Mizzou's game against the Fighting Illini that will be played in St. Louis this year is not the blockbuster ticket that some hoped for:
Matching the attendance numbers the Missouri-Illinois football game achieved in the 2002 and 2003 seasons is going to be difficult for the St. Louis Sports Commission.
Less than 50,000 tickets have been sold for the Sept. 1 game at the 66,000-seat Edward Jones Dome, which is off the pace of the 63,576 tickets that were sold in 2003 and the 61,876 in 2002.
"The upper 50 thousands would be a nice place to be this year," said Marc Schreiber, the commission's vice president of marketing and development. "The key for us is that this is sort of a long-term thing for us. We're not just looking at this year and what we do to say whether it's successful or not."
Still, the interest in the season opener is low considering that both schools are expected to be improved, and possibly bowl-caliber. That's in contrast to the 2002 season when neither team went to a bowl and the 2003 season when Mizzou went to the Independence Bowl. In 2003, despite both teams coming off 5-7 seasons and Illinois ultimately going 1-11, the series hit a high in attendance as far as games being played in St. Louis are concerned.
Jeff Gordon thinks fans are taking a wait and see approach to this game. I think there's something else going on. The game starts at 2:30 on Sept 1 and the Cards - a substitute product - play the Reds at 6:15 in St. Louis. With the Cards in the race for the divisional title and Rick Ankiel being the feel good story of the year that, at least for St. Louis, really needs one, that game will command much interest.
In 2002, the MU - IU game was played on Aug 31st. That evening the Cards played at the Cubs (the Cards swept them that weekend, those cads). Over 61,000 went to that game. In 2003 the Tigers played the Illini on August 30th. Over 63,000 fans went to that game. That night, the Cards played in Cincy.
So my guess is that Mizzou fans can blame the Cardinals for producing an intrguing substitute good that evening just down the road from the dome.