While the aldermanic vote for a new soccer stadium to bring a Major League Soccer (MLS) team to St. Louis has gone back and forth, the St. Louis Cardinals have voiced their support for a franchise–even though the proposed venue would be a few blocks down the street.
“The MLS season does overlap with the baseball season,” conceded team president Bill DeWitt III. “But they’ve told us, because I was on that committee briefly, that there aren’t actual day overlaps–or many to speak of. So that kind of gave us a bit of comfort that if we did get MLS, it wouldn’t necessarily be direct daily competition on a lot of events.”
The 2017 MLS regular season begins on March 3rd and runs through October 22nd.
“I think we’re fine with it, if it happens,” continued DeWitt. “Certainly, we’ve been supportive of the other teams in town when the Rams were here, obviously, you know about the Blues relationship. So if they can get it done, we will be supportive.”
The proposed soccer stadium for downtown St. Louis would be built on 24 acres of land just west of Union Station, with a seating capacity just over 20,000.
Besides the occasional shared game day, a new facility with that kind of seating capacity could also compete with Busch Stadium for other events such as concerts and the soccer friendlies which have been hosted by the Cardinals home in recent years.
“It’s not our place to be, just because something might be moderate competitive for a venue or a concert or whatever, that we should be against something like that,” responded DeWitt. “We’re fine and supportive of them coming to town. If it’s good for St. Louis, we’re happy to support it.”
Nine other cities besides St. Louis are in contention for one of two MLS expansion franchises, which would expect to begin play in 2020.
With the recent success of the Winter Classic, there are likely to be more winter events at Busch Stadium–but not necessarily with an ice rink.
“Because we don’t have a natural rivalry or event that would drive the economics to maybe justify it, I would say the odds are probably pretty low,” explained DeWitt. “Having said that, it was such a great week and people really enjoyed being on the ice, I think we’ll probably do a little homework on whether a smaller-scale type of thing could work in the off-season.”
Boston College and Boston University have been among the collegiate teams to have played on winter ice at Fenway Park in Boston, which has also hosted a 140-foot ski jump in their stadium.
“We’ve looked around a lot,” added DeWitt. “I think we’re struggling to find something that we feel could be a real difference maker–at least a break-even type of thing for the winter.”
photo credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports, Bill Greenblatt/UPI