Video by Scott Lunte
On March 14, the St. Louis Soccer Park will host the first home game of the new professional soccer team, Saint Louis FC (STLFC), and the first professional outdoor soccer game in St. Louis since 2011.
STLFC is part of the United Soccer League, a minor league system for Major League Soccer, the highest professional soccer league in the U.S.
STLFC plans to improve the Soccer Park to make the facilities match the standards of a professional league. Webster University Athletic Director Scott Kilgallon said he first heard about STLFC when talking with members of the Scott Gallagher Soccer Club, which owns the Soccer Park and leases it to Webster.
Kilgallon said improvements in the facility could enable Webster to host national championship tournaments at Soccer Park. Further, he said hosting a national championship event can help boost recruiting in the sport.
Kilgallon said in addition to the discussions about the professional soccer team, he spoke with Scott Gallagher about improvements STLFC plans to make. He said they intend to make improvements to the lighting for the main field, mainly in the middle of the field, which Kilgallon described as the main problem area.
In addition to the improvements to the lights, Kilgallon said they were planning on making renovations to the stands and locker rooms. He believes these improvements will help him reach the goal that he set his sights on when he took the job: hosting a regional or national championship tournament.
“With these improvements, it’s going to really improve our chances to put in bids for (regional or national championships),” Kilgallon said. “I think it’s a good thing.”
Kilgallon said winning bids for national tournaments are given out about two years in advance. This means coaches can use national tournaments as a recruiting tool for the future, and after the tournaments have passed, coaches can use it as a point of strength for their program.
Sharing resources can be a good thing, but it also poses some issues. Kilgallon said the Soccer Park is Webster’s best chance to host a national championship, because of scheduling conflicts with their baseball facility.
Webster shares GCS Ballpark with the Gateway Grizzlies of the semi-professional Frontier League. Kilgallon said the facilities are up to par with other hosting ballparks, but scheduling conflicts with GCS ballpark have kept them from hosting.
The beginning of the Frontier League schedule coincides with the end of the Division III college baseball season, and when schedules overlap, the business aspect of the professional team takes over. Kilgallon said what they could offer the Grizzlies just does not stack up to what they can make in a weekend.
“They make 20 – or 30,000 dollars over a weekend, whereas we would be saying, ‘Bypass that 20 or 30 grand and we’ll pay you whatever the NCAA allows,’” Kilgallon said.
As for overlapping schedules with STLFC, a potential conflict only exists for Webster regular season games. STLFC hosts their final two games of the season on Sept. 12 and 19, both Saturdays, and could also host a playoff game. Webster hosted a game on the first Saturday of September in their 2014 season, but Kilgallon is not worried about scheduling conflicts as long as there is communication between the two sides.
Director of Sales for STLFC Giselle Paletta said they anticipate sellouts for each of their 15 home games this year, totaling between 5- and 6,000 fans. Kevin Gygant, director of corporate partnerships for STLFC, said Webster branding will gain due to the attendance of the games.