St. Louis CITY SC plays at CITYPARK in the up-and-coming Downtown West neighborhood.

Waiting for Match Day? Let’s Explore What St. Louis CITY SC Has in Store

Monday January 30, 2023

By Rachel Huffman

Truly an international sport, soccer is communal; it’s tribal. Passion for the game generates anticipation, excitement and unity, and celebrations of fandom involve chanting, drumming and color.

Whether you’re a lifelong fan of soccer or simply an inquisitive visitor to the area, the induction of St. Louis CITY SC into the local sports scene is electrifying.

Playing their first game on Feb. 25 against Austin FC, St. Louis CITY SC is the newest expansion team in Major League Soccer (MLS) and the first female majority-owned club in the league; its main jersey sponsor, Purina, is also led by a woman, president and CEO Nina Leigh Krueger.

Arguably the more important date, March 4 is St. Louis CITY SC’s first home game at CITYPARK stadium, which connects St. Louis’ downtown core and its thriving Cortex Innovation Community.

“We’re excited to show off the stadium and the team,” Matt Sebek, chief experience officer of St. Louis CITY SC, says, “but beyond that, we want match days to showcase all the amazing things that are happening across the region. Born and raised in St. Louis, our ownership group has paid special attention to the art, food and music that fans will experience on match days. We want to provide fully immersive moments that reflect the excellence across St. Louis.”

For those visiting St. Louis, CITYPARK will be a must-see attraction. “You might come for a soccer game, but you’ll be exposed to so many more incredible things that St. Louis has to offer, and you’ll begin to write a new narrative about St. Louis,” Sebek says. “This is a defining moment for our region – one that says, our future is bright.”

Pillars of the Valley is a permanent public sculpture outside of CITYPARK.
Photo courtesy of St. Louis CITY SC

Before getting caught up in the buzz of match day, spend a quiet moment with Pillars of the Valley, a permanent public art exhibit located in the southwest plaza of CITYPARK. The installation recognizes and honors the 20,000 predominantly Black residents of the once-thriving Mill Creek Valley neighborhood who were displaced in the name of urban renewal in the 1950s. Of the 5,000 homes, schools, churches and businesses in the neighborhood, the Harris-Stowe State University campus is the only surviving building.

The powerful work – the vision of nationally acclaimed post-disciplinary artist and East St. Louis native Damon Davis – aims to build connections and drive discussions around a more inclusive future for all. The tribute also includes landscaping matching the plot lines of the buildings that once stood in the same spot and plaques displaying the addresses of the former homes.

“Pillars of the Valley shows the intentional nature of our ownership group,” Sebek says. “We’ve not only built a beautiful, state-of-the-art stadium in downtown St. Louis, but we’ve put in the work to understand the history of the ground where it sits. The piece provides an educational moment for visitors so that we don’t repeat the same patterns.”

Pillars of the Valley is part of a larger installation along a planned one-mile stretch of the Brickline Greenway, a project of Great Rivers Greenway.

The plaza on the east side of the stadium will also be activated before, during and after matches. “Yes, tickets are in high demand,” Sebek says, “but even if you don’t have a ticket, you can still have fun at the stadium – we think it’s going to be the best party in town.”

Steve's Hot Dogs are part of the food program at CITYPARK.
Photo courtesy of St. Louis CITY SC

Inside CITYPARK, there’s a lot more to experience along with the action on the pitch. Enlisting a “flavor officer” – James Beard Award-winning chef Gerard Craft of Niche Food Group – St. Louis CITY SC has developed the most comprehensive food experience in sports. Its local food partners, including Anthonino’s Taverna, Balkan Treat Box, BEAST Craft BBQ Co., Bold Spoon Creamery, Chez Ali, Crown Candy, Kaldi’s Coffee, Nudo House and Steve’s Hot Dogs, represent a mouthwatering variety of traditional St. Louis tastes and original flavors from our unique neighborhoods.

“St. Louis is a foodie town,” Sebek says, “and food has a natural connection to soccer. Food is diverse; it’s international. You eat with friends and family – preferably while watching the game.

“Instead of inviting three or four local restaurants into the stadium like many do, we decided to make our food program 100 percent local,” he continues. “On opening day in March, we’ll have more than 25 local restaurants dishing out St. Louis flavor, spanning from Bosnian to Senegalese and Vietnamese to barbecue, of course.”

Hip-hop artist Mvstermind has also joined the team as the director of musical experience. “We were looking for someone with musical expertise, but also someone who is well-connected in the community and undeniably passionate about St. Louis, and Mvstermind checked all the boxes,” Sebek says. “The music during the pregame has to be different than the music during halftime, and we’ve been working with him for the last year on the sonic experience of the stadium. Like the food, the music has been selected with purpose.”

CITYPARK will host 17 to 20 games every season, and Mvstermind will help book additional talent – think local DJs, bands and other performers – and interweave them into the experience in the stadium and plazas of the downtown district.

CITYPARK is home to St. Louis CITY SC.
Photo courtesy of St. Louis CITY SC

After the food and the music have set the stage, it’s time for the match. At CITYPARK, the pitch sits 40 feet below street level, creating a proudly loud, one-of-a-kind MLS experience: Every seat – all 22,500 of them – will be within 120 feet of the pitch for one of the best views in soccer.

“We want hype to exist across every seat, but there will be a dedicated supporter section on the north side of the stadium,” Sebek explains. “It will be the heartbeat of the stadium. The supporters stand throughout the entire game; they lead chants and play drums. We’re also hoping to bring the brass element of St. Louis music history into that. For soccer fans in St. Louis, it’s a dream come true.”

Win or lose, St. Louis CITY SC hopes fans leave CITYPARK with lasting memories. “We can’t always control player performance,” Sebek says, “but we can control the fan experience, and we want people who come to the stadium to feel proud of not only the club but also the city. If we can measure positive fan sentiment, whether the team wins or loses, we’ll be doing a good job.”

We hope that you’ll join the fans clad in CITY Red and root for St. Louis’ newest sports team. Note: If you’re so inclined to learn the chants for St. Louis CITY SC ahead of your first game, check out the Saint Louligans’ recordings.