Opinion: An MLS Team In St. Louis Is A Win For Everyone
Photo Credit: J.B. Forbes, St. Louis Post Dispatch
The date was January 12, 2016.
In a cruel twist of fate, I was in Los Angeles that day, about to begin a semester-long journalism program for school. I watched the T.V. with tears in my eyes as my childhood was ripped away from me and from the city of St. Louis.
The announcement of the St. Louis Rams moving back to California didn’t come as a shock to anyone. It had been in the works for years and fans knew the odds were stacked against them. However, it is the way the decision went down that has left our city scarred to this day.
It didn’t matter that St. Louis had provided a plan for a new stadium. All that mattered was the money and words of one of the most corrupt and evil people in the world of sports: Stan Kroenke.
Kroenke could have just taken his team and left. Instead, he sent a 29-page document to NFL owners stating, “Compared to all other U.S. cities, St. Louis is struggling,” and insisted that the city couldn’t support three professional sports teams.
Ever since that solemn day in January, the city of St. Louis has had a hole in their hearts and a bad taste in their mouth. As of Tuesday, that hole has been filled and that taste washed away by more than a few beers.
Yesterday morning, Major League Soccer Commissioner Don Garber came to St. Louis to break the news that many people have been waiting years to hear.
"It is with great pride that we welcome St. Louis to Major League Soccer," Garber said. "St. Louis is a city with a rich soccer tradition, and it is a market we have considered since the league's inception.”
An over-capacity crowd flooded the Palladium to witness the historic announcement. Members of the MLS4THELOU ownership group, as well as several St. Louis sports legends, lined the front rows grinning from ear to ear.
After several failed attempts to bring a team to St. Louis, many thought this day would never come. However, now that a franchise has been secured, many questions lie ahead for ownership. What is the timeline for stadium construction? Who will be the club’s sponsors? And the question everyone has an opinion on: What will be the team name and colors?
There remains a lot of skepticism towards the ownership group and how they will proceed to answer these questions. There are also plenty of critics of MLS, its rules, and how the league is structured. Some of that criticism is warranted, some of it not.
As of right now, those negative outcomes are all hypothetical. What an MLS team will do and has already done for the city of St. Louis is the reason we should embrace the league.
An MLS team gives us a chance to amplify the success we already have with Saint Louis F.C. and the rest of the local soccer scene.
It has been my privilege to cover the USL team up close this season and the impact they have on the community. When West Community Stadium is filled, it’s a wonderful sight. I would put the St. Louligans ability to organize tailgates, fundraisers, and make life for opposing team’s hell against anyone.
Now, imagine a crowd of 22,000 instead of 5,000. Instead of 100 supporters in one corner, imagine 1,000 or so across multiple sections. With an increase in fans comes an increase in revenue, which should expand the club’s and supporter’s group’s ability to raise funds for charities all across the city and country.
Fans of STLFC should find comfort in the fact that owner Jim Kavanaugh is a part of the MLS4THELOU group and, alongside Carolyn Kindle Betz and the Taylor family, that the group as a whole is St. Louis based. It would be foolish for this new franchise to completely ignore the history of STLFC, but instead build off of its success.
The greater impact an MLS franchise will have is on the city of St. Louis, both in its perception of itself and perception from around the world.
A new team and stadium will create hundreds of new jobs for the city and will add to the billions of dollars invested in new infrastructure that will help revamp downtown St. Louis. It won’t be long until the new stadium, and the surrounding area, will be the go-to place for many people every weekend.
MLS will also give St. Louis an opportunity to further showcase itself to the world. Instead of preaching about our rich soccer history, we’ll be able to show it on a larger scale.
We’ll have more opportunities to host U.S. men’s and women’s national team World Cup qualifiers. What if Saint Louis University could host the College Cup? What if the new stadium attracted Barcelona or Manchester United on their summer tour more frequently?
There are many more reasons why having an MLS team is a win for St. Louis, but this is the biggest one: MLS wants to be here.
The league still has a plethora of bids from other cities, many of which include wealthy ownership groups, impressive stadium plans, and passionate fan bases. They had survived without St. Louis for this long and they could have continued to do so.
However, the league waited and waited. Through multiple failed attempts, MLS held on for the chance that one of the country’s best soccer cities could get their act together. They could have gone for the money and shiny new stadium elsewhere. They wanted St. Louis and when is the last time that has happened with a major professional sports league?
We have years to fret about the details of this team’s beginnings, but a lifetime of memories and new relationships will soon be born regardless.
August 20, 2019 has completely erased January 12, 2016 in my books and adds to the tremendous momentum that the city of St. Louis has gained over the past year in sports.
The St. Louis Blues are Stanley Cup champions. The St. Louis Cardinals are in first place. Soon, an MLS franchise will join the party.
Who’s laughing now Stan Kroenke?