Inside a CityPark suite during a rain-soaked Friday — the storm before the storm — Carolyn Kindle looked at a photo from 2018. It was from the second day we knew who she was. The day before, Kindle and her Taylor family, along with the Kavanaugh family, announced their pursuit of buying a Major League Soccer team. An executive in the Enterprise, Kindle was unknown to the sports community – but suddenly she was one of its most important people. The next day, she attended a St. Louis FC game at Soccer Park in Fenton. In the photo, Kindle posed with a smiling young girl, who was holding up a football scarf.
“It was the first kind of insight I got into how passionate the city was about soccer, especially the young girls,” said Kindle, the president, CEO and face of the majority female ownership of St. Louis City SC, which is playing its first MLS- home game Saturday at CityPark. “That picture comes up again quite a bit – her father has sent it to me, saying they talk about it and she’s followed the whole journey.”
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We all have. We’ve seen the growth – of the franchise, the stadium and the Kindle itself. She readily admits that she was not much of a football person in the past. Now it is her world – she has not only embraced it, but embodied it. Approaching half a decade later, she has inspired girls, women and basically all of St. Louis to chase dreams and try big things. Or, if you want, make goals into goals.
“I’ve been so blessed to have so many wonderful people supporting me,” Kindle said. “And then, just being able to meet them and take pictures with them and hear their stories, that’s really been the next best part of this job.”
Wait a minute – second best?
What is the best part of the job?
“What we do for St. Louis,” she said. “We’re going to put St. Louis on the international map. I am 100% convinced.”
Kindle’s pride for St. Louis mirrors the pride many of us have. What she and her family have done is extraordinary. We’re all trying to help the city in our little way, right? Well, they bought it (a football team) and built it (a stadium).
And as she’s been empowered, Kindle has empowered so many women to do good things for St. Louis—from partnering with Purina and its CEO, Nina Leigh Krueger, to bringing female-owned restaurants into the stadium to teaming up with woman-owned Lusso to create team apparel for female fans. Pretty cool – especially in March, which is Women’s History Month.
For Kindle herself, she has entrenched herself with Lutz Pfannenstiel, the team’s athletic director, to learn the game. Now she’s playing the game—making big business decisions, discussing player personnel decisions, meeting with player agents, you name it.
“If you look at how much this relationship (with Pfannenstiel) has evolved, we’ve started to move into a more strategic teaching session,” Kindle said. “I see him every week for about two hours. We discuss strategy – (like) why this player fits into our academy system. When we did the expansion draft, I spent 12 hours with him, just going through all the players. From a sporting perspective, I owe a lot to him and (coach) Bradley Carnell. …
“Everyone agrees on the philosophy of — we want to be different. We want to be more forward-thinking. We want to deliver a very unique fan experience that can only be found in St. Louis.”
When she walked into suite #329 for Friday morning’s interview, she spotted Matt Sebek, the club’s chief experience officer. She legitimately asked him if he had gone to bed the night before.
“These people will work 24/7 – they are so committed to the ownership group and the club,” she said. “And it’s just been so heartwarming to see that they want to make sacrifices, because they all agree on the mission and the philosophy.”
Since its first public days in 2018, the Kindle has become ubiquitous in the local sports scene – and indeed, the business scene as well. When she promotes the team’s image, her image is everywhere. At the team’s first game, she was featured continuously during the Apple TV broadcast of the triumphant victory in Austin. And on Saturday, she’ll be back in a suite at CityPark – specifically the owner’s suite, which is fittingly number 314.
“It’s going to be a celebration, isn’t it?” she said about the first home game, 19:30 vs. Charlotte.
St. Louis has celebrated Kindle since her first foray into football, because it was Kindle and her family who took the risk, took the plunge, took the leap. We’ve seen the progression—she’s inspired many along the way—and now her hometown is home to a Major League Soccer team.
She and St. Louis are sure to celebrate together Saturday.
“Because this literally took the whole region,” she said. “It took the support, it took City staff, it took the players, it took the coaches. I see tomorrow as a way to celebrate everyone, whether you’re physically here with us or whether you’re watching from your couch or in a bar or restaurant. Everyone played a role.
“Tomorrow for me is just this huge combination of all this hard work. … So I think that’s why I’m so excited, because it’s like we finally have something to actually celebrate.”