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AC St. Louis Closes its Doors for Good

2011 January 17
by Brian Quarstad

Jeff Cooper looks to have finally closed the chapter on a team that played only 1 season.

IMS has been told by multiple sources in St. Louis that Division I pro soccer club AC St. Louis has finally closed the doors. While little had been heard from the club since the season ended in October, the team still had several staff on board including General Manager Tim Owens and Director of Public Relations Tony Hubert. IMS was told on Wednesday that Cooper, who evidently had still held out hope of finding a buyer, finally decided to pull the plug. The reasons for the timing of the decision are still not known.

On Thursday Cooper released his remaining employees and players were told their contracts were voided and were released to find other teams.

By Thursday afternoon rumors were circulating in the St. Louis area as players started talking about the situation.

The AC St. Louis website is still operational as well as the ticket page, but if one tries to purchase tickets a message tells the reader, “No Events Currently Scheduled.”

Cooper is believed to still be looking for a buyer of A-B Park, which was given to him by Anheuser-Busch in 2009 to help Cooper’s bid to bring an MLS team to St. Louis. There were conditions placed on the special warranty deed by Anheuser-Busch that would have required Cooper to have an MLS or D1 team playing in the stadium and that he’d need to add an additional 4,000 seats to the stadium. If Cooper did not meet those conditions Anheuser-Busch could reclaim the property and sell it to a public entity or not-for-profit charitable entity.  But Cooper told IMS last fall that he was able to remove those special conditions this past summer which would allow him to sell the park to whomever he wanted.

Jeff Cooper was contacted for comment on the team folding. He told IMS that he didn’t have a statement at this time but would be releasing a statement sometime this coming week.

AC St. Louis Timeline

AC St. Louis was announced by Cooper in December of 2009 as a team that would play in the new NASL league in division 2 pro soccer for 2010. It would be the first outdoor pro team in the St. Louis area in over 30 years. The NASL didn’t get sanctioning for the 2010 season but instead was run by the US Soccer Federation which AC St. Louis participated in.

St. Louis played in their first league game on April 10, 2010 at WakeMed Soccer Park against the Carolina RailHawks. Carolina won the game 2-0.

AC St. Louis had financial issues out of the gate and it was later revealed there were problems with an investor that Cooper had brought in that past offseason to help finance both AC St. Louis and his WPS team, Athletica.

By the middle of May, Cooper contacted the USSF to let them know he could not make payroll for the team as his business partners the Vaids, who were from Europe, had not come through with promised payments. U.S. Soccer used the team’s bonding money to help support the team and Cooper announced the following week that he was folding Athletica but would continue on with AC St. Louis.

In early June and after only 4 months and 2 games played, Steve Ralston, the team’s first signing and marquee player, departed from the team and returned to MLS’ New England Revolution. The move was a cost-saving one for AC St. Louis, who freed up capital by releasing the team captain and veteran MLS player who was bringing in a large salary.

High profile coach Claude Anelka [brother of Nicholas Anelka] was fired in June and Dale Schilly, a St. Louis local, was named the new coach. The move was also believed to be a way to save costs.

In September, NASL officials vetted Missouri native Ryan Woods, a real estate developer who was said to be interested in purchasing the team and building a new stadium in a real estate development he was working on in the Richmond Heights area. That real estate deal fell through as did Woods’ interest in purchasing the team.

AC St. Louis played its last game Saturday, October 2 at A-B Park against the Rochester Rhinos. St. Louis lost the game 2-1.

Anthony O’Garro scored the team’s first goal on April 17 against the Austin Aztex, another team that has now folded, and Chris Salvaggione scored the last goal on October 2 against the Rochester Rhinos. Luke Kreamalmeyer and Brad Stisser each end the season with 5 goals.

Their first home game was April 17, 2010 with an attendance of 5,695. It was played against the Austin Aztex in which St. Louis lost 2-1.

The team’s last home game was October 2 with an attendance of 3,447. They played the Rhinos and lost 2-1.

Average attendance for AC St. Louis was 2,750 which was 7th highest in the league. The team’s highest attendance was 5,695, which was their home opener mentioned above. Total attendance for 2010 season was 41,252.

AC St. Louis finished up their first and only season going 7-15-8 and ended up in 11th place in the 12 team league.

RIP AC St. Louis.

34 Responses
  1. Greg permalink
    January 17, 2011

    Sad for St. Louis fans. They deserve better.

  2. Strikers Return permalink
    January 17, 2011

    Hopefully in the future someone can step onto the St. Louis soccer scene and provide the fans with a new team to root for in the NASL. Seems like it should be a place that could support a team if the right onwership group and situation was in place. Hang in there St. Louis fans.

