ST. LOUIS — The city’s new Major League soccer team gave a peek Thursday of the practice fields and complex it plans south of Market Street, across from the under-construction stadium.
The team’s chief experience officer, Matt Sebek, said in a media briefing St. Louis City SC will be the “only Major League Soccer team to have its team headquarters, practice facility, training fields and stadium in one centralized downtown location.”
The roughly $400 million stadium and practice fields are overwhelmingly privately financed by the owners: the Taylor family, of rental car giant Enterprise Holdings, and Jim Kavanaugh, CEO of World Wide Technology. Sebek said their goal with the project is to help fuel “the growth and revitalization of St. Louis.” Including the practice fields and workout areas next to the stadium “amps up the energy and excitement of the Downtown West district on match day and every day.”
Some real estate investors have already taken new interest in the area near the stadium. In January, a Memphis developer purchased the massive Butler Brothers building two blocks away, betting that the stadium might finally make feasible a rehab of the empty 1906 warehouse. A few blocks north at Washington Avenue and 18th Street, King Realty Advisors hopes to build a 184-apartment complex on an existing surface parking lot. And a Kansas City developer bought the old Mulligan Printing building nearby, with plans to rehab it into 72 apartments.
Team officials also announced Thursday they had purchased the Union Square Plaza building on 21st Street, which sits at the southern edge of the practice fields along Highway 40 (Interstate 64) and houses rock climbing gym Upper Limits. The team will renovate the building to house its headquarters.
An Upper Limits employee who answered the phone downtown on Thursday said the business has not heard whether the team would need to use its space and that the rock climbing gym had no plans to move.
Soccer complex plans call for three fields south of the stadium site, with the one closest to Highway 40 synthetic field turf and the other two, north of Clark Avenue, natural grass. The renderings released Thursday also detailed team workout and practice areas, which include such features as a circular locker room for players, garage-style doors that open the team fitness center to the practice fields, and views of the stadium to the north and Union Station and the Ferris Wheel to the east.
The team is expected to begin play in March 2023. The new stadium began construction last year on the north side of Market Street, technically in the city’s Downtown West neighborhood.
Chris DeVolder, managing principal at HOK, the St. Louis-based architecture firm behind the project, highlighted a two-story building across Market Street from the stadium. The first floor will house a team store and café; the second floor will be event space. Plazas and walks around the building will allow the public to gather outside with clear views into the practice fields.
“This will be open year-round every day to the fans,” DeVolder said.
The proximity between stadium and practice fields is “extremely unique,” said Lutz Pfannenstiel, the German soccer executive St. Louis City SC hired in August as sporting director — the team’s equivalent of Cardinals president of baseball operations John Mozeliak or Blues general manager Doug Armstrong. One of his main tasks is building a youth soccer academy to feed new players up to the team, and he said training and workout areas are designed so younger players brush shoulders with the pros.
“It’s one of the most interesting and exciting projects in international football,” Pfannenstiel said. “Having that opportunity to build that club from scratch.”