A creature with roots in Native American lore, the Piasa bird has survived antiquity in large part due to etchings found on limestone bluffs throughout Illinois. Under the banner of the mythical predator— most depictions lend it reptilian claws, fish-like scales, and mammalian fangs—the Illinois Piasa charge onto the field against Professional Arena Soccer League foes, stopping just short of actually eating their opponents. Founded in 1998, the PASL consists of 19 indoor-soccer squads throughout the United States; upon their league debut in the 2010–11 season, the Piasa won the Pro Frontier Division with a 9–3 record.
In its years as an NCAA Division II school, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville claimed 17 titles among its men's and women's athletic teams, excelling in such sports as tennis, softball, and wrestling. Under the guidance of coach Kent DeMars, the men's tennis team claimed the national title a record-breaking seven years in a row, from 1978–84, and during the '80s, the school won three straight national titles in wrestling and four in women's tennis, prompting President Reagan to demand that the school tear down its trophy wall.
The Cougars have since made the transition to a Division I program and are members of the Ohio Valley Conference, perhaps signaling a new era of dominance in the national spotlight with 16 men's and women's sports teams. At the recently expanded Vadalabene Center, more than 4,000 fans can cheer on basketball and volleyball teams and the wrestling squad—all potential future inductees into the university's hall of fame. On campus (approximately 25 miles from St. Louis), athletes practice on 2,600 acres of majestic woodland, perched atop bluffs overlooking the calm of the Mississippi River. Sports players included, SIUE currently enrolls 14,000 students and extends its family to more than 86,000 living alumni.
Like the CGI monster-filled remake of How Green Was My Valley, STL Cinemas combine state-of-the-art technology with classic Hollywood aesthetics. Mainstream blockbusters and independent films happily rub silver-screen shoulders on each theater's marquee, while the retro lounges and concession stands serve enough beer, wine, and classy sweets to keep movie-goers sugar-buzzing—or just plain buzzing—through any double-feature. Voted Readers' Pick Movie Theatre by St. Louis Magazine readers, the Moolah Theatre's single screen is one of the biggest in town, and cinephiles can take their pick of 400 stadium seats, plush leather couches, or balcony seating. Chase Park Plaza Cinemas—nestled inside the Chase Park Plaza Hotel building—boasts five auditoriums with luxury seating. Granite City Cinemas is brand-new with all digital projection. And exposed beams and stage lighting add a vintage touch to Galleria 6's lobby, while its bar provides a lovely backdrop for post-film discussions, screenplay pitches, or outbursts of hard-boiled dialogue and artfully lit cigarette smoke.
Since opening with a Frank Sinatra performance in 1990, the stadium now known as Times Union Center has seen more than 15 million guests pass through its turnstiles. That’s only slightly smaller than the population of the Netherlands and roughly equal to the number of people worldwide who enjoy candy corn. Besides attracting such entertainment titans as the Rolling Stones, U2, Disney’s “On Ice” series, and the Harlem Globetrotters, the multifunction arena is also home to the AHL’s Albany Devils and college basketball’s Siena Saints.
A popular local gut-bustery for the past 17 years, Comedy, Etc. II keeps its calendar stuffed with a slew of elite court jesters—many of whom have been featured on the Tonight Show, HBO, Comedy Central, Last Comic Standing, the Bob & Tom Show, and more. Watch local comics test out their soul tickles on Wednesday open mic night ($5 ticket value). Otherwise, chuckle at a better-known act such as John Rathbone ($10–$12.50 ticket value)—who's been seen on Comedy Central, heard on the Bob & Tom Show, and touched by thousands of random passing strangers—or the fast-paced one-lining of Dan Chopan ($10–$12.50 ticket value), who's appeared on MTV, PBS, and more.