For years, St. Louis City SC had its eyes set on the future: the day the new stadium would be built, the day the coaches and players would be named, the day the team would finally take the field. But all that's happened now and SC is still looking to the future -- the future generations of St. Louis soccer fans and maybe even players.
This past week, kids poured into a new interactive soccer exhibit at The Magic House Children's Museum. It looks like a mini training center and locker room. Kids can try on kits and boots and shin guards. There's a circuit training workout and a state-of-the-art simulator where kids can kick a real soccer ball into a virtual goal with a roaring crowd in the background.
City SC president and CEO Carolyn Kindle said the exhibit reflects the vision the team has had from the beginning.
“We said from day one that this was more about sport but it was also about an entire community,” said Kindle. “And to have a partner like the Magic House and bring to life the locker room in a different form or fashion, we’re so excited to have the opportunity.”
For the Magic House, this is also a chance to strengthen its mission and bond with the region. Over the past four decades, the museum's been sparking imaginations, piquing curiosity and getting kids active.
“We’re very focused on play and making sure that in this day when many children are sitting idle in front of screens, that they have the opportunity to be physical and get out and play,” said Magic House president Beth Fitzgerald. “This is such a great enticement to get them thinking about themselves as physical fit, using the players as an inspiration for that.”
SC defender Joshua Yaro grew up in Ghana. He obviously discovered his passion for soccer there and followed it all the way to America and the Major Leagues. But he didn't have something like this to fuel his love for the game. He talked about it while playing with the kids at the Magic House exhibit.
“If I had something like this where I could go and have fun, exercise and develop my love and passion for soccer as well, it’s a great place to have,” Yaro said.
While the recreation part is important, this partnership is also part of the team's strategy to identify homegrown talent. Head coach Bradley Carnell points out there's one St. Louis teenager on the team and another in the system.
“There’s a connection between a Miguel Perez and a Caden Glover,” said Carnell. “We’re looking to find the next “Miggy” Perez and the next Caden Glover. We believe exhibitions like this only promote what we’re trying to do.”
Of course, not every kid kicking the ball around at the Magic House is going to become a professional soccer player, but most of them will likely grow up rooting for City SC. That's valuable, too. You only have to look at the Cardinals to see how a St. Louis sport team has brought a community together generation after generation.