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Soccer fans celebrate chilly CityPark debut with match between St. Louis City 2 and Leverkusen

St. Louis City 2 fans react to a play on Wednesday during an international friendly against Bayer 04 Leverkusen at CityPark in Downtown West.
Brian Munoz
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St. Louis Public Radio
St. Louis City 2 fans react to a play during an international friendly against Bayer 04 Leverkusen at CityPark in Downtown West on Wednesday.

Once Adam Thenhaus opened his eyes Wednesday morning in his south St. Louis home, he felt euphoria.

The 40-year-old was the first in line to receive his official St. Louis City SC jersey, with dozens of people braving the brisk winds behind him. “The second I woke up, I wanted to go,” he said. “I was ready to go.”

Wednesday marked a milestone for Thenhaus and St. Louis’ soccer fans, as thousands packed CityPark, the newest stadium in St. Louis and home to the latest MLS expansion team, which begins play in February.

The stadium's inaugural match was between St. Louis City 2, the local club's development team, and German powerhouse Bayer 04 Leverkusen. Also on Wednesday, St. Louis City SC unveiled its home uniforms at a presentation at the downtown offices of team sponsor Nestle Purina.

Thenhaus said finally being able to set foot in CityPark was an unreal experience. “It’s just crazy that this started as a concept and everybody was talking about it,” he said. “Now, it’s here ... I can’t believe it’s real.”

The 22,500-seat stadium boasts high-tech features such as quick-pay marketplaces, a premium lounge with a 25-foot television and a slew of local eats like Balkan Treat Box and Steve’s Hot Dogs.

Thenhaus said the emphasis on local business ties is one of the things that sets this stadium apart from the rest. “How do people usually bond? They bond over food,” he said. “Just to see all of these local vendors here, it’s amazing.”

Caleb Coy and his wife, Ellen, moved to St. Louis from Syracuse, New York, in 2019. They said one of the biggest draws was the wide range of sports, food and entertainment to enjoy in the region.

“The scale of the city is really approachable,” he said. “There's a lot to do, and anyone who says that there's nothing to do in St. Louis hasn't looked around outside their front door.”

Jeremy D. Goodwin and Wayne Pratt discuss CityPark's debut

Ellen Coy said it’s exciting to see the stadium finally welcome fans after years of construction,

“We’ve seen all of the construction throughout the process … from the initial pylons to people coming into the city to enjoy this,” she said. “I’m personally just really excited that [the ownership group] made the choice to bring this into the city and so close to public transit and Downtown West.”

Despite St. Louis City 2’s 3-0 loss, Thenhaus said he was happy to be able to come together with his fellow soccer fans and share the love of the game.

“It’s like Christmas,” he said. “However it goes, you know, it’s nice to see a Bundesliga team here playing our local team now. It’s amazing.”

See photos from the day below:

