The St. Louis BattleHawks attracted a crowd of 29,554 for their inaugural home game in the XFL at the Dome at America’s Center, a 29-9 victory over the New York Guardians.
The robust turnout set a new attendance record for the spring-season American football league, narrowly beating the mark set by the Seattle Dragons in Week 2.
It was also a strong message to National Football League team owner Stan Kroenke, who took the Rams from St. Louis to Los Angeles amid bitter acrimony in January 2016.
When Kroenke submitted a controversial 29-page proposal to the NFL about moving the Rams to LA, he issued a scathing review of St. Louis’s economic health, saying that he believed the Midwestern market was not able support three major professional sports teams between the Rams, Major League Baseball’s Cardinals, and the National Hockey League’s Blues.
“Compared to all other US cities,” Missouri native Kroenke wrote, “St. Louis is struggling.”
The ill-will and rancor for Kroenke in St. Louis remains to this day, and local sports fans turned out in huge numbers to support their new professional American football team to make a point to the Rams owner that his views about the city were completely wrong. “Kroenke sucks” chants could be heard during the duration of the game.
“[The Guardians] could barely operate their offense,” St. Louis native and BattleHawks center Brian Folkerts told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “Incredible. St. Louis, we had something to prove. I grew up here in town. I understand the Stan Kroenke chants. I know how it hurts. I think today we went out and proved we are a football town.”
The BattleHawks, meanwhile, are already considering opening up the top tier at the Dome at America’s Center for future games.
Elsewhere in the XFL, attendances remained fairly steady in its third weekend, though the crowds in Los Angeles are beginning to cause some alarm.
The Seattle Dragons gained its second consecutive crowd of more than 20,000 at CenturyLink Field, though the attendance of 22,060 was down 7,000 from the team’s initial home crowd of 29,172 in Week 2. In Raymond James Stadium, the Tampa Bay Vipers gained 18,117 for their home opener.
Meanwhile, the LA Wildcats gained a second consecutive XFL low with a crowd of 12,211 for their home game against the DC Defenders at Dignity Health Sports Park, down from 14,949 during Week Two.