NEW YORK — With MLS undergoing an unprecedented jump from 24 teams in 2019 to 30 in 2022, it's easy for the six new franchises to get lost in the shuffle a bit, given the spotlight on 2020's two new franchises, Inter Miami and Nashville SC.
Meanwhile, St. Louis, who will join the league in 2022, are making swift progress on all fronts as they slowly bring the club from concept to reality. The franchise are nearing groundbreaking for their brand new stadium, as they have begun preparing the land by bulldozing highway ramps that currently occupy the space after they were closed on February 3 in preparation of the demolition.
“I’m someone who likes it concrete, I like it in front of me," St. Louis MLS owner Carolyn Kindle Betz told reporters at MLS media day. "So when there’s a bulldozer and the ramps are closed, you do sort of do this little dance about, ‘Wow, this is really happening now.’ But it’s really exciting for the city, because it’s like we weren’t kidding. We were going to do this, we were going to work hard. It’s another testament that we mean what we mean and we’re doing what we’re doing.”
Before long, there will be shovels in the ground and steel going up on their downtown venue, a $250-million-plus plan for a 22,500-seat stadium that will include a training facility on-site.
“We’re ripping up highway ramps, I don’t think you’d call that an official groundbreaking," Betz said. "More of preparation. We’re hoping to have the official groundbreaking at some point this spring.”
What an amazing experience at today’s @MLS 25th season kick off event. Always love catching up with other owners and, of course, the highlight might’ve been finally meeting David Beckham! #STLMade #MLS4TheLou pic.twitter.com/qVuyaRgSIe— Carolyn Kindle Betz (@BetzKindle) February 26, 2020
While the stadium is a big focus, Betz has her eyes on other areas of the club, not the least of which is the first team. For her, it's about getting the right people in soon so they can worry about the sporting side of the enterprise.
“We really got to get those key hires, like a sporting director, because somehow we have to put a team together!" Betz said. "For the next 6-9 months, it’s about key hires, sponsorships, engaging our corporate partners and the fans.”
On the sponsorship front, preliminary talks are happening with local businesses. The stadium design is fluid and the franchise want to be able to precisely lay out what they can offer prospective partners before discussions advance.
“We had to refine the stadium design to see what we could offer," Betz said. "What we’re most excited about is all the corporations, big or small, want to support us. When we really sit down and think about our founding sponsors, that will take a little bit of time. I don’t think we’re there yet, we just want to make sure we get all the details right.”
Betz also confirmed the franchise have had talks with Anheuser-Busch, the brewing company headquartered in St. Louis that produces Budweiser. They are very involved in soccer, making St. Louis MLS a natural partner.
“The future is really bright in this sport," Betz said. "What a great opportunity to get in now, the timing is right. We’re just happy the commissioner took our phone call a year and a half ago.”