Most MLS teams have faced a knotty dilemma over the league’s 21st-century construction boom: Downtown or suburbs? The question mostly applies to stadium locations, and given the cost and paucity of urban real estate, even those able to carve out a spot in the city have typically had to set up the larger footprints of their training facilities further afield.
The picture looks dramatically different for St. Louis CITY SC – exceptionally so.
“For me, it’s one of the most interesting and exciting projects in international football,” sporting director Lutz Pfannenstiel told reporters in a Thursday video call, “having the opportunity to grow the club from scratch, to really be able to help to shape the experience.”
The expansion side are well into construction on their future stadium in the Downtown West district, located a stone’s throw from Union Station, the city’s former train hub turned mixed-use renovation project. It figures to be a gorgeous soccer-centric venue, with a full roof, public spaces for year-round use and an open, 365-degree design with “no back doors,” in the words of one of the project’s leaders.
But what really separates it from the rest is across the street. Market Street, to be specific, the thoroughfare that starts under the shadow of the famous Gateway Arch on the Mississippi riverfront and runs west past City Hall, the Enterprise Center and other landmarks of a proud downtown civic leaders are eager to keep revitalizing with the arrival of MLS.
CITY SC will house their entire operation – training facility, youth academy, club offices, team shop, “fan pavilion,” cafe and more – on site, reclaiming blocks of land that were once a wasteland of surface parking lots and sprawling concrete access ramps for nearby Interstate 64. A tunnel is even being laid underneath Market Street to better connect the two sides and allow “back-of-house” services to be detached from the stadium’s footprint.
“I think we wanted to make a clear message in sending it out there: Everybody is under one roof, everybody is the same club, everybody is one facility. This is not very common,” noted Pfannenstiel. “This is normally where you do have that kind of separation, because you’re trying to keep a certain peace and quiet space in a facility, so there’s not too many people at the same place at the same time.”
While parts of the training ground will be kept private . . .