Big Changes Planned for Forest Park Central Fields

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Central Fields_pavilion comfort station 2

For some it’s the home of the Great Forest Park Balloon Race. For other’s it’s the site for LouFest. For many more it’s simply a place to play soccer or softball. The Central Fields in Forest Park are well used, but underdeveloped. A plan being developed by Forest Park Forever and designed by SWT could add needed amenities to the site. The $4.7M project could begin just after the new year, and conclude in December 2017.

Plans for an East Comfort Station + Pavilion, and a possible South Comfort Station + Concessions represent the most significant visual change. The work that may most impact use of the fields will be addressing soil, drainage, and grading, and the implementation of a new irrigation system across the planned five soccer, and three rugby fields. In addition, access could be greatly improved with a new paved, 3/4mi perimeter trail and better connections to the rest of the park.

Central Fields_connectivityCentral Fields_athletic field layout

The East Comfort Station + Pavilion would include bathrooms below field grade and an above pavilion at field level. The pavilion would be accessed via the new 3/4mi trail and a new east-west trail. A sidewalk would be introduced along the north side of Wells Drive. The South Comfort Station + Concessions is a possible addition, and could include seating, storage, restrooms, and bike parking.

Other possible additions beyond base planning include making Union Drive one-way and adding a sidewalk to its west side. Pedestrian crossings at Theatre, Summit, Macklind, and Union would be remade to new park standards with new crosswalks, curb ramps, and bump outs. It’s possible the intersection of Faulkner and Wells Drives could also be enhanced. A final project approval step by Forest Park Forever should be completed in November.

East Comfort Station + Pavilion

Central Fields_pavilion comfort stationCentral Fields_pavilion comfort station floorplanCentral Fields_pavilion

Optional South Comfort Station + Concessions, and entry plaza:

Central Fields_confort station and concessionsCentral Fields_confort station and concessions aerialCentral Fields_entry plaza

Possible configuration at intersection of Union and Macklind Drives:

Central Fields_Alt2_Union Drive

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  • Alex Ihnen

    Wow, a snarky rugby v. softball debate has hijacked the thread. :/

  • HawkSTL

    I agree with the below comments questioning why softball fields are being lost so that more rugby and soccer fields can be created. I don’t think the Forest Park Forever folks play sports and think about field use in depth. Instead, I think that they cater to whoever is talking the loudest. Rugby fans are really loud. They do need a better field. But, there are nowhere near the amount of rugby players as compared to softball. The same goes for soccer. Yes, youth soccer participation is high in St. Louis. However, in the adult recreational leagues, there are many more softball players than soccer players.

    So, what this winds up doing is largely eliminating recreational softball from Forest Park (because the Aviation fields have too few to handle the STL rec league). They will bump everyone to the southside parks. And, why? Because rugby talks the loudest. Afterward, what will be going on in the Central Fields? Nothing. They will be largely empty. We’ll spend a lot of money to make very few happy. That is today’s STL.

  • Luftmentsch

    Always found it very strange that there are no basketball courts in FP. This plan just underscores my sense that there’s something a little nefarious about FPF’s priorities.

  • Imran

    I cringed when I read about the possibility of a one way street on Union drive. Otherwise the plan sounds good.

  • STLHurlerJD

    The renovations to Aviation field (15 yrs ago?) made them unusable as a multi-purpose of general field space. Returning some of the lost general recreational field space usable for the MANY basic field sports (Soccer/Rugby/Aussie Rules Football American Football/Gaelic Football/Lacrosse/Ultimate Frisbee/Field Hockey/Hurling/Etc.) should benefit more of St. Louis, as long as the fields can be converted from one sport field to another easily (I’d question the wisdom of permanent uprights to be sunk into the ground; though I could be persuaded)

    Glad to hear they are doing it with forethought to proper soil, drainage, grading, and irrigation! And I have to imagine there will be an overhaul to the existing sketchy bathrooms.

    • Petnzme Turangi

      I’ve seen the multi use fields…They’re a fucking mess. You have enough american football fields than you need. People want a full size Rugby field. Rugby has a long season unlike most other gets played all year round.. Winter it’s 15s Summer it’s 7s and Touch.

