Blast From the Past – “Gateway Greats”

By Broc Bridges

St. Louis’ Dome at America’s Center has embraced Supercross competition since only a few months after opening in November 1995. Getting to that point was a tumultuous process beginning with losing their NFL franchise in 1988. Shortly after organizers constructed a brand-new dome, only to lose their bid for NFL expansion to the Carolina Panthers and Jacksonville Jaguars. St. Louis was seeking alternate routes into the league when Los Angeles decided to move their Rams to St. Louis for the 1995 season. On November 12, 1995 the St. Louis Rams opened the formerly named Trans World Dome with a victory over the Panthers, ironically one of the franchises St. Louis lost their 1992 expansion bid to.

Only 228 days after the enthralling Dome opening Rams victory, Supercross was hosting the penultimate round of the 1996 Supercross season. Jeremy McGrath had already clinched the Championship but was working on a perfect season having won 13 rounds to start the season. Jeff Emig beat McGrath in St. Louis to break the streak and the closest attempt at perfection since Jimmy Ellis’ four round romp in 1975. At the time there were only two Supercross venues that hosted racing within a year of opening, Pontiac’s Silverdome and Atlanta’s Georgia Dome. St. Louis became the third and started a wave of mint stadiums hitting the Supercross schedule. Opposed to only two from 1974-1995, eight venues have featured Supercross within a year of opening since the Dome at America’s Center’s first Supercross. 2023’s Snapdragon Stadium is the most recent example, earning the second shortest time from opening to hosting in the history of Supercross.

1. Tampa’s Raymond James Stadium: 146 Days, 1999

2. San Diego’s Snapdragon Stadium: 158 Days, 2023

3. Atlanta’s Georgia Dome: 167 Days, 1993

4. Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium: 189 Days, 2018

5. Indianapolis’ Lucas Oil Stadium: 196 Days, 2009

6. Minnesota’s U.S. Bank Stadium: 211 Days, 2017

7. Pontiac Silverdome: 216 Days, 1976

8. Houston’s NRG Stadium: 217 Days, 2003

9. St. Louis’ Dome at America’s Center: 228 Days, 1996

10. Santa Clara’s Levi’s Stadium: 275 Days, 2015

11. Phoenix’ Chase Field: 298 Days, 1999

Jeff Emig turned the momentum from his 1996 St. Louis victory into the 1997 Supercross title. He was beaten by McGrath in St. Louis’ 1997 round, flipping positions from 1996 when Emig won St. Louis while losing the title. Shortly before the 1998 St. Louis Rams went on one of the debatably greatest Super Bowl runs in history under the moniker “The Greatest Show on Turf”, Kevin Windham scored the Premier Class win in the Dome. McGrath claimed St. Louis and the title in 1999 and 2000, before Ricky Carmichael won the last Trans World Dome round in 2001. In 2002 the Dome had a new name, Edward Jones Dome, and Carmichael won that round as well. In 2003 Chad Reed went on a six-race win streak to end the season, starting in St. Louis. He only lost by seven points in the final Championship tally to Carmichael. Reed scored the win again in his first Championship run of 2004, but Carmichael usurped Reed in the Gateway City in 2005. Already 10 incredible rounds of Supercross in St. Louis had passed by before the unforgettable 2006 season came around.

Through the first six rounds of 2006 it was the Hall of Fame trio of Carmichael (139 pts), James Stewart (128 pts), and Reed (124 pts) leading the way with the Edward Jones Dome next on the schedule. The night started out horribly for Carmichael. While in the Heat Race he suffered one of the worst wrecks of his career in the Whoops. In the Main Event, Carmichael went down in the first turn, eventually pulling off the track and finishing 20th. With Carmichael out of the picture the battle up front was exhilarating between Reed, Stewart, and Ivan Tedesco. Stewart was ejected from his Kawasaki while charging the two leaders and consequently finished 17th. Reed scooped the victory from Tedesco and exited St. Louis leading the point standings, with nine points to spare on Carmichael and 17 on Stewart. After slowly creeping back into a near tie by the end of the season, the Las Vegas

finale named Carmichael Champion by only two points over Stewart and Reed who tied for second in the points.

Before the 2007 season, Carmichael announced it would be his last. He did not disappoint, racing seven select rounds and scoring first or second in each. His last Supercross win came in the Edward Jones Dome where he clipped Reed and Stewart one last time. Carmichael then dominated half of the Motocross Championship, officially hanging his boots up after a 1-1 showing in Millville on August 12, 2007. Going into the 26th season of Supercross competition in St. Louis, The Dome at America’s Center has only missed 2019, 2021, and 2023 on the Supercross schedule since it opened. Marvin Musquin won the St. Louis Triple Crown in 2022 for KTM in the most recent St. Louis Supercross. Current KTM contender Chase Sexton won the first race that night and scored a runner-up overall. Eli Tomac won the third race to clinch an overall podium. Jett Lawrence went 1-1-5 to score second overall in the 250SX Class, behind RJ Hampshire who went 2-2-1 for his first Supercross win. Just like the number of names the Dome has had, St. Louis will be a Triple Crown in 2024.