I'm as happy as the next guy that the NCAA Final Four is being staged in St. Louis this weekend. We are given to believe that this will not only be a fantastic event and bring much needed attention to the Gateway City as a convention site, but it will also be an audition for the NCAA reps who will decide whether we get the 2012 Final Four.
I have no doubt that our sports facilities are top shelf. There is no problem there. The people who will run the show here are certainly as good as anybody else. What I wonder about is how the muckety-mucks who will make the decision to come back in a few years will view the overall appeal of the downtown area. Fun, Clean, Attractive, Safe??
The city has come a long way toward re-establishing itself as a destination. There are more restaurants, nightclubs, quality apartments, and fun places to be (i.e. casinos) than there were just five years ago. But, and I think it's a big but, there are still a lot of eyesore and vacant buildings around that will not cast the downtown area in a favorable light. Intelligent out-of-towners will see past all the camouflage. And let's be honest, the dome is very close in proximity to a part of the city that is seething with violent crime. We can't go through a week without a handful of North St. Louis murders making the news. One wrong turn in the rental car by some visitor unfamiliar with the lay of the land and he, or she, could be staring into a pistol. If, heaven forbid, there was a violent crime committed against some out-of-town fan this weekend, we can kiss that 2012 return visit good bye.
St. Louis, and it's downtown area in particular, are on the upswing. But, during an audition you have to be able to present your "A game". I'm just not sure we measure up to the Chicagos and New Orleans' of the world yet. I hope I'm wrong.