  • Ron Stergion

    Politics as usual for St. Louis. I am all for having the restroom facilities updated and another one added (#LONGOVERDUE), but taking out all of the softball fields seems misguided at best. Rugby has fields already in forest park and instead of using central field why not spend the money to improve the ones already existing. Central field has soccer fields and softball fields already but they simply need to be reconfigured and updated. Most of the cost will be in the irrigation system to maintain the rugby and soccer fields condition. Where as all softball fields do not require irrigation systems (#LESSCOST). Also this layout is flawed in that they designed a walkway to surround the fields, but getting to that walkway from the street is the biggest issue. Anyone that uses central field currently knows that getting from the street to the upper level you have to walk through high grass, which is often wet and filled with ditches, holes and or muddy areas (not to mention full of mesquitos). What is needed are several arteries of sidewalks coming from the street to the fields (regardless of what type field).

  • Bryce

    It’s great to see these long-planned improvements finally on the verge of reality.

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  • John

    Nice to read about more enhancements. I hope the facilities will be maintained to the highest standards, and I highly recommend security cameras to help with safety. Whine if you will, but you know safety is a legitimate concern. Again, I am pleased to see the proposed amenities to the park.

  • T-Leb

    There needs to be power hook ups so festivals like LouFest don’t have to bring in diesel generators to power the fun. I am still amazed that MUNY is not somehow part of LouFest.

    • STLEnginerd


    • dmbstl

      Smart placement of power hookups along the perimeters would go a long way in improving the experience for events. This is just as important as anything else.

  • omg finally, proper rugby fields. the ones we’ve been on are like concrete spattered with rocks.

    • STLEnginerd

      Not hating on rugby but I think one advantage a project like this could create is a destination for tournaments. I wonder if splitting the field types means something like a regional youth soccer tournament is less interested in Forest Park. Drawing a few hundred kids most weekends could be a big boost for the city.

      On the flip side an all rugby field setup might do the same and with far less local competition. Forest park could become THE best rugby tournament site in the Midwest.

      I guess my vote would be for one or the other, not both.

    • Andy


    • Bryce


  • softball player

    No softball fields?

    • stlouisan314

      thank god

      • Birch

        Ah yes, glad Mr. or Ms. Smug could join the discussion. And what, praytell, is so upsetting about the existence of softball fields that you were compelled to be a prick to a stranger?

        For those of us who have been playing there for over ten years, can you explain the merits in losing our fields for a game that virtually every St. Louisan knows and loves in favor of three fields for a marginal sport cherished by various foreigners and concussion lovers?

        • Alex Ihnen

          Nothing like giving it right back! :/

          • Birch

            Exactly. My policy is “only be a jerk to people who are being jerks.”

          • Dan Pieri

            Rugby has been in Forest Park since 1933 (St. Louis Ramblers are the 2nd oldest club in the US with 2 of 20 members in the USA Rugby Hall of Fame). Rugby teams have played where ever they were told (Aviation, Davis, Central, Cricket, many others outside the park) all this time and hosted clubs from all over the world on sub-standard fields, but have managed to impress them all with hard play and love of game, city and country. For Rugby to advance in the USA, a city like St. Louis ( spurned by the as swipes that are the NFL) could play a real role. The rest of the world waits on this with fear and anticipation. They all ask why are we not better. The USA are in every world cup and usually ranked in the top 15-20 in the world. We need good fields and enthusiasm to progress to this level: last week’s S. Hemisphere highlights…enjoy That is why the fields are important to Rugby. I enjoy softball but there are many other places to play, literally all over town.

          • Birch

            I can agree with you that if indeed St. Louis wants to play a role in furthering American rugby, then this would be a good move.

        • Andy

          I don’t think you actually have a very strong understanding of rugby.

          • Birch

            I haven’t claimed to.

          • Andy

            And yet you felt knowledgeable enough to call rugby a “marginal sport cherished by various foreigners and concussion lovers.”

            I could just as easily borrow your broad brush and say that softball is a sport cherished by high school/college aged women and guys who like to pretend they are good as baseball but really just want an excuse to drink beer.

