Last week the guys from This is SiLLy! podcast had a chance to interview Carolyn Kindle Betz from MLS4TheLou (The group trying to bring an MLS team to St. Louis). It was a great interview and we still think you should go give the full thing a listen, but we get it- you don’t have time to listen to an hour and a half podcast. So just for you, we’ve taken some of the best questions and answers from the pod and transcribed them. Give it a read and feel free to share it with any of your friends who are excited about a possible MLS team in St. Louis.
TiS!: What is the state of the MLS bid?
CKB: We’ve been doing behind the scenes stuff. We’ve been doing stadium design, district design and what the goal is, is that hopefully we’ll be up in New York sometime in July presenting to the (MLS) expansion committee and then hopefully we’ll hear something 3rd quarter. Hopefully that means early 3rd quarter and not later 3rd qtr.
TiS!: Traditionally MLS does like to make big announcements around other big events- the final or the all star game is coming up July 31st. We’ve heard that mentioned a few times that maybe something will come out then. I would expect to hear at least something about expansion during the all star week.
CKB: I mean, that would be perfect. I will tell you when they (MLS) came out after the April board of governors meeting and said they were going to go to 30 teams, that was completely unexpected. That (All Star Game) is a rumor we’ve heard. The sooner they let us know, the quicker we can start putting some things into motion.
TiS!: One of the last things we heard after a meeting with Don Garber was about Corporate partnerships, how is that going?
CKB: The corporate community has actually rallied around us more than I thought they would. I think they see the benefit. We’ve had great introduction conversations. The problem is that until you’re actually told you have a team it’s very hard to structure those partnerships because you want, not only that corporation to feel good but you want the ownership group to feel good. So until we can say we have a team and here’s what we can offer you… We do send updates every couple weeks. Heres where we’re at… we appreciate your interest… we think it would be great for you, your employees, the community and everyone has been very receptive to taking our phone calls.
TiS! There was a (fan) focus group- a first one, how did that go from your perspective? Did you learn a lot?
CKB: Oh my gosh. It went great. We learned so much. What really came out of it is just how many of those (focus groups) we have to have about so many different topics. What was most exciting to me was that you saw people from all different walks of life sitting at a table laughing & enjoying each other’s company , but it all came down to one passion and that’s the passion of Soccer. And it’s the passion of St. Louis and it was about the theme of success and how are we gonna be innovative as well as successful?
TiS!: I know a lot of other people have said they want to be involved in these focus groups. You will be doing more of these, right?
CKB: Oh absolutely. They’ll be going on for 2 years. If we get the team, and we start actually building the stadium we’ll need people to come in and say, as a parent or as a supporter… these are really a great learning session for an owner to hear what people are really thinking.
TiS!: We talked a little bit about you coming out to Saint Louis FC games. Not just in the corner with the Louligans, but you make your way around the stadium and see it from different aspects. How’s that experience been? Are you blown away by what 2nd division soccer is?
CKB: For sure… certainly going over to the corner and seeing the supporters has been a lot of fun and it’s nice now that I feel like I know them… I really enjoy the games, I think I better understand the sport of soccer. The tailgate is actually kinda my favorite part, it’s fun talking to people and that’s what I was trained to do and what I enjoy doing… it’s a very warm, welcoming, fun environment.
TiS!: I think something you can do to make us, as fans, feel comfortable is pay attention to the clubs that did it right, that moved from this level (2nd division) (to MLS)… keep the heart of what it was before then add on. I think maybe, if I have a criticism of what #MLS4TheLou has done it’s that I don’t think they’ve done a good enough job of tying in Saint Louis FC with the plan. Does that make sense?
CKB: It does… and there are 5 or 6 of us going to the Portland game on Sunday to really understand how they have made some transitions and how they do what they do. So to your point, we are very thoughtful of that. And the nice thing is, when you’re on your 7th team visit you do start to gather information about how you do things correctly. And that’s another hope of the fan focus groups to make sure we have that feedback and we’re respecting people’s opinions.
TiS!: Which other stadiums have you been to?
CKB: We’ve been to Red Bull Stadium, SKC’s Children’s Park, Minnesota United, LAFC, LA Galaxy and FC Dallas.
TiS!: Something you’ve talked about is taking the best ideas from different stadiums but still make it St. Louis.
CKB: It will be a very unique stadium. The views we have- it will be very hard for another stadium come out and say they have the iconic views we have. We want it to be as open and inviting as we can.
TiS!: People ask us what they can do to help this effort (MLS4TheLou), yes tagging on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram is great, but we always say- come out and support STLFC because that will be what this evolves into. STLFC will be involved somehow.
CKB: You’re exactly right, right now its all about social media. But at this point, of course support STLFC (or other soccer) and tag #MLS4TheLou. Anything anyone can do to support soccer in the region helps.
TiS!: Jim (Kavanaugh) and Tom (Strunk) have built a really good team/club environment with Saint Louis FC. We get anywhere from 4-5000 people out there that love STLFC… that are emotionally invested in that team. You’ve got potentially a quarter of that 20,000 seat MLS stadium already filled with fans. Already with Green & Blue. I think it’s important to continue, somehow, what we’ve got. You’ve got a lot of people invested in this team- to go in a different direction would be a shame because a lot of people love STLFC.
CKB: In full transparency, MLS told us we can’t think about a name until you have a team. So, with all due respect- that’s been put on the bottom. This is one of those things that you have to have the team before you can even start that. I will tell you right now, what we need to do is about getting the stadium designed and working with the city, because we still the city’s help, we still the state’s help, we still need the corporate sponsorships. I don’t want to get ahead of myself I don’t want to get too optimistic. But this is where we’ll rely on the community to help us.
TiS!: (back to the stadium) Are we going to have our supporter section wall/safe standing.
CKB: It’s funny you’re talking about the wall because that was a good 45 minute discussion today. Everything you’re talking about we’re doing. We are also looking at premium seating, different levels of suites. I’d like to construct my own little bar in the corner that looks right at the Arch and onto the pitch. (Carolyn’s Corner). And we’re certainly reaching out to corporate partners.
TiS!: Last question- The Louligans from day one haven’t had membership dues, we don’t make you take a test. Our 3 rules are: Show Up. Make Noise. Have Fun. So our final question to you is… Are you a Louligan?
CKB: If those are the only requirements, sure, why not.
If you like what you’ve read and you want more, please feel free to download and listen to the entire episode. We’ve edited out some of the stuff for this article to make it easier to read, but the entire conversation is a fun listen.
Click here for the full episode or find This is SiLLy! wherever you get your podcasts.