like they’re pointing to the right places on the blank wall behind them. It’s also why, in these instances, they cannot wear green. Otherwise, the graphics would wind up superimposed on their coat or dress. It’s called chroma key compositing or, simply, chroma keying.

In the case you cite, however, Anne Elise could get away with her pretty green top. As it turns out, that morning she wasn’t using a green screen, she told me. She was standing in front of what she calls a “BAM.”

“It’s an oversized TV monitor that basically consists of nine smaller TV monitors that are put together to make one giant screen,” she wrote. “Since we meteorologists are simply standing in front of this screen to present forecasts, there’s no chorma-key being used as there would be on the green wall. So there’s no trickery of colors being transferred. In short, the big monitor allows us to wear anything we like.”

If you’d like to see a funny demonstration of what can happen when WBZ-TV meteorologists in Boston purposely wear green in front of a green screen, punch up http://boston.cbslocal.com/2015/03/17/why-you-cant-wear-green-on-the-green-screen.

Today’s trivia

What U.S. river is nicknamed the Singing River?

Answer to Wednesday’s trivia: At 36.6 degrees north latitude, the Lilliput Glacier in southern California is the southernmost glacier in the United States, roughly just 275 miles from the state’s southern border. It’s well-named, because it’s as small as the people on the similarly named island in Jonathan Swift’s “Gulliver’s Travels.” Located on the north face of Mount Stewart, the smallest-named glacier in California’s Sierra Madre has an area of just 12.2 acres — or 48 typical single-family suburban lots. For pictures, see http://glaciers.us/glacier-id/8041.

Roger Schlueter: 618-239-2465, @RogerAnswer

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