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'It just feels great': Thousands pack downtown for Battlehawks 24-11 win in home opener

After a 3-year hiatus, the Battlehawks brought professional football back to St. Louis. More than 38,000 fans packed the Dome for the home opener.

ST. LOUIS — Thousands filled downtown on Sunday for what was described as a "historic" football game. The Battlehawks have returned to St. Louis.

The first home game occurred at The Dome at America's Center on Sunday, and every available seat was filled inside.

The Battlehawks played the Arlington Renegades inside the "BattleDome."

After a 3-year hiatus, the Battlehawks brought professional football back to St. Louis.

More than 38,000 people were inside watching the game at the Dome. It broke not only the XFL attendance record, but also set a record for professional spring football leagues.

The Battlehawks dominated from start to finish, and the large crowd appeared to play a role in the 24-11 win over the Renegades. The visiting team had to use a first-half timeout after crowd noise caused a communication breakdown and they appeared to be out of sorts on offense multiple times.

AJ McCarron threw for two touchdowns and former Belleville West standout Brian Hill ran for a touchdown for his hometown team in the win.

The excitement for the team was evident all day in the city. 

Thousands filled downtown streets for tailgating, live music and the "hawk walk," as fans welcomed back this beloved team. 

Even though the game didn't start until 3 p.m., fans showed up with grills and footballs as early as 10 a.m. to get the full gameday experience. 

From hawk wings to dyed hair and blue wigs, Battlehawk fans turned downtown St. Louis into a sea of silver and blue on Sunday. 

"It just feels great having the city come together. I love watching football. I love watching it with my friends and now I get to watch it with my whole city, so it feels great," Frankie Pannhapong, Battlehawks fan, said.

Many fans have been waiting patiently to welcome football back to St. Louis.

"We've been looking forward to this for three years. We had the time of our lives the first time around," Gerald Dusek, Battlehawks fan, said.

"It's been a long couple of years. We were at the one and only home game couple years ago and it was amazing," Brett Nardoni, Battlehawks fan, said.

Even though the abrupt end of the most recent XFL season devastated many, these fans never lost hope.

"We knew that if the XFL was going to come back, St. Louis was going to be a team again," Jacob Dusek, Battlehawks fan, said.

That confidence is why many said they weren't shocked when they found out Battlehawk fans broke the attendance record.

"Any time a team is willing to compete for us, we'll be there for them, give them our support," Pannhapong said.

"First home game back, this iteration, this season, it's not surprising at all that they're going to break records," Gerald Dusek said.

Breaking records also came with some hiccups though, since some fans said they were told they couldn't tailgate.

"They said today only. No tents, no tables, no open flames. We were really disappointed for a second, but I guess they changed their mind," Gerald Dusek said.

Between the grilling, the band and the players, the energy in the heart of the city is already changing.

"They got 40,000 people here today on a Sunday where normally nothing is going on, yeah it's fantastic," Parkinson said.

With every Ka Kaw, it's clear to see football is back in St. Louis.

"Between this, the St. Louis City, the Blues, the Cardinals, this is great. We got people out tailgating on a Sunday, not much better than this," Tyler Jennings, Battlehawks fan said.

The Battlehawks will be back at the Dome on Saturday, March 18 at 6 p.m. to take on the DC Defenders.

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