The soccer match Monday night between Bosnia-Herzegovina and Argentina will feature two international teams far from home, but it may seem more like a home game for St. Louis’ sizable Bosnian community.
A crowd of 1,300 Bosnian fans showed up Sunday night for the closed practice at Busch Stadium, an indication of the community’s excitement, according toVicki Bryant, vice president of event services and merchandising for the St. Louis Cardinals.
To prepare for the 7:30 p.m. start, Busch Stadium grounds crews started transforming the field last Monday. Bryant said it took between 20 to 30 workers to transform the field, which included removing the pitcher’s mound, grading the infield and adding sod to the warning track.
The Cardinals expect to sell close to 40,000 tickets for the game, Bryant said. An additional 250 seats have been added on the field.
“St. Louis has proven itself to be a premier soccer market, and we have no doubt that the area’s soccer fans, including the large Bosnian community, will come out in full-force,” Relevant Sports CEO Charlie Stillitano, said in a statement. Relevant Sports contracts with the Cardinals to bring special sporting events to Busch Stadium.
The local Bosnian community has grown significantly over the years. In the mid-’90s, about 10,000 Bosnian immigrants lived in the St. Louis region because of a refugee program that placed people here following a civil war. Today, there are more than 70,000 immigrants from the region, representing the largest foreign-born community in St. Louis and the largest Bosnian population outside of Bosnia, according to Tim Nowak, executive director of the World Trade Center St. Louis.
“They have reinvigorated whole neighborhoods in south St. Louis city and now have expanded into South County,” he said.
Bryant said concession stands and retail booths will be open for the game, giving the stadium’s 2,000 employees an extra day of work. Busch Stadium hosts about 400 non-baseball events each year.
The soccer match marks the second soccer game at Busch Stadium. Manchester City defeated rival Chelsea 4-3 on May 23 in front of a capacity crowd of 48,263 fans. That game drew some 46,000 fans downtown and brought in $1.5 million to $2 million to the city, according to the St. Louis Convention and Visitors Commission.
SOURCE: St. Louis Business Journal
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