  3. Shipdawg permalink
    January 17, 2011

    The good thing is all is not lost. We still have the St Louis Lions. Let’s build up the support for them and work to bring Pro Soccer back to St Louis.

  4. chickenhead permalink
    January 17, 2011

    The main supporters group from AC STL (the Saint Louligans) are all lined up to go out and Support the Lions. Its very sad to lose our team but we will move forward with the Lions.

    Big thanks to Brian for your continued reporting. Your articles were the only source of information that a lot of us trusted during this whole fiasco.

  5. Soccer Boy permalink
    January 17, 2011

    This does not surprise me at all given AC St. Louis started their season a man down because someone forgot their player pass at the hotel.

  6. Jim permalink
    January 17, 2011

    Good fans down there, despite the bathwater drinking. Hate to see them lose another team so soon.

  7. Kevin permalink
    January 17, 2011

    Hopefully St Louis gets a MLS team soon. I don’t know if NY deserves a second team before other cities and i am saying this as a New Yorker.

  8. Strikers Return permalink
    January 17, 2011

    @Kevin – I suspect that if Garber were to come to St. Louis to meet with fans, he’d give a similar message to the one he provided in South Florida – support what you have, make it stand out, and MLS will notice. Problem for St. Louis is though, their highest level team is now only D4. I suspect it will be hard for the supporters groups to sustain consistent support and attendance for a D4 team to a level that gets it noticed by MLS. I’m sure USL would love to add St. Louis to D3 in 2012 if there is enough support during 2011 to show it is worth it.

    But beyond that, I think it will be a matter of a potential new investor believing NASL is viable enough to buy in and put a team back in St. Louis that fans can rally around and try to support in large enough numbers to get back onto the MLS radar. The blueprint is out there from slots 17 – 19. Fans and owners just need to step up and show they can support it, because I have to believe Garber is wanting to fill spots 21 – 24 with some of the “missing” major tv markets.

  9. jersey joe permalink
    January 17, 2011

    It was obvious this team was going down when their best player and leading goal scorer, Mike Ambersley, signed with FC Tampa Bay. He won a player of the month, scored something like 13 goals in all competitions, and is a St. Louis guy. That is when i stopped caring about Jeff Cooper and ACStL.

    It is sad that a soccer city like St. Louis can’t find an investor to keep this ship from sinking. I wonder if Cooper ever reached out to Stan Kroenke(St. Louis Rams owner) to help him save ACStL.

  10. January 17, 2011

    I suspect that Mr. Cooper has exhausted most every avenue or he wouldn’t be making this decisions.

    Word on the street is Mr. Kroenke may have his own plans.

  11. evan permalink
    January 17, 2011

    so i’m still wondering how Cooper went from wanting to own an MLS team, to wanting to buy all of USL, to not even being able to afford payroll for his teams for 1 year? it seems he really is a fraud like people have said…

  12. January 17, 2011

    “This does not surprise me at all given AC St. Louis started their season a man down because someone forgot their player pass at the hotel.”

    The infinite wisdom of Claude Anelka, who began the first of 30 league matches a man down for a half hour IN A LEAGUE IN WHICH YOU GOT FIVE SUBSTITUTIONS.

    I hate to see any fanbase lose its team, but I’m a little tired of the decades now of being told what a wonderful professional soccer market St. Louis is and how it has to have a team.

    Oh, and, yes, Cooper apparently had issues. The USL fanboys who were convinced Nike should have sold to him have some ‘splainin’ to do, don’t they?

  13. matt brown permalink
    January 17, 2011

    Kroenke plans? For St.Louis?

  14. Strikers Return permalink
    January 17, 2011

    @BQ – Can we assume safely that if Kroenke is interested in pro soccer, it’s probably just at the MLS level, not at NASL or USL?

  15. Ski Dawg permalink
    January 17, 2011

    Stan Kroenke is already invested in soccer – in addition to the Rams (and the two Denver teams – the Nuggets and the Avalanche – that he has to sell to his son) he owns Colorado Rapids and 29.9% of Arsenal.

  16. Strikers Return permalink
    January 17, 2011

    Hmm, well now t hat’s interesting. Any chance he could be seeking a D2 team to develop players? Sounds good to me! Tell him to get out his checkbook and get Davidson on the phone! LOL

  17. fotbalist permalink
    January 17, 2011

    It’s really too bad for the local fans. St. Louis is a great soccer city and deserves a top level team. Hopefully soon, and hopefully with different people at the helm.

  18. Thor permalink
    January 17, 2011

    rumor has it that there is a one last gasp effort from Woods, could come tomorrow. It’s most probably BS, but just thought I would throw that out there.

