Day 3: St Louis FC
The next day was a shorter drive from Kansas City to Louisville, via St Louis, and that of course meant a stop and a search for the Eastern Division side Saint Louis FC’s home ground, West Community Stadium. Never having seen them in action live, or on TV (inter-conference games are rare), I didn’t quite know what to expect.
Like Colorado Springs, the stadium appears to be a community recreation park, where the team plays. Unlike the Switchbacks, this facility was not situated in a residential area and was in fact jammed between two under-repair highways, an industrial lot and a river. A lovely spot for a team that has flown under the radar for many USL fans (especially those from the West). The relatively small all-seater, uncovered main stand features bars, concession stands and activities, along with some corporate boxes and the media facilities. The other long sideline is adorned with simple bleachers overlooking the artificial turf. Behind the goal on one end was a “party patio”, an innovation no doubt set up to add some menace to the home support.
In all, despite the location, West Community Stadium has genuine charm to it. I imagine it being lovely little spot to watch a game of USL football. I will have to see if I can make it back here one day.
Day 4: Louisville City FC
Finally, the last stop on my USL tour and one that I was intrigued to visit. “Lou City” are one of the most – if not the most successful – outfits in the league, winning in 2017, 2018 and runners up in 2019. That game was the last they would play at their old venue, Louisville Slugger Field, before moving into their new waterfront address in East Louisville named the Lynn Family Stadium.
And what home it is!
This soccer-specific stadium sets the bar very, very high for other USL teams. It is by far and away the most impressive stadium in the league. The three-sided, 11,700 all-seater stadium makes a massive statement.
All three sides are covered with a roof - adorned with lights resembling an Ohio river Kraken appearing from the deep - that aims the crowd noise at the pitch. A steep bank of stands will have the crowd right on top of the action – all of this is designed to make this stadium an intimidating fortress.
Amenities lack for nothing. A monster screen fills the one end without a stand, the few concession stands I could make out embraced elements from the local Butchertown neighborhood. This is truly a team that has big ambitions but have not lost sight of the fact that they are first and foremost in and of the city of Louisville. It’s a very impressive blueprint for other USL teams to seriously start looking at (ahem, Phoenix).
A very impressive stadium for an impressive outfit. I wasn’t there long before I was shuttled off the sidewalk out front by security (ostensibly because it was still a construction site). Now is probably a good time to point out that at no time did I trespass onto these grounds. Most had vantage points from outside, or in the case of St Louis, were open for training.
Now we just need to see some action on these pitches! Welcome back, USL, we’ve missed you!