Proof that dreams can come true: One day before the TEDxGatewayArch: DREAM of Major League Soccer (MLS) event hosted by Olin convened, news broke that St. Louis business and sports leaders are joining forces to bring an MLS expansion franchise to our city.
On February 18, with more than 300 in attendance from WashU and the St. Louis community, TEDxGatewayArch (#tedxarch) featured two panels to talk about their pro-soccer dreams.The event was held in Knight Hall and Bauer Hall.
The first panel, “The DREAM of Playing at the Pinnacle” was moderated by “Mr. Soccer” Bill McDermott, SLU Billiken player, broadcaster and soccer advocate.
The panel included World Cup Champion Lori Chalupny; MLS star turned broadcaster Taylor Twellman; author and historian Dave Lange; and US Olympic player turned coach, Al Trost.
“There’s always the next thing. The next goal,” Chalupny said when asked if she had always aspired to play on the world stage.
Taylor added, “let kids tell you what sport they want to do,” rather than forcing them into something they look like they might be good at or might not have the perfect physical attributes.”
When asked about his experience, Trost agreed that the level of play in the USL team did surprise him, and he would like to see them on T.V. more, though very glad to have them carried on KTRS.
Lange added, “I’ve never felt like we’ve (soccer) been wanted before.” Of course, we are now.
Eli Hoisington, Design Principal at HOK, then shared a vision for a soccer specific stadium rather than a multi-use venue which would keep site-lines sport appropriate, be fan-specific and make attending a game the best possible experience. (See photo above)
The second panel focused on “The Business of the Soccer DREAM,” discussing the financial and business aspects of bringing an MLS team to St. Louis.
Moderated by Tim Hayden, Founder of Stadia Ventures VC firm, panelists included: Eli Hoisington, Lead Stadium Designer from HOK; David Hunn, St. Louis Post Dispatch Reporter; Vicky Lynch, Sports Promoter, Lynch Sports & Events; and Jim Woodcock, Senior Vice President and Partner, Sports Business, FleishmanHillard.
Hayden posed, “Why should St. Louis be jumping in when going through a ‘break-up’ [with NFL]?” Responses included the tremendous fan base, the business (not corporate) base, and the reality that St. Louis is a staunch supporter of its sports teams.
Hayden also asked, “does the owner have to be local?” Most agreed he or she doesn’t have to be. The consensus was it’s more important to have excellent ownership than local ownership. To have an owner who is engaged and involved is what matters. However, outside ownership is a sensitive issue right now, and St. Louisans will be wary.
The new MLS to STL group includes St. Louis Cardinals President Bill Dewitt III and St. Louis Blues CEO Chris Zimmerman. How can an MLS team compete with fans who “bleed red and blue?”
Lynch offered, “a new team should learn from the Blues and Cardinals. Because soccer is a different market with a younger, different crowd.” Hunn interjected, “A crowd that is untapped and unfed. It’s like saying, can we just have two theaters downtown?”
Hayden concluded with an optimistic outlook for everyone dreaming about professional soccer in the Gateway city, “This is an opportunity for St. Louis to shine. This will be our team.”
Yes, we have dared to DREAM.