  19. giggs permalink
    January 17, 2011

    Brian,

    What plans would Kroenke have for soccer in St Louis? Intrigued to learn more…as mentioned above, he already owns the MLS’ Rapids in Colorado.

  20. RedCard permalink
    January 17, 2011

    Stan Kroenk has to many hand in too many cookie jars. If I was MSL I wouldn’t give him spit. Yes St. Louis fans do deserve a team but I not sure it him that should be in control of it. Give it time find the right guy to own the team the Fans deserve that.

  21. January 17, 2011

    I just heard some rumblings from those with soccer connections in St. Louis that construction companies were preparing for a big project connected with Kroenke and most felt it would be a new stadium. There were also rumblings of a “possible” soccer team or stadium. All very heresy and probably something I shouldn’t have even mentioned but it is interesting.

    Here in the Twin Cities Zigy Wilf has mentioned MLS as well as he attempts to get a new stadium for his Vikings. I wouldn’t put too much stock in the St. Louis rumors but it’s always fun to speculate.

  22. Bart permalink
    January 17, 2011

    There is no cost benefit analysis that would justify a new stadium in St. Louis at the moment. It will take time to lose the Cooper memory.

  23. January 17, 2011

    I should have clarified the rumor was either a factory of some sort or a new stadium for the Rams.

  24. Brian permalink
    January 17, 2011

    Pro Soccer has a very good chance of returning to St. Louis next year, BUT….it will be the MISL at Scottrade Center…..not outdoor soccer.

    Cooper is indeed a fraud like I’ve told people time and time again the last 3 years…..now it’s all starting to come out in the public.

  25. Strikers Return permalink
    January 18, 2011

    Well, whenever/if ever a new investor is looking to come into the St. Louis market at D2 (with aspirations to MLS), I think they could get quite a bargain on AB Park.

  26. Bart permalink
    January 18, 2011

    The main problem at AB Park is that when it rains/floods, the costs of maintaining the fields are enormous.

    It is the ongoing maintenance costs that take down the operation of the park, not the professional teams that were there.

    Anheuser Busch knew what they were doing when they “gave” it to Cooper. It was far to expensive to operate, and since it is in a flood plain, it simply is not buildable, so there is no alternative use at the moment.

  27. Jack D permalink
    January 18, 2011

    One day, you have to figure, STL will be back in the USL or NASL and eventually MLS. Sadly Cooper, didn’t do enough right. Hopefully the AB Park is not just sold but used for soccer.

  28. Jason Toon permalink
    January 18, 2011

    Piggybacking on a new Rams stadium is probably the only shot St. Louis has at landing an MLS team in the foreseeable future. Can’t hurt that both Kroenke and another owner of a major-league team in St. Louis, Dave Checketts, are both already in the MLS club. Of course, as with every other tantalizing StL/MLS rumor, this will probably amount to less than a pile of Athletica scarves.

    (Let’s not forget jilted Rams suitor and auto-parts bazillionaire Shahid Khan, who I wish was (a) more vengeful about Kroenke juking him out at the last second, and (b) determined to get his revenge on the pitch against Kroenke’s Rapids. But as far as I know Khan’s never been linked with MLS.)

  29. taly permalink
    January 18, 2011

    R.I.P. AC St Louis. The supporters were great!

  30. January 18, 2011

    From the day the season ended, this process has felt like someone slowly cutting your heart out. At this point, it almost feels good to have the procedure finished. I want to say thanks to all the guys from Eads’ Brigade and more broadly the St. Louligans.

  31. Dave permalink
    January 19, 2011

    Garber likes the St. Louis market. He just saw a rat in Cooper and wisely stayed away. Too bad the NASL couldn’t see it, but then they have their own stink. All hope is not lost for MLS in St. Louis. But it will take a rich investor and I don’t see city building a SSS anytime soon. We are talking at least 5 years from now.

    But there isn’t really a strong market in NASL and USL that looks MLS ready in the next 5-10 years. So St. Louis, after getting the stench of Cooper off them, can come back.

    #20- NYC2/Cosmos
    #21 – Miami(if they bother to support the Strikers)
    #22 – Atlanta(see above)
    #23 – St. Louis
    #24- San Antonio Spurs

  32. Dan permalink
    January 19, 2011

    well, I hope NASL turns out to be a good D2.

  33. Brian permalink
    January 20, 2011

    @Dave – No one cares about the NASL in St. Louis. Heck, not many people even know about the NASL in St. Louis because Cooper’s crew did such a horrible job of marketing the team last year.

  34. Thor permalink
    January 21, 2011

    hmmm, Friday and no statement by Cooper. nice. Well, I am saddened by the folding of AC St.Louis but brighter things are on the horizon for St.Louis fans. Watch for breaking news soon.

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