Fans’ day out at St. Louis City SC home opener


First MLS game at CityPark Stadium St. Louis Image: MLS

Fans flooded downtown on March 4th to celebrate the home opener of St. Louis’s (US) brand-new Major League Soccer stadium, Citypark. They marched, sang soccer chants, drank beer, and packed the streets around the ballpark.

The Major League Soccer (MLS) team St. Louis City SC held its inaugural home match at its residence – the Citypark in St. Louis, Missouri (US) – on March 4th, and the St. Louis City SC defeated its peer team Charlotte FC 3-1.

‘stl TODAY’ stated that the region, after decades of fighting for a professional soccer team, had a point to prove, some said.

The St. Louis City SC is an American professional men’s soccer club based in St. Louis, Missouri, US. They compete in Major League Soccer (MLS) as a member of the Western Conference and joined in 2023 as an expansion team. The club was established in 2019 and plays its home matches at the Citypark, a new soccer-specific stadium next to the Union Station in Downtown St. Louis.

The Citypark is a 22,500-seat soccer-specific stadium in St. Louis, Missouri. It is the home of St. Louis City SC, the City’s Major League Soccer (MLS) franchise. The stadium is next to the Union Station in the City’s Downtown West neighborhood, and was completed in November 2022, ahead of the 2023 MLS season which began on February 25th and ends on October 21st.

Said Andria Moran, 50, of Fairview Heights, “St. Louis is a really good soccer City. We will prove that.”

‘stl TODAY’ further stated that Moran was one of thousands of fans gathered at a block party surrounding the 22,500-seat stadium in Saturday’s (March 4th) mild, sunny weather. She and her friends didn’t even get tickets to the 7:30 pm match, between St. Louis City SC and Charlotte FC. But they knew they had to be there.

Added Moran’s friend, Sue Mane, 52, of Belleville, “Its St. Louis history. It’s also a win for the urban core in a stream of bad headlines. Shootings, car crashes and angry businesses, some threatening to leave downtown, have all taken their toll in recent years. Saturday’s (March 4th) festivities injected hope – down packed City streets, into bustling bars, and onto the faces of tens of thousands of soccer fans – in a City that sometimes feels besieged by violence and disappointment.”

And it was more than the stadium, on March 4th. The 18,096-capacity Enterprise Center was hosting the Arch Madness basketball tournament for the Missouri Valley Conference universities. The 3,100-capacity Stifel Theater had sold out weekend shows for the South African comedian Trevor Noah. Even the grand opening of a new marijuana dispensary, Viola, kitty-corner from the stadium, drew a line that wrapped around the block.

Stated Mane, “It’s a downtown weekend.”

CityPark woke up early on Saturday (March 4th).

Workers arrived for their shifts and began setting up equipment hours before kickoff.

Michaela Fenlon got there at 9 am and couldn’t wait for the fans.

She set up a table full of Girl Scout cookies at North 20th and Market streets, across from the ballpark, to entice City supporters – she hoped to sell 5,000 boxes to donate to the military troops.

Said Michaela, “It’s going to be a really big game. People want to see the new team.”

The streets around her were coming to life.

Mark O’Brien had donned his St. Louis City SC jersey while he and his wife, Laurie, were out walking their 5-month-old Australian cattle dog puppies, Hannah and Hazel, around the neighborhood. March 4th was the couple’s first MLS game and O’Brien couldn’t wait to see what the team would do – especially after City’s 3-2 late-game win against Austin FC recently.

Stated O’Brien, “It’s going to be crazy, fun and exciting.”

Bars and restaurants near the stadium geared up for the big crowds.

Maggie O’Brien’s opened at 9 am, two hours early, and brought in extra beer and staff. By 11 am, it had already turned its parking lot into a hangout spot with a live DJ and food-and-drink service.

Schlafly Tap Room, one block North, blocked off part of North 21st Street. The craft brewer planned to sell canned beer outside and had extra security on hand.

Stated Fran Caradonna, Schlafly (St. Louis’ largest independent craft brewery) head honcho, “It’s really exciting to think of 22,500 fans coming to our neighborhood. I don’t want to let anyone down.”

Soccer fans arrived at the Amsterdam Tavern, near Tower Grove Park, well before noon, largely to watch the English Premier League games. But Amsterdam Managers knew they’d get mobbed by City fans later: The bar had a shuttle to CityPark leaving at 5:45 pm for $15, including beer.

The anticipation was, for some, palpable.

City supporter group St. Louis Santos planned to gather at 3 pm at Beffa’s, just West of the stadium, before heading to the Schlafly Tap Room, just North of the stadium, to meet up with the St. Louligans, another supporter group, to march to CityPark around 6 pm.

Santos member and longtime soccer fan Carlos Restrepo went to Austin, Texas, with 200 fans to watch St. Louis City SC’s recently held match.

Added Restrepo, “It was so much fun with 200 people. I can’t wrap my head around 22,500 people.”

By 6 pm, Schlafly was at capacity, staffers were serving beers as fast as they could, and the soccer fans began mobilizing to march South.

Then hundreds of supporters from at least five fan groups marched from Schlafly.

“Vamos, vamos, vamos, St. Louis!” Santos marchers chanted, using the Spanish phrase for “let’s go”. Hundreds of supporters from the fan groups – the Louligans, Fleur de Noise, St. Louis City Punks, and The Thieves – followed down Locust Street, to 20th, to the stadium.

Said Brody Bergland, 14, of St. Peters, who has been playing soccer since he was all of three, “It’s just so cool to see everybody down here.”

Shortly before kickoff, the stadium was packed. Music blared from giant speakers and fans made laps around the stadium to get familiar with the new space, picking up food from local favorites such as Balkan Treat Box, BEAST Craft BBQ and Anthonino’s Taverna.

Lance Dillon, 48, of Staunton, didn’t think he’d ever see the day.

He got season tickets and arrived on March 4th with his 17-year-old son, Jacob. Dillon moved to the St. Louis area in 2000 from his home country, Trinidad and Tobago.

He grew up watching local and European matches, but never really had a team here – “I’m just trying to hold everything together. I can’t wait for that first whistle to blow.”

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