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Brian Munoz
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St. Louis Public Radio
Purina dog trainer Deb Martin, 52, beckons Horatio, a 4-year-old mixed breed (mostly Chinese Crested), on Wednesday during a St. Louis City SC kit unveiling event at Nestle Purina downtown.
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Brian Munoz
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St. Louis Public Radio
Purina executive administrator Margarita Bommarito-Crouch, 50, applauds on Wednesday during a St. Louis City SC kit unveiling event at Nestle Purina.
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Brian Munoz
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St. Louis Public Radio
Hundreds of Purina employees attend a St. Louis City SC uniform unveiling event on Wednesday.
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Brian Munoz
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St. Louis Public Radio
Hanley, a 4-year-old Golden Retriever, sticks his tongue out on Wednesday during a St. Louis City SC kit unveiling event at Nestle Purina downtown.
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Brian Munoz
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St. Louis Public Radio
From right: Dennis Moore, chief revenue officer at St. Louis City SC; Angie Minges, director of partnership marketing at Purina, and Andrea Faccio, chief growth officer at Purina, join other executives on Wednesday during a St. Louis City SC kit unveiling event at Nestle Purina.
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Brian Munoz
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St. Louis Public Radio
Erika Gavilanes, a supply planner for Nestlé Purina North America, poses next to her bulldogs, Ella, 6, left, and Dom, 4, right, on Wednesday during a St. Louis City SC kit unveiling event at Nestle Purina in downtown St. Louis.
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Brian Munoz
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St. Louis Public Radio
St. Louis City SC supporters wait in line for their pre-ordered jerseys on Wednesday outside CityPark stadium in Downtown West.
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Brian Munoz
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St. Louis Public Radio
Construction crews work on a parking deck on Wednesday across from CityPark, home of St. Louis City SC, in Downtown West.
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Brian Munoz
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St. Louis Public Radio
Susanne Evans and Tim Evans, both of Chesterfield, raise a glass during a German Brass Band performance on Wednesday before an international friendly between St. Louis City 2 and Bayer 04 Leverkusen at CityPark in Downtown West.
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Brian Munoz
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St. Louis Public Radio
Francisco Chavarilla, 52, of Imperial, poses for a portrait on Wednesday before an international friendly between St. Louis City 2 and Bayer 04 Leverkusen during a fan tailgate outside Schlafly Tap Room in Downtown West. Chavarilla, donned with the Guatemalan flag, said his father was a wrestler because he was too slow to be a soccer player and he later picked up the love of both sports.
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Brian Munoz
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St. Louis Public Radio
Fans wait to enter CityPark on Wednesday during the stadium’s inaugural matchup between St. Louis City 2 and Bayer 04 Leverkusen in Downtown West.
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Brian Munoz
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St. Louis Public Radio
Thousands fill CityPark on Wednesday during an international friendly between St. Louis City 2 and Bayer 04 Leverkusen in Downtown West.
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Brian Munoz
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St. Louis Public Radio
St. Louis City 2’s starting lineup on Wednesday during CityPark’s inaugural match against Bundesliga powerhouse Bayer 04 Leverkusen in Downtown West.
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Brian Munoz
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St. Louis Public Radio
St. Louis City 2's Celio Pompeu (11) gets swept off his feet by Bayer 04 Leverkusen's Callum Hudson-Odoi (17) on Wednesday during CityPark's inaugural soccer match in Downtown West.
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Brian Munoz
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St. Louis Public Radio
Austin Adams, 26, of Soulard, leads the St. Louis City SC fan section in chants on Wednesday during an international friendly against Bayer 04 Leverkusen at CityPark in Downtown West.
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Brian Munoz
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St. Louis Public Radio
St. Louis City 2’s Josh Yaro (15) looks for the ball while under pressure from Bayer 04 Leverkusen's Zidan Sertdemir (29) on Wednesday during an international friendly at CityPark in Downtown West.
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Brian Munoz
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St. Louis Public Radio
Megan Derosier, 31, of St. Louis, cheers for St. Louis City 2 on Wednesday during an international friendly against Bayer 04 Leverkusen at CityPark in Downtown West.
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Brian Munoz
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St. Louis Public Radio
St. Louligans fans wave their supporter section’s flag on Wednesday during an international friendly between St. Louis City 2 and Bayer 04 Leverkusen at CityPark in Downtown West.
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Brian Munoz
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St. Louis Public Radio
St. Louis City 2 fans react to a play on Wednesday during an international friendly against Bayer 04 Leverkusen at CityPark in Downtown West.
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Brian Munoz
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St. Louis Public Radio
St. Louis City 2’s Michael Creek (18) attempts to keep his footing while fighting for the ball against Bayer 04 Leverkusen’s Ayman Azhil (32) on Wednesday during an international friendly at CityPark in Downtown West.
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Brian Munoz
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St. Louis Public Radio
The Wheel at St. Louis Union Station is framed by soccer fans on Wednesday during an international friendly between St. Louis City 2 and Bayer 04 Leverkusen at CityPark in Downtown West.
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Brian Munoz
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St. Louis Public Radio
Players and staff for St. Louis City 2 thank the supporter section after losing, 3-0, to Bayer 04 Leverkusen on Wednesday after CityPark's inaugural match in Downtown West.
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Brian Munoz
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St. Louis Public Radio
St. Louis City 2’s Ben Di Rosa (25) signs a shirt belonging to Charlie Young, 13, of Wildwood, on Wednesday during an international friendly between St. Louis City 2 and Bayer 04 Leverkusen at CityPark in Downtown West.

St. Louis Public Radio's Jeremy D. Goodwin contributed the audio to this report.

Brian Munoz is a photojournalist and multimedia reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.

Send questions and comments about this story to feedback@stlpublicradio.org.