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