A few miles from Pinocchio, The Arch, and the downtown urban garden is another sort of garden.
Yes, a soccer garden. The entrance to Anheiser Bush Soccer Park looks like the entrance to an upscale park, a horticultural sanctuary, not a sportsplex, and once inside the ambience is maintained.
The statue of a soccer player pictured here is in the center of the concourse at the top of the premier seating area. It carries the same combination of the artistic and the athletic from downtown, to suburban Fenton, MO where the soccerplex is located.
As I watched the All-Stars and their Swedish competition practicing, I was struck by something profound. The importance of scale.
The success of MLS has been the development of soccer only stadiums that are scaled to approximately one quarter of the seating capacity of American football stadiums.
As these fan friendly, soccer purposed venues have proliferated, the MLS's success has solidified. Having a majority of the seats filled, having intimate dimensions that put the fans closer to the action, and closer to each other, brings a huge infusion of energy to a soccer match.
One of the problems we have in some of the WPS venues is that even these soccer only venues can be too large for WPS in its infancy.
As I was interviewing the All-Stars, one of the questions I asked was, other than your own fans, which team do you think has the best fans.
The answers I got were the Bay Area (Gold Pride), New Jersey (Sky Blue) and St. Louis. I don't believe it is a coincidence that those are the three smallest venues in the league.
And the new Anheiser Bush Soccer Park here in St. Louis seems to be the quintessential venue for Women's Professional Soccer.
The clubhouse area has an upscale ambience, almost a country club feel about it, with beautifully landscaped terraced ingress and egress via broad stairways. The seating is all close in, with good sight lines, and a wonderfully intimate feel, yet the first class quality of the design and materials and the use of the green natural setting all around the facility makes a major league statement. You know you aren't in a high school or college bleacher, even though the scale and capacity of the seating area is comparable to a college facility.
It is unfortunate in a way that clubs such as Chicago and Los Angeles have the burden of playing in the relatively cavernous Toyota Park or Home Depot Center when a smaller venue of the scale and style of St. Louis's home park is ideal for this league.
All things considered, St. Louis is the perfect choice for the league's first All-Star Game, not only because of the soccer tradition here, and not only because of the appropriateness of the venue, but because the entire city of St. Louis is symbolic of what WPS is trying to be. Not the biggest, but as good or better than the giants, and exuberant, hopeful, confident, optimistic, and proud.