          • Birch

            What you say about softball is more or less correct, just as what I have said is more or less correct. The difference is, in St. Louis at least, there are far more people fitting your description of a softball player than there are rugby players. In any case, my beef isn’t with you and I don’t really have any problem with rugby per se (I actually think it’s kind of awesome based on the few times I’ve watched). Rugby is the second most popular sport in the world behind soccer, but, like soccer, the vast number of its fans and players are outside of our country. My concussion comment was intended as a bit of a joke to point out that while people are debating if schools should even allow football anymore, rugby is just as violent, if not more violent, and has fewer protective measures in place. Of the myriad people I knew who played football growing up, the injuries they received were mostly sprained ankles and knees. However, of the guys playing in the school’s rugby club, several received concussions and one had his jaw shattered. My only real point about softball vs. rugby is that this is overwhelmingly a baseball town and yet it’s becoming harder to find decent fields and leagues to accommodate the interest. So, it seems a bit off to me to rip out several softball fields in the center of the area to put in three rugby fields. Do they anticipate having 4 soccer and 3 rugby matches ever going on at the same time? Could maybe 2 rugby fields, convertible to soccer fields have sufficed? Lastly, it is possible that the homework has been done, and that this truly is the best use of the land for the greater good of the city. The only reason I’m here commenting in the first place is because “softball player” couldn’t even pose the question without “stlouisan314” chiming in with a snide one-liner. And that’s just lame, especially considering the question posed is the one that will no doubt be on many minds as the proposal makes its way to more people.

        • Petnzme Turangi

          Ok..Sure You’re seasonal. Rugby is all year round now. Winter it’s 15s Summer it’s Touch and 7s. You can at anytime..put down four jersey’s or t shirts in a diamond formation on any grass patch and play softball. I know because I was good at the sport myself.

          • Birch

            I don’t know your jargon, but I get what you are saying about it being year round. Though, I would speculate that the number of man-hours spent playing baseball and softball in the St. Louis area for the 6+ months of softball weather does and will continue to far exceed the man-hours spent playing rugby even if it’s year-round. I don’t think I need to explain to you why that is, but for anyone who might not have thought it through, the reasons include softball/baseball’s much greater popularity and familiarity, and the fact that softball is far more accessible (and safer) to play. Anyone from a 4-year-old boy to a 70-year-old woman can play softball. As for the idea that you can put down four shirts and play, that’s not far from the mentality that a lot of parks have, which is why there really aren’t that many parks where the fields are worth a damn. Central Field is by no means perfect, but it’s a lot better than many of the alternatives. In any case, if you look at my other comments here, you’ll see I’m not actually anti-rugby so much as annoyed with the original commenter who apparently thinks it’s so ridiculous for a baseball town to want softball fields that he had to be a jerk to the first person who mentioned it. Beyond all that, if it makes people happy and gets a lot of good use, then that’s fine. Something tells me, though, that they’ll be slapping the “field use by permit only” sign on it and those fields will end up spending most of their time as a place to fly your RC plane.

          • Petnzme Turangi

            Considering New Zealand have held The World Champion title of Softball 6 times. You don’t have to tell anything about the sport. We know it better than you. Baseball is played on a larger no..You can’t mix the two. Softball is a summer sport. 4 months.

            Rugby has 3 forms to the game 15 a side.Which is a full contact sport played 10 months of the year late summer to late spring. 7s Rugby is Played over 6 months from Spring to Autumn. Touch is Summer Rugby and involves touching the opponent and not tackling. Rugby is played from year 5 to the Golden Oldies. The oldest players were 90

          • Birch

            I stared at your comment with a confused look on my face for several seconds before realizing what was going on here. Then it dawned on me. I’m going to run it by you so you can correct me if I’m wrong. You’re not a St. Louisan; you don’t live anywhere near this park; you’re just here because you’re into rugby. Is that it? I had a hard time at first understanding who you meant by “we” and came to the conclusion you’re in New Zealand, and are referring to yourself and other New Zealanders. If this is all correct, I should preface by saying that any opinion you might have on what we do with our park is not of value to me (and shouldn’t be of value to those planning the renovations). I don’t mean this in an insulting way. The thing is, I’m not trying to debate the merits of rugby’s existence. I’m talking about what St. Louis should be doing with land in its own public park. If you’re not even familiar with Central Field, Aviation Field and the various parks around town that have one or more diamonds ranging in condition from “completely worthless” to “excellent,” then you’re not actually a part of this discussion. If I’m mistaken, and you are someone in St. Louis who cares about Forest Park, then I apologize, and invite you to carry on.

