River City Classic canceled due to late announcement, poor ticket sales

Published: Oct. 13, 2022 at 1:15 PM CDT|Updated: Oct. 13, 2022 at 5:42 PM CDT
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ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOV) - The St. Louis HBCU River City Football Classic between Alabama A&M and Arkansas Pine Bluff has been canceled.

The event was announced last minute, resulting in poor ticket sales, and the organizer was not able to secure a title sponsor. The financial terms of the contract with Milestone Marketing and Distribution Group Inc. were also not met.

Tuesday night, the organizers for River City HBCU Classic issued a statement that attributed the cancelation as a result of “substantial and critical interference from Explore St. Louis in producing and promoting the event:”

“As a result, our ability to fully sell Classic Tickets through Ticketmaster was impeded, restrained, or not allowed to happen. And as we all know, when your ability to sell Tickets for an Event is compromised, the Event is ultimately doomed for failure; such is the Classic at this very moment.”

Explore St. Louis’ Chief Marketing Officer, Brian Hall, disagrees with the organizer’s assertion.

“The bottom line is that the organizer got a very late start in marketing tickets, [and] was having trouble lining up sponsors,” said Hall, “And, then from a contractual standpoint, he actually missed a payment to us that he was obligated to make on September 30. We brought that to his attention, we gave him every opportunity to remedy. He missed a second payment just this week. It became clear at that point that this event was not going to be able to take place because the expenses of operating the dome need to be met and that was the responsibility of the organizer.”

Hall says the organizer only started promoting the classic in the last two to three weeks despite tickets going on sale on August 20.

“The fact is that he didn’t have sponsors lined up as well. You need a title sponsor. You need sponsors to underwrite some of the expenses to make a go of a first-class tournament, and those elements just weren’t in place,” said Hall.

The organizer claims excessive ticketing and facilities fees imposed by Explore St. Louis prevented sales, and Explore St. Louis intentionally provided invalid promo codes to use on Ticketmaster.

“We adhere to every operating practice and procedure and protocol that Ticketmaster has. The facility fees are customary for a venue like this. The promo codes, or the discount codes, that we incorporated, all 60 of them worked. It was fully operational. In fact, we sold about 1,700 tickets,” said Hall. “[It’s] a testimony to the fact that everything on Ticketmaster was working.”

St. Louis residents who bought tickets are now having to get refunds through Ticketmaster, but some are more frustrated about missing an opportunity to have an HBCU event back at the Dome.

“These type of events are kind of like a family reunion,” said Jonathan Solomon. “All these different organizations and all these different cultures coming together really in celebration, and for folks to come and really take that all in. That’s incredibly important. It has to happen.”

The last time an event like this happen was during the Gateway Classic, a similar HBCU tradition from the early 2000s. River City Classic was set to become the next version of that.

“We were very very excited to reinstate that tradition,” said Hall, “but it just wasn’t meant to be.”

“I think most folks will never know exactly what has happened in terms of why the event was canceled,” said Solomon. “[I’m] thinking about the number of folks who prepared to be here for that event. Thinking about folks from out of town, thinking about local families who have children who attend these two institutions who maybe don’t have the funds to physically go support them and be at their games, but we’re really looking forward to them being here.”