NEW YORK — It’s not quite an official groundbreaking, but St. Louis MLS owner Carolyn Kindle Betz sees any bit of stadium progress as something to celebrate.
The stadium and training facility is part of a 30-acre parcel Betz said is currently highway on and off ramps.
But finally, on February 3, those ramps were closed.
“I have to say much to my surprise, the city was absolutely so supportive, fantastic, thrilled,” she said at Major League Soccer’s 25th season kickoff in midtown Manhattan Wednesday. “We had very little pushback, which was just an indication of how excited everybody is.”
The expansion club, which enters the league for the 2022 season, will be the league’s first team to have both its stadium and training facility in a downtown location. It’s also the first in MLS with a majority female-led ownership group.
“Right now I believe we are ripping up highway ramps,” she said. “I don’t really think you would call it an official groundbreaking, more of a preparation, but we’re hoping to have an actual groundbreaking in the spring.”
Although there’s still a lot of work to do, and more milestones to check off, Betz said the sight of construction equipment and ramp closures is still significant.
“It also was really exciting for the city because it’s like we weren’t kidding, we were going to do this, we were going to work hard, and so I think just being able to have little milestones like that is something that everybody celebrates,” she said. “It’s also just another testament that we mean what we mean and we’re doing what we’re doing. Actually having the groundbreaking and starting to see some steel go in the ground will be big too, but right now, any milestone, any opportunity like that that we can take and celebrate it we do.”
There’s much more work to do — hiring of a sporting staff, acquiring vital sponsorships. But Betz at times lets herself dream a bit about the day the club, her club, makes its MLS debut like Inter Miami CF and Nashville SC are set to do this weekend.
“I think what’s going to be making me so happy is to watch how happy the fans are, and you do kind of have that if I actually pull this off, I want to high-five myself, but I know that day it’s not about me,” Betz said. “The day after it’s gonna be about me. But just to see the fans and the kids and everybody be so excited and to say that you actually did this, I don’t want to get too excited about it, but at the same time it’s what gets me up every morning and reminds me that this is why I’m doing this and so that I do thoroughly enjoy.”