What does a club need in terms of sports infrastructure to be competitive in the future? What does an infrastructure look like that does justice to the values, goals, and strategy of the club?
Two definitive questions that have been on our minds since August 2020 the first weeks and months working together with St. Louis City SC’s management.
Booth sizes, office layouts, weight room equipment, technical specifications, and space requirements for the soccer fields are only some elements to consider in the design process of a high-performance sports infrastructure. However, the infrastructure development of St. Louis starts even earlier. A modern high-performance infrastructure must be shaped by a mission statement and the clubs’ values, its members, fans, and athletes. The club’s slogan “We are St. Louis!” illustrates the importance of being close to the city, the region, and the people to the club’s ownership.
Together with the senior staff, the responsible architects, and BPTC, the first stage of the process was to break down the club’s values into a motto for the new infrastructure. The slogan “Connected to the wider community” had to be taken into account in all decisions and designs while combining it with maximum functionality and a focus on competitive sports.
The first and also one of the most decisive decisions in the overall process was the location of the sports infrastructure with the stadium as well as the training and youth academy including the training fields. The fact that the stadium and training center is located right next to each other is absolutely unique in North America. In addition, the entire infrastructure is being built in the heart of the city right next to “Union Station”, which means that the club is in direct encounter with the citizens of St. Louis on a day-to-day basis. This will create a very natural connection between the community and the club.
Athletically, the proximity of the training and youth academy with the stadium provides a visualization of the ultimate goal of all academy players to one day perform as MLS professionals in the stadium – a great motivation for all local youth players.
With our experience, the next stage of the process was to combine the motto with an athletic and logistical functionality into the interior and exterior design of the training and youth academy. The goal is to use the spatial proximity of all academy teams, starting with the U14 all the way to the MLS team, as an advantage and to allow a transparent, open, and direct culture of communication within the coaches, experts, and sports staff. Reflected in many open office spaces and the cross-team location of coaches and experts. Many windows and glass panels in the academy, office spaces, and power rooms are designed to support the open culture and foster a connection among all players and staff.
All soccer fields, partly natural grass and partly artificial grass, are within walking distance from the cabins of all teams, thus ensuring ideal and efficient walking routes in the everyday life.
Infrastructure planning is intensive work on details that must be thought through athletically, strategically, and functionally in a long process with all stakeholders and departments. For an innovative, agile, motivating, and successful organization, the hardware, i.e. the modern design of the interior and exterior facilities, must be brought into optimum harmony with the software, i.e. the work culture, values, and employees, in line with requirements.