            Now I’m going to respond to your statements, but keep in mind, previously I thought I was talking to someone who lived in the area and new more of the context of this discussion. The mistakes you’ve made are as a result of this not being the case. I’ll clarify so you understand the context better.

            In the world of rec sports in St. Louis, and no doubt in many other parts of the country, softball is often played on baseball fields so as to not have to use land for both. It is true that the infield of softball is smaller than baseball’s. The result is that when playing softball on a baseball field the bases are moved in and the dirt extends awkwardly into the outfield. It’s not world class, but it works. Many fields don’t have a home run fence. If they do, then sometimes it is at a distance more appropriate for baseball than softball. In both of those cases, the outfielder simply must focus on keeping the ball in front of them and not letting it roll off into the distance for an easy inside-the-parker. St. Louis does have many fields created just for softball, but we also play softball on baseball fields as well as crappy, lopsided plots of somewhat-flat land in the middle of various parks.

            As for the 4 vs. 6 months discussion, again, I had assumed you were in St. Louis and had familiarity with our leagues. The fields on Central and Aviation Fields are managed by a city organization called St. Louis Softball League (SLSL). They’re an ASA certified organization run by the city that manages adult rec leagues in Forest Park and a number of other places. Leagues for spring/summer start at the beginning of April and conclude sometime in July or August, depending on how many games were postponed by rain. After a short break (if there weren’t that many rainouts), the fall league begins in early September and ordinarily plays 4 weeks. As with spring/summer, this is often extended because of rain. I believe the latest make-up I’ve ever played was just before Thanksgiving (the fourth Thursday in November). There was once a game that kept getting post-poned until we got to December and it snowed at which point the league just canceled it outright. Usually the leagues end in mid-October. So, the beginning of April until sometime in October or November is what I was referring to as 6+ months.

            Lastly, my comments on the number and age of rugby players was not meant to be taken as a worldwide statistic. Again, I’m talking about St. Louis. In our town, baseball and softball are immensely popular. They are king. This has a lot to do with the town’s love affair with the MLB’s storied franchise the St. Louis Cardinals. Rugby is very underground and is far less popular than not only baseball but also soccer, basketball, hockey and football (among others). In this town, virtually all age groups and genders play softball. By contrast, few people even know how to play rugby and my guess is that the comparatively few players are, in general, 15 to 30-year-old males. Thus I stand by sentiment that we have a vastly greater need for high quality softball and baseball fields here than we do for rugby fields.

          • Petnzme Turangi

            You have no choice but to listen…Your sport has a small season Rugby is usually played from late summer to two weeks into high summer. That’s a total of 10 months. So why make fields that are dormant for 8 months of the year? You’ll just have to get over it. Rugby is growing faster in america than all your rec sports combined. It shows no sign of slowing and stopping for decades. People want competition. Women want the competition. Women like full contact sports. Even the kids love to tackle Be it 15’s, 7’s, Touch Men’s, Women’s, It’s there’ to stay.

            Seems St Loius has had a womens rugby team for a long time. Seems they practice and Forest Fields too.

            You’ve got plenty of baseball fields to play on…Go play on them.

    • A softball or basketball court would be awesome in Forest Park.

  • Scott Ogilvie

    There have been substantial changes made to this plan recently – that “loop trail” (which was really a service road) is probably out. There aren’t updated graphics right now. Maybe in another month. But the updates to the concession and restroom areas are still included. – Scott Ogilvie

    • dmbstl

      Any chance there’s room to improve power connections so events like LouFest and the Balloon Race don’t require a ton of noisy, polluting generators running?

  • Presbyterian

    This is fantastic!

  • Adam

    Looks wonderful!

  • Don


  • Framer