St. Louis CITY SC crafting “extremely unique” downtown “campus” in construction of new stadium

Most MLS teams faced a gnarled dilemma over the league’s building boom in the 21st century: downtown or suburbs? The question is mostly related to stadium locations, and given the cost and lack of urban real estate, even those able to find a place in the city have typically had to move the larger footprints of their training facilities further away.

For St. Louis CITY SC the picture looks dramatically different for once.

“For me it is one of the most interesting and exciting projects in international football,” said sports director Lutz Pfannenstiel in a video call on Thursday to reporters. “

The extension side is already under construction of its future stadium in the Downtown West district, just a stone’s throw from Union Station, the city’s former train hub that has been converted into a mixed-use renovation project. It is a wonderful football-oriented venue with a full roof, public spaces for year-round use and an open 365-degree design with no “back doors”, according to one of the project managers.

Overview of the campus in downtown St. Louis City SC | Courtesy St. Louis City SC

But what really sets it apart from the rest is across the street. Market Street, to be precise, the thoroughfare that begins in the shadow of the famed Gateway Arch on the Mississippi and runs west past City Hall, the Enterprise Center, and other landmarks of a proud city guide downtown, strives to keep alive as you arrive from MLS.

CITY SC will house their entire operations – training facility, youth academy, club offices, team shop, “fan pavilion”, coffee shop and more – on-site and reclaim blocks of land that were once a wasteland of surface parking lots and extensive concrete access ramps for nearby Interstate 64 A tunnel is even being built under Market Street to better connect the two sides and allow back-of-house services to be separated from the stadium’s footprint.

“I think we wanted to convey a clear message by sending it out there: everyone is under one roof, everyone is the same club, everyone is an institution. This is not very common, ”Pfannenstiel noted. “Here you usually have this kind of separation because you are trying to keep a certain quiet space in a facility so that there aren’t too many people in the same place at the same time.”

While parts of the training grounds are kept private for players and staff, the overarching theme of the project is connecting with the wider community, with the hope of anchoring a renaissance in an unkempt area that has been too easily attached to the periphery of the city for the past few decades could be sent. And it’s not all new build: During Thursday’s construction update, City SC announced that they had acquired Union Square Plaza, an old railroad building next to the property that will eventually house four training places, to be the base for around 150 front offices -Become a co-worker.

North view of St. Louis City SC training facility, stadium in background | Courtesy St. Louis City SC

It is less of a stadium than a “campus” and its design already reflects the desired identity of the young organization.

“We really believe [the project] Adds the energy and excitement of the downtown West District on game day and every day, ”said Matt Sebek, the club’s chief experience officer, who confirmed the entire company is on schedule for completion in the summer of 2022 and has plenty of time ahead of St. Louis’ MLS debut the following spring.

The work was already in full swing when Pfannenstiel took office. But the charismatic German wasted no time influencing the design of the training center, right down to the shape of the first team’s locker room – in the spirit of egalitarianism, it’s oval, as can be found in Manchester City and elsewhere – and the placement of the Washing machines that wash the equipment of the different teams.

“It shouldn’t go unnoticed that we had the building in a different location before Lutz came on board,” said Emily Louchart, a lead designer at HOK. “And we stepped back to really analyze the best location for this building, how the pavilion and the fields really want to be aligned. So it was part of adopting this holistic view from the start. “

Illustration of the training area of ​​the St. Louis City Training Facility | Courtesy St. Louis City SC

Pfannenstiel, a well-traveled character with a broad network of contacts in his home country Germany and beyond, visited other clubs to collect ideas – “it was a bit like a candy store,” he joked – and used his previous experience as a player and scout to shape things his and City SC’s vision for their future. And the focus is on the academy – so the youth teams are integrated centrally.

“I think it’s very important to have the opportunity to put together the first-team players and the academy players. They need a space in which they also have the separation, but of course also space when they mix, ”he said. The kitchen has been placed in the heart of the building, where the club’s current and future players can interact over meals that are geared towards top performance.

“That is to a large extent a European influence from a club that we have visited,” explained Pfannenstiel. Because we want to focus on getting young talent from our academy into the first team, and that’s the best way. “

The layout of the academy facilities also corresponds to the ideal player path.

“It’s the donkey-and-the-carrot principle,” said Pfannenstiel. “Our youth group, from the under 14s to the older age groups, moves closer to the first team facility every year, where at the end they literally look through a glass door into a first team facility. So, as you get closer to the next age group, you get closer to your dream every year.

“I think we found the perfect way to separate certain things so that everyone can focus on the job, but always give the young players the impression of being close to the professionals, literally being able to touch and see them, how they are work, what to do, ”he added, noting that the same spirit of collaboration ran the coaches’ quarters.

“We will work together with all the trainers in the offices, the exchange of coaching ideas between the young people and the professionals, our coaching philosophy will range from the U-14 level to the pro level. So it will all be very consistent and it will be a completely different approach than most MLS teams. “

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