AC St. Louis Closes its Doors